How to Get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan

Scenic lakeside panorama with lush flora and views of distant volcanoes, capturing the tranquil beauty of Panajachel.

Planning how to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan?  This guide has got you covered!

The short answer is, you will arrive at La Arora International Airport in Guatemala City, and take a public shuttle or private transfer approximately three hours to the starting town of Lake Atitlan: Panajachel. 

From Panajachel, you take a water taxi to visit the neighboring 12 towns of Lake Atitlan. 

Let’s break it down!

An Apple a Plane contains affiliate links. Clicking on a link in this post and making a purchase may earn the blog a profit at no additional cost to you.

Steps to Get to Lake Atitlan from Guatemala City

1. Fly into La Aurora International Airport

La Aurora International Airport is the main Airport of Guatemala and is conveniently located in Guatemala City.  There is no airport located in Antigua or in Lake Atitlan. 

If you arrive in Guatemala City late at night, I recommend booking a hotel for the night in Guatemala City. 

According to research, it is not known to be safe to travel far distances in the country in the dark. 

You will be looking at anywhere between a 3 – 5 hour drive, so it makes sense to settle in and your hotel and plan to leave on a shuttle the following morning. 

2. Book a Transfer to Panajachel


After arriving at La Aurora Airport in Guatemala City, you will take a transfer to Panajachel. 

I highly recommend booking this advance, even by just a couple of days.  Shuttle times are limited and you will want to make sure you time your trip correctly.

Well-known companies to book through:

  • Guatego
  • Guate Driver

I booked both a private transfer and a public shuttle with Guatego on my Guatemala trip.  Both rides were safe, but they were also 45 minutes late.  Not a huge deal, but if you are tight on timing, this would not be the option.

Guate Driver arrived early for my 3-hour reverse journey back from Lake Atitlan to Guatemala City.  I had a great experience with them, and highly recommend this option. 

I also highly recommend joining the Facebook group for most up-to-date information about traveling to Guatemala and for ride options to Lake Atitlan. 

3. Choose which towns to visit on Lake Atitlan

San Marcos La Laguna

Lake Atitlan has 13 towns surrounding the lake.  There is no shortage of incredible things to do an experience around the towns! 

Each town has its own distinct character.  For example, San Marcos is most known for its laid-back vibes and yoga.  San Juan La Laguna is most known for its colorful streets and art. 

Panajachel is not only the starting point of Lake Atitlan, but also a popular base for travelers when exploring the lake. 

Many travelers will stay in Panajachel and take short trips by water taxi to visit other towns of choice throughout their trip.

I stayed in Panjachel during my final night at Lake Atitlan, because this is where shuttles pick you up for the reverse journey back to Guatemala City. 

4. Take a Lancha from Panajachel to your towns of choice

Panachajel Dock

A lancha, or water taxi, is the most popular way to get to cities along Panajachel. 

A ride on the water taxi takes anywhere between 5 minutes or 20 minutes, depending where you are going on the lake.  One of the closest towns to Panajachel is Juabalito, less than 10 minutes by water taxi.

Water taxis cost between 25Q – 50Q depending on how far the town is that you are visiting.  This is anywhere between $3 – $6 USD, not a bad deal! 

Alternate Option: Full-Day Tour


If you are pressed for time, you can take a full-day trip from Guatemala City or Antigua to Lake Atitlan.  If you do this, I recommend staying at Panajachel to maximize your time exploring instead of in transit. 

But ultimately, I really don’t recommend this option at all.  Lake Atitlan is huge, and I think one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. 

I think a day trip might be cutting you short, but I have never taken a day trip here, so this might end up being the option for you!

The following day tours have high ratings:


Q: Can I get from Antigua to Lake Atitlan instead?

A: Absolutely.  This is actually a more common route.  Most travelers begin or end their journey in Antigua. 

Antigua is on the way to Panajachel, and there are tons of shuttles that run through Antigua as well.  Check this Antigua to Lake Atitlan guide for more information. 

Q: How long does the transfer from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan take? 

A: Typically, the transfer from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan takes about 3 to 5 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions.

It’s advisable to plan for some flexibility in your travel schedule to accommodate any unexpected delays.

Q: What’s the cost range for a shuttle from Guatemala City to Panajachel? 

A: Shuttle prices can vary widely based on the provider, time of year, and level of service (private vs. shared). Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $50 for a one-way trip.

Q: Is there a direct public bus from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan? 

A: There are no direct public buses from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan. You’d typically take a bus to Panajachel and then a lancha (small boat) to get around the lake. However, for convenience and safety, many opt for a pre-booked shuttle service.

Q: Can I drive from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan? 

A: Yes, it’s possible to drive from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan. The route is scenic but can be challenging for those not accustomed to driving in Guatemala. Rental cars are available, but ensure you’re comfortable with the local driving conditions.

Q: Are there recommended places to stop on the way from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan? 

A: Yes, there are several beautiful stops you can make along the way, including the market town of Chichicastenango (open Thursdays and Sundays), the Iximché Mayan ruins, and the picturesque town of Sololá.

These detours can enrich your trip but will add time to your travel day.


In conclusion, your adventure from Guatemala City to the stunning vistas of Lake Atitlan begins at La Aurora Airport in Guatemala City.

From there, the most straightforward route involves securing a ride directly to Panajachel – the gateway to the lake.

Remember, there are no direct public buses to the lake itself, so a shuttle or a rental car for the drive is your best bet.

Once in Panajachel, immerse yourself in the beauty of Lake Atitlan by hopping on a lancha (water taxi) to explore the quaint, charming towns along the lake’s shores.

This two-step process – a direct route to Panajachel followed by water taxi exploration – ensures a seamless and picturesque transition into the heart of one of Guatemala’s natural wonders.

Spread the love

Related posts


As a full time employee who loves her job, learn how I honor my wanderlust while working a 9:00-5:00 (because I want to!) This blog welcomes all, and specifically provides resources for those seeking travel intertwined into a busy schedule (3 days to 5 weeks).