If your perfect destination includes adventure, culture, and beauty – then Guatemala is the place for you! Immerse yourself in all the wonders this beautiful country has to offer, from ancient Mayan ruins and incredible rainforests to street markets and delicious local cuisine. 

One of the most breathtaking aspects of a journey to Guatemala is the route from Antigua to Lake Atitlán. The shift from Antigua’s colonial charm to Lake Atitlán’s stunning vistas is an adventure in itself.

However, the 75-mile (115-kilometer) journey between these two destinations requires some careful planning. In this guide, we’ll explore the various options available to you for this trip.

Your choices vary in terms of comfort, cost, and convenience, catering to the diverse needs and preferences of travelers. You might be looking for an economical route, a comfortable ride, or the freedom to explore at your own pace.

This guide will assist you in navigating the picturesque route. During my own journey from Antigua to Lake Atitlán, I opted for a shared shuttle to the lake and a private transport back, allowing me to stop and explore Hobbientango.

Panoramic view of Lake Atitlan surrounded, highlighting the serene beauty of this popular destination on the way from Antigua to the lake.

Getting from Antigua to Lake Atitlán

Your choice of transport from Antigua to Lake Atitlán depends on a few things. Consider your budget, comfort preferences, time constraints, and whether you’re seeking convenience or adventure. Here’s a quick breakdown to help you decide:

1. Minivan Shuttle

Cost & Time: Approx 16 USD/ 2.5 hours

The most budget-friendly choice for your journey is going to be a shared minivan. These vans are equipped with air conditioning and provide door-to-door service, picking you up from your hotel in the city center and dropping you off directly at the Panajachel Ferry Terminal.

From there you may choose to hop on a public boat if you have farther to go. You can make arrangements with your accommodation to have a boat to pick you up here. Some hotels even provide a free boat transfer from the ferry terminal, so be sure to check with them when you book your stay. Learn how to find the best hotel deals here.

How to Book: Go to the BookaWay website to see scheduling and to buy your seat. Booking in advance is necessary.

2. Shared Shuttle Bus

Cost & Time: Approx 25 USD/ 2.5 – 3 hours

A shuttle is ideal if you’re looking for a balance between cost and comfort. A shared shuttle from Antigua to Lake Atitlan is direct and pretty comfortable, usually with air-conditioning. They also offer door-to-door service from your hotel in Antigua to your destination around Lake Atitlán. 

This is the option I took for my route from Antigua to Lake Atitlan. The Shuttle bus was very comfortable. Plus, our driver was kind enough to stop along the route for us to take some scenic photos of the beautiful landscape. 

How to Book: Through travel agencies, some hotels, and Viator. Booking in advance is necessary.  

3. Coaster Bus

Cost & Time: Approx US $25/ 2 – 3 hours

Coasters are a fairly new option in Guatemala. They’ll give you a comfortable, reliable shared ride on a direct route. And if you choose the 3:00 am departure, you can even make the trip in just 2 hours.

How to Book: Choose your departure time and book at BookaWay. Booking in advance is necessary.

Enjoying the views of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
Enjoying a cup of coffee and admiring the views after a beautiful journey from Antigua to Lake Atitlan.

4. Chicken Bus (aka. public bus)

Cost & Time: Approx 6 USD/ 3 – 4+ hours

Chicken buses are colorful, repurposed US school buses that tend to be a bit crowded and less comfortable. But, they offer a genuine Guatemalan experience, and a chance to travel like the locals do. It’s worth mentioning that these days, you probably won’t see any chickens.

Some chicken buses even have entertainment for your trip. Yours might have televisions, music, or karaoke. The chicken bus is a fun, budget-friendly option. It’s definitely an experience you should have while you’re in Guatemala! 

They’re best suited to travelers with a bit of adventure in their souls, and ones with fairly flexible schedules as there are no direct buses from Antigua to Lake Atitlan, or vice versa. On the route from Antigua to Lake Atitlan, you will have to take 4 buses- transferring to Chimaltenango, Los Encuentros, and Solala, before the final bus arrives in Panajachal.

How to Book: Tickets for chicken buses can be purchased directly from the bus driver or conductor – just make sure to have small bills and coins for your fare. There’s no need for you to book in advance. Just show up at the bus stop behind the market in Antigua. Find a schedule at this bus schedule site.

5. Private Transfer

Cost & Time: Approx 100 USD/ 2.5 hours

If your priorities are convenience and comfort, a private transfer is your best choice. It’s a more expensive option, especially if you’re traveling alone. But it is the ideal solution if you’d like to make a detour on the way to or from Lake Atitlan. 

For example, if you’d like to stop at the ‘Lord of the Rings’ inspired Hobbitenango, you’d veer about 30 minutes off course. This is what I did for my trip from Lake Atitlan to Antigua. It was the perfect way to combine 2 destinations into a single day.

How to Book: Like shared shuttles, private drivers can be arranged through travel agencies, Viator, and some accommodations. Booking in advance is necessary. I used Carlos, a driver recommended by a friend (+502 5650 2212). 

6. Rent a Car

Cost & Time: From approx US $50/day/ as long as you want

Having a car at your disposal is the perfect option if you value freedom and the flexibility to explore at your own pace. Renting a car allows for stops along the way and a chance to venture as far off the beaten path as you like.

But driving in Guatemala requires a bit of caution. This is mainly due to road conditions and signs in a language you might not understand. Not to mention some towns don’t allow cars, and in others, you’ll find parking a real challenge. 

How to Book: Like renting a car anywhere, you can use various agencies in Antigua or at Guatemala City’s airport. The easiest way is to book online in advance to compare prices and ensure a vehicle is available for you. No international driver’s license is required.

👉 Check for the best rental car prices 👈

7. Rideshare

Cost & time will depend on pickup/dropoff locales

Luckily, there is Uber in Guatemala! Unfortunately, you may have trouble finding a driver willing to take you from Antigua to Lake Atitlán. There’s no guarantee that they would be able to find a fare for the way back, and it would be a wasted journey for them.

Note: You may hear about a rideshare service called InDrive. This international service is not recommended in Guatemala. With numerous reports of robberies and even kidnappings, it’s just too dangerous. However, it’s important to note that, overall, Guatemala is a safe country for solo female travelers to visit.

How to Book: Book directly through the app, just like at home, with fares and availability at your fingertips. Or go to their website.

A charming street in San Marcos La Laguna in Lake Atitlan with mountain views in the backdrop.
Enjoying the views of Lake Atitlan at the boat port in Guatemala.

8. Taxi

Cost & Time: Starting at approx 100 USD/ 2 hours

A taxi from Antigua to Lake Atitlán is a convenient, comfortable, and flexible way to go. It’s a good choice if you’re traveling in a group or have a lot of luggage. But, it is more expensive compared to alternatives like shuttles or the chicken bus. It’s best suited for travelers willing to pay a premium for the benefits it provides.

You may have trouble finding a taxi for the return trip, though, as there aren’t many around the lake area.

How to Book: Guatemala’s white taxis can be flagged down. They’re unmetered and the price should be negotiated. Your best bet is to get a recommendation for the driver of a white taxi from a friend or your hotel. Yellow taxis are metered and can be booked on the Amarillo Express website or by calling 24701515.

9. Take a Day Tour

Cost & Time: Approx 130 USD/ 10 hours

If you don’t have time to spend a couple of days at Lake Atitlán, a day trip might be the solution. You’ll typically be picked up at your accommodations in Antigua. Along the drive, you’ll stop at different viewpoints, and then hop on a boat to visit the different small villages around the lake. 

At the end of the day, you’ll be delivered back to your hotel.

10. Helicopter

Cost & Time: Starting at approx 1,600 USD/ 15 minutes

If you’re up for a crazy extravagant way to cut down on travel time, this is it! You’ll be treated to unparalleled views of the Guatemalan landscape during your 15-minute flight – although you’ll have to shell out a lot of cash.

How to Book: Contact a ​​specialized aviation provider in Guatemala like Guateflights for this premium experience. 

* All prices quoted above are approximate and can change at any time

Map of Lake Atitlán

Decide Which of Lake Atitlan’s Towns is Best for You

Lake Atitlán is surrounded by 11 different villages and towns, each with its unique charm and attractions. If you’ve already made arrangements to stay in one of them, then choosing which nearby town(s) to travel to is easy. 

If you’re still deciding, here are a few of the main ones around Lake Atitlán that you might travel to from Antigua.

Panajachel: Often the first stop for travelers, Panajachel is the gateway to Lake Atitlán and its busiest town. It’s known for its bustling market, international cuisine, and stunning views of the lake. While it’s larger and more commercial than other towns around the lake, it makes a perfect base for exploring the area.

San Pedro La Laguna: Popular with backpackers, San Pedro is known for its fun nightlife and affordable Spanish language schools. It also has terrific opportunities for exploring Mayan culture, and plenty of outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking. 

San Marcos La Laguna: Ideal for anyone looking for a peaceful retreat, San Marcos is known for its yoga, meditation centers, and holistic therapies. It’s a quieter village that attracts a more laid-back crowd. I personally stayed here and it was so relaxing and beautiful- would highly recommend it!

Santa Cruz: Accessible primarily by boat, Santa Cruz is perfect if you’re looking to escape the crowds. Here, you’ll find excellent opportunities for outdoor pursuits, such as hiking, diving, and kayaking, as well as an overall casual, laid-back atmosphere.

Jaibalito: Only accessible by boat or foot, Jaibalito is a small, quiet village. Once here, simply relax, unwind, and enjoy the natural beauty. It’s known for its authentic local experience and breathtaking, secluded environment.

San Marcos La Laguna, a charming town on Lake Atitlan that does not allow cars.
San Marcos La Laguna, a charming town on Lake Atitlan that does not allow cars.

How to Get Around Lake Atitlán – No Cars Allowed!

In towns like San Marcos and Jaibalito, cars are either prohibited or restricted, making foot travel or tuk-tuks the main modes of transportation. To arrive in or depart from these areas, the primary options are by boat or tuk-tuk from neighboring towns around Lake Atitlán.

This pedestrian-friendly setup embodies the town’s focus on immersion in community, nature, and holistic living. It encourages a slower pace of life and closer interaction with your surroundings.

Tuk-tuks are a common mode of transport within and between towns in the area. These compact, three-wheeled motorized vehicles are popular for their affordability and convenience, offering a fun way to explore the area. They’re particularly handy for traveling from the boat docks to your accommodations.

Tuk Tuks on Lake Atitlan's streets, where no cars are allowed.
Getting around Lake Atitlan in a Tuk Tuk.

The main transportation between Lake Atitlán’s towns is by the public lanchas (small boats) that operate frequent services across the lake. They connect major spots like Panajachel, San Marcos, San Pedro, as well as the surrounding smaller villages. 

A public lancha, the main transportation between Lake atitlan's towns.

Hiking is another wonderful option for exploring the area around Lake Atitlán. The trails between small towns such as Santa Cruz, Jaibalito, and Tzununa offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and local culture of the region.

Things To Do in Lake Atitlan

There are plenty of exciting activities to enjoy around Lake Atitlán. If you need assistance with transportation or equipment rental, your accommodation can often help. Here are some of the most popular activities:

1. Village Hopping: Explore the different villages around the lake! Each offers unique cultural experiences, art and craft markets, and local foods to try. 

👉 How about exploring Lake Atitlan Villages by ATV? 👈

2. Kayaking: Renting a kayak is a fantastic way to experience the calm waters of Lake Atitlán. It offers a unique perspective of the towns and villages around the lake, allows you to soak up the sunshine, and provides a great workout – all in one activity!

👉 Kayak and Hike around Lake Atitlan 👈

3. Hiking and Volcano Tours: Take a guided hike to the surrounding volcanoes, including San Pedro, Atitlán, and Tolimán, for breathtaking views of the lake and its surroundings.

👉 Lake Atitlan Sunrise Hike and Kayak 👈

4. Cultural and Artisan Workshops: Participate in cultural activities, such as textile weaving, cooking classes, or chocolate-making workshops. You’ll immerse yourself in a new craft and learn more about the local traditions.

👉 Experience a Mayan Ceremony at the Sacred Caves 👈

5. If you’re seeking relaxation, consider visiting one of the many retreats around Lake Atitlán that offer yoga and meditation sessions. These retreats provide the perfect opportunity to unwind in the peaceful and serene setting of the lake.

👉 Do Yoga with a Breathtaking View 👈

The stunning Lake Atitlán, a must-visit destination easily accessible from Antigua.

Antigua to Lake Atitlán: Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth going to Lake Atitlán?

Absolutely! Lake Atitlán is surrounded by ancient volcanoes and traditional Mayan villages. These all offer a unique blend of scenic beauty, cultural experiences, and opportunities to relax. Even the journey from Antigua is beautiful, filled with spectacular scenery along winding mountain roads.

What is so special about Lake Atitlán?

Lake Atitlan is famous for its incredible beauty – some call it the most beautiful lake in the world. It’s also known for the traditional Mayan villages and the 3 volcanoes that surround it. These are Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro Volcano. It’s also set apart by the fact that, at 110 feet, it’s actually the deepest lake in Central America.

Why can’t you swim in Lake Atitlán?

Actually, swimming in Lake Atitlán is possible. But it’s important to choose locations wisely due to concerns about water pollution in certain areas. 

There are spots with cleaner water, particularly in remote or well-maintained areas, where swimming is safer. Before you jump in, get some local advice on the best places to swim. This will ensure your safety and the lake’s conservation.

Is Lake Atitlán expensive?

No. Lake Atitlán is considered very affordable for most travelers, with a range of budget-friendly to upscale options for places to stay, eat, and things to do. It’s a cost-effective destination with the flexibility to customize your travel experience according to your budget and preferences.

What is the best month for Lake Atitlán?

November to April is the best time range to visit Lake Atitlán. The weather is generally sunny and mild – perfect for getting outdoors and exploring. This is also peak tourist season, though, so while you’ll enjoy the best weather, you may also find more people and higher prices. For a good compromise in weather, price, and crowds, October and May are better choices

How many days should I spend in Lake Atitlán?

A visit of 3 to 5 days will allow you time to explore the villages and enjoy some hiking and other outdoor activities – and you’ll still have time to relax by the lake. If you’re interested in more of a cultural immersion or need more time to relax, a week or more would be ideal.

Can you drink the water in Lake Atitlán?

No. It’s generally advised not to drink the tap water in Lake Atitlán or many parts of Guatemala. It may not meet the safety standards for drinking water due to potential contamination. Opt for bottled water, or use water that has been filtered, boiled, or purified to avoid getting sick. Many accommodations provide or sell safe drinking water.

Conclusion: Antigua to Lake Atitlán

The journey from Antigua to Lake Atitlán will give you a glimpse into the heart of Guatemala’s incredible landscapes. It also bridges the impressive colonial heritage of Antigua with the peaceful natural beauty and cultural interest of Lake Atitán. 

Personally, it was the highlight of my trip to Guatemala- so beautiful and relaxing!

Whether you choose to make the trip with comfort or adventure in mind, you’ll have an unforgettable, unique experience. This is a trip that will let you feel like you’ve gotten to know the real Guatemala!

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