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How To Get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan [2024]

Going on a trip from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan? You’re in for a treat because the lake is gorgeous! Check out the best options to get there – private transfer, shuttle, bus and more.

Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful you’ll ever lay eyes on, completely surrounded by volcanoes and showcasing different shades of green and blue waters, the ideal scenery for a boat tour or some exciting watersports. It needs to be on your Guatemala itinerary!

The distance from Guatemala City to Atitlan is 74.5 miles (120 km), and the journey takes an average of 3 hours, as you’ll be driving (or being driven!) through twisty, mountainous roads.

The trip is totally worth it, though, to check out the best ways to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan. 

How to get from Antigua to Lake Atitlan

Book a Private Transfer from Guatemala City to Panajachel

The most convenient option to make the journey Guatemala City – Lake Atitlan if you’re traveling with at least two more people is booking a private transfer

You’ll be picked up at your hotel in Guatemala City at your chosen time, and driven directly to Panajachel, a town located on the north shore of Lake Atitlan and the only one where private transfers go to.

While it’s the most hassle-free alternative, it’s also the most expensive, and unless you’re a group of 6 or more people traveling it will cost you more per person than the shared shuttle. 

If you are indeed 6 + passengers, the cost will be equal to taking the shuttle and the ride will be much more comfortable. 

The one-way transfer for up to 3 passengers is $215. It’s $245 if you’re up to 6 people, and $275 if you’re between 7 and 9 people. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

⚠️ You can’t book a roundtrip service, but you could make a different booking from Panajachel to Guatemala City in advance if you want to ensure your transfer. 

👉 If you’re staying in any other town, you can ask the driver to drop you off at Panajachel dock, where you’ll catch the public boat to your final destination. You can otherwise arrange with your hotel for a boat transfer; some of them even offer complimentary boat transfers, so be sure to check with them in advance. 

Take the Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan Shuttle

Another popular transportation option to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan is a shared shuttle. The shuttle can drop you off at Panajachel, San Marcos La Laguna, or Santiago Atitlan, so if you’re staying in one of those towns you won’t need to catch the ferry. 

▶️ The shared shuttle from Guatemala City to Panajachel takes around 5 hours to arrive, and leaves three times a day: at 6 AM, at 9.30 AM, and at 1.30 PM. 

The shuttle picks you up at your hotel and the one-way ticket costs $42. ➥ BOOK IT HERE 

▶️ If you’re headed to San Marcos La Laguna, this Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan shuttle takes 7 hours and departs once daily, at 6 AM. 

It also includes hotel pick up and the transfer costs $44. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

▶️ The shuttle from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan can also take you to Santiago Atitlan, and while you’ll have to take a boat ride to get there, it’s included in the transfer.

 There’s only one shuttle a day, departing at 6 AM, and the journey takes 7 hours. It costs $59. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

⚠️ The downside to the shared shuttle is that it takes longer to arrive as it will make stops along the way to pick up or drop off passengers, but it’s a cheaper alternative to the private transfer. If you’re a large group, though, you should consider the previous option as it’s more comfortable and financially convenient as well. Book here the private car instead

▶ If you’re staying in any other town, like Santa Cruz la Laguna or San Pedro La Laguna, you’ll need to take the shuttle to Panajachel dock, and from there take the public boat to your destination. The ride to Santa Cruz takes around 10 minutes and costs $1, while the ride to San Pedro takes 30 minutes, costing $3. You can also arrange the boat transfer with your hotel if you prefer

Take an Uber or Taxi to Lake Atitlan

You can also take a taxi or Uber from Guatemala City or airport to Lake Atitlan, and while it’s more convenient than the shuttle, it will also be more expensive. 

The journey takes 3 hours to Panajachel, and around 5-6 hours if you’re going to some other town like San Marcos. You can expect to pay between $130 and $170, depending on the distance. 

If you’re getting from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan, you can either call a Uber driver (it works pretty well in the city) or ask your hotel to book you a taxi. If you’re leaving from the airport you’ll find plenty of taxi drivers outside, although you could also book your own driver to pick you up. 

The best thing about taking a taxi or uber is that they’ll be able to drive you to most towns, so you might get to skip the ferry. 

Ride the Chicken Bus from Guatemala to Lake Atitlan

Then there’s the chicken bus, possibly the most exhilarating way to make the journey, but a very bumpy and not-so-safe one.

The chicken bus from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan costs around $5 and while it’s the cheapest transfer you’ll find, it’s far from being the most comfortable one, and I don’t really recommend it.  

⚠️ These colorful buses make plenty of stops along the way, drivers don’t care much for speed limits even on mountainous roads, and it’s possibly going to be crowded and loud.

You should keep watch of your bag and belongings at all times, as pickpocketing is not uncommon on these journeys, and be prepared for hiccups during the drive (hang on tight to your seat!)

If you’re really on a tight budget and don’t mind the discomfort, though, it’s a possibility to make the trip. You can catch the bus at 21 Calle and 1A Avenida

Take a Day Tour to Lake Atitlan from Guatemala City

If you’re looking for ways on how to get to Lake Atitlan for a day trip, your best bet is to book a tour that will also handle the transportation, so you make the most of your time in the area and get to visit all its highlights. 

➤ The Lake Atitlan Sightseeing Cruise is a full day tour with which you’ll explore this amazing area cruising the lake and visiting the different villages around it such as Panajachel and Santiago Atitlan. You’ll also have time for shopping for handicrafts and trying the local food. Hotel pick-up and drop-off is included. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Rent a Car at Guatemala City Airport

You could also travel from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan by rental car. This will grant you the freedom to make as many stops as you want along the way, and to manage your own schedule, as well as to drive to your final destination directly.

⚠️ Make sure to leave the car in the parking space of your hotel, or pay for a parking lot if you’re going on a boat tour to explore the area. Unfortunately, Guatemala isn’t the safest country, and break-ins in Lake Atitlan are not uncommon, so you’ll want to prevent them as much as possible, especially if it’s a rental!  

Take a Helicopter from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan

Taking a helicopter from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan is also an option. A very fancy and polluting one, but a means of transport nonetheless. 

You have to book the helicopter ride in advance, and you’ll take it at Guatemala Airport for around $1,000 – $1,500. It’s the fastest way to get to Lake Atitlan, taking only 25 minutes, and you’ll enjoy great aerial views of the lake.

On the other hand, it’s a lot of money to pay for a transfer and the least possible eco-friendly option, so I highly discourage you to consider it!

Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan FAQ

How much is a taxi from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan?

A taxi or Uber from Guatemala City to Panajachel costs around $150. 

Is there Uber in Guatemala?

Yes, Uber works pretty well in Guatemala, and you can use it to move around or get to the city from the airport.

Where do you fly into for Lake Atitlan?

The closest airport to Lake Atitlan is in Guatemala City. A great transportation option is taking a private shuttle from Guatemala City Airport to Lake Atitlan, or else you can head to the city for more alternatives. 

  • Stefania Guglielmi

    Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents. She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.