Lake Atitlán to Semuc Champey (Inc. San Pedro & Panajachel)

To go from Lake Atitlán to Semuc Champey is less than 100 miles apart in a straight line. But despite this, and despite a driving distance of 175 miles, the journey still takes around 10 to 12 hours by road.

It’s a long journey and it takes a full day out of your trip itinerary.

But, those beautiful jungle pools, caves and waterfalls at Semuc Champey are absolutely worth it, in my opinion. And it’s a convenient stopping point for those continuing north to Flores or Rio Dulce.

From Lake Atitlán, there are just two ways to get to Semuc Champey: by shuttle bus or public bus. And this detailed guide explains all you need to know about both. Find out more about the routes, costs, how to book and even the best seats to pick…

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The brightly coloured pools at Semuc Champey surrounded by jungle

How to get from Lake Atitlán to Semuc Champey: Overview

Getting around Guatemala isn’t always easy. Public transport is really limited and the roads are often in poor conditions, especially when travelling up and down the country.

As such, there are only two ways to get from Lake Atitlán to Semuc Champey. By taking at least 3 buses or by taking a shared shuttle.

Below, you’ll find detailed information on getting to Semuc Champey from some of the most popular Lake Atitlán towns. You can skip to these now if you’d prefer:



San Pedro La Laguna

Santa Cruz La Laguna

San Marcos

But both shuttles and buses will only get you as far as Lanquín – the small town next to Semuc Champey. And this is where most hotels around Semuc Champey are.

So if you’re staying in hotels or hostels near the entrance of Semuc Champey, you’ll need to drive another 30 minutes from Lanquín once you’ve got off the bus or shuttle.

Luckily, most hotels and hostels run free pick-ups from the shuttle/bus drop-off point in big trucks. Including those located away from Lanquín.

If you’re staying in Lanquín, you can take 4×4 transport to Semuc Champey on the day(s) you visit.

Lake Atitlán to Lanquín

Here are some key points to know about travelling from Lake Atitlán to Lanquín:

  • A shuttle bus is the most direct and convenient way – sit back and enjoy the scenery
  • The journey can be done by bus (chicken buses and public buses) but requires a few connections
  • Whether you take a shuttle or a bus, it’s a full day of travel. There’s no night buses or shuttles to Semuc Champey
  • Delays are common on this route, so journey times are only estimates

> > > Travelling from Guatemala City or arriving to the airport there? Check out this guide on getting to Semuc Champey from Guatemala City – all transport options explained

Lanquín to Semuc Champey

And some important things to know to get from Lanquín to Semuc Champey:

  • Transport is included in the price of tours
  • Open-back, 4×4 trucks run throughout the day from the centre of Lanquín – you sit or stand in the back
  • The journey takes 30 minutes and costs 25Q per person.

Shuttle vs Bus Comparison

Journey time10 to 12 hours10+ hours driving (plus time waiting for the next bus to leave)
Rest stops2 or 3None (use facilities at/around bus stations)
Toilets onboard?NoNo
BagsOn the roof, securely fastened, under a plastic sheet, only accessed at the end of the journeyIn front of your seat, at the back or on the roof. If on the roof, bus helpers will access these throughout the journey as others get on/off
Best place to sitIn the middle. The back is bumpy and the front is above the engine (making it extra hot)Chicken buses: wherever you can get a seat (if you can)
Public buses: in the middle or front
Cost50 USD (350Q to 400Q)Around 220Q
ConvenienceDirect, hassle-freeMultiple connections needed, must make the last bus to Lanquín or you’ll need to find a place to stay in Coban.
Booking in advanceBook online or through your hostelNot possible
The large Lake Atitlan photographed from the hillside at sunrise

> > > Travelling north to south in Guatemala? Then this guide on how to get to Semuc Champey from Flores is for you.

Panajachel to Semuc Champey

Find out how you can get from Panajachel to Semuc Champey (Lanquín) by shuttle or bus. Including pick-up points, routes and how to book tickets.

Shuttle to Lanquín

A shuttle is the easiest and least hassle way to get from Lake Atitlán to Semuc Champey. Yes, it takes almost 12 hours but once you’re on, you don’t even have to think about where you’re going.

Sit back, relax and binge-watch Netflix for around 10 to 12 hours.

Shuttles from Panajachel leave from the road that runs from the dock to the main road. The exact pick-up point is outside Xocomil Tours.

You should leave at 7.30 in the morning. But, punctuality isn’t really a thing when it comes to shuttles in this part of the world. It’ll leave when it leaves.

But I do recommend arriving early. If you’re one of the first people there, you’ll get to pick the best seats. Late arrivals will end up at the back or sat next to strangers.

There’s only one shuttle each day from Panajachel to Lanquín, so I recommend booking this a couple of days in advance. More if you’re travelling around holidays like Easter or Christmas.

I recommend gottoGo because they’re a Guatemalan-based company run by Guatemalans with round-the-clock WhatsApp support. And their online booking site is easy to use and the prices are the same as if you walked into a tour agency around Lake Atitlán.

Overlooking the pools and hills of Semuc Champey National Park in Guatemala

Public Buses to Lanquín

Shuttles are certainly the most popular way to get around Guatemala. But, travelling by public bus does save you a few dollars.

Unfortunately, Guatemala doesn’t have many long-distance buses and even going a short distance can require a few changes. But, if you want to, this is how to get from Panajachel to Lanquín on chicken buses and public buses.

  • Take the direct Panajachel to Guatemala City Rebuli chicken bus from the bus stop in front of the fire station on the main road. This bus only runs at 4.30 am, 5 am, 6 am and 7 am, costing 50Q and taking around 3 hours.
  • Get off the chicken bus at Miraflores Shopping Centre and then take an Uber (30Q) to the Monja Blanca bus terminal. This is the most convenient place to get a taxi, as the Rebuli bus continues to another place in the city.
  • In Coban, it’s a 5-minute walk from the Monja Blanca terminal to Transportes Martinez. Here, you’ll be able to catch the bus to Lanquín. This bus costs 40Q and the last one leaves at 5 pm.

A couple of extra points…

If you miss the direct Panajachel to Guatemala City buses, you’ll need to take a longer route with more connections. You’ll instead need to go from Panajachel to Solola, then get a bus to Los Encuentros, and then a bus to Guatemala City.

A second alternative route is to go via Santa Cruz del Quiche rather than Guatemala City. This route by chicken buses would be Panajachel – Solola – Los Encuentros – Chichicastenango – Santa Cruz del Quiche – Uspantan – Coban – Lanquín. With 7 changes, I’d recommend the Guatemala City route.

It’s important to note that the last bus from Coban to Lanquín is at 5 pm. This means you need to be arriving in Coban by 4.45 pm, which means setting off the 5-hour journey from Guatemala City no later than 11.30 am.

But, ideally, you want to be leaving Guatemala City as early as possible in case of delays. Because if you miss that last bus, you’ll have to spend the night in Coban or pay for a 2-hour taxi to Lanquín.

Looking across Lake Atitlan from Santa Cruz la Laguna towards a volcano

San Pedro La Laguna to Semuc Champey

Many people come to San Pedro for the Indian Nose/Rostro Maya hike at sunrise or the parties at Mr Mullets Hostel. And, as one of the bigger towns around Lake Atitlán, it’s possible to get a shuttle direct from San Pedro to Semuc Champey.

But… shuttles only run if there’s enough people. And companies wait as late as possible to cancel in the hope of filling the seats. t

When I tried to go from San Pedro to Semuc Champey by shuttle, I found out just 12 hours before that my journey was cancelled. So, if you do book a shuttle (recommend through a hostel in the town), take this into account and have a plan b.

Luckily, the agency rebooked us onto a shuttle from Panajachel. But this did mean we had to get the first lancha (boat) of the day (around 5.45 am) to Panajachel to make sure we were there in time.

If you want to book a shuttle from Panajachel, I recommend making sure you’re on the first boat of the day. This is perhaps the only way to guarantee you’ll be there in time for the shuttle to leave at 7.30 am.

Alternatively, if you want to take public buses to Semuc Champey, you’ll also need to get the first boat to Panajachel. This should mean you make a direct Rebuli bus to Guatemala City. Otherwise, you may need to do the route via Santa Cruz del Quiche.

A lancha boat on Lake Atitlan at the dock with the large and imposing volcano behind. This is an important part of the journey from some of the Lake Atitlan towns to Semuc Champey

> > > Thinking of heading to Antigua Guatemala before going to Semuc Champey? Then this guide on how to get to Semuc Champey from Antigua is for you.

Santa Cruz La Laguna to Semuc Champey

There’s no direct transport options from Santa Cruz to Semuc Champey. Instead, you’ll need to get the lancha (boat) to Panajachel and then take the shuttle or bus to Lanquín.

Book your shuttle from Panajachel to Lanquín online

Whether you’re travelling by bus or shuttle, you need to be in Panajachel as early as possible. So you need to make sure you’re on the first boat of the day from Santa Cruz.

However, a safer option is to book a private lancha to take you. This way you won’t have to wait for the boat to fill with locals before it leaves. Because as Santa Cruz is so small, it may take a while to get a full boat.

Private lanchas can be booked through the staff at the dock or ask your hotel/hostel to help you. It’s a more expensive option but could save you much more time and money by not missing the boat. Or you could just stay in Panajachel the night before.

San Marcos to Semuc Champey

Much like Santa Cruz, there aren’t any shuttles from San Marcos. And road transport from San Marcos to Panajachel is also pretty limited.

Instead, you’ll need to take a lancha (boat) across Lake Atitlán to get a bus or shuttle from Panajachel to Semuc Champey. Again, I recommend taking the first boat of the day or booking a private trip to not miss your bus or shuttle.

Book your shuttle from Panajachel online in advance, then you can enjoy your time around the lake knowing you have a seat reserved and a hassle-free journey ahead.

Then, once you arrive, you can take onward transport from Lanquín to Semuc Champey if you need to.

A scenic rest stop on the journey through Guatemala. A river meanders through the narrow valley with tree-covered hills rising steeply

Getting to Semuc Champey from Lake Atitlán? A Summary

With only two options for getting to Semuc Champey National Park from the beautiful Lake Atitlán, you don’t have much to debate over. And if you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably not made up your mind.

So, perhaps these will help you…

Don’t speak Spanish? I’d recommend a shuttle so you don’t need to ask for bus tickets or directions along the way. Also, the shuttle is generally full of international tourists who speak English, whereas the buses are full of locals.

Travelling from a different town on Lake Atitlán? There are only shuttles from Panajachel and San Pedro. And there’s only buses from Panajachel. Anywhere else and you’ll need to get a lancha to one of the two (I’d recommend Panajachel).

Not sure the shuttle is worth the cost? 50 USD might sound like a lot and it’s 20 USD more than the bus route. But, it guarantees you’ll get to Lanquín that day and you can relax the whole journey.

If you go by bus and miss a connection, you might lose the money for your hotel around Semuc Champey. And you’ll have to make sure you get off the bus at the right time and keep a close eye on your belongings.

Do you have any questions or want any more information? If so, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Information is correct as of July 2023 but is subject to change in future.

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