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  • Writer's pictureDave Jackson

Semuc Champey to Lake Atitlan | Lanquin to Lake Atitlan

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Like much of travelling around Guatemala, travelling from Semuc Champey to Lake Atitlan is possible by chicken bus, but generally not advisable as it’s a 12-hour journey via shuttle never mind at chicken bus speed!

Where do the buses leave from in Semuc Champey heading to Lake Atitlan?

The shuttles from Semuc Champey, or more specifically the gateway town, Lanquin, depart from the Exon services. The Exon services act as the bus station, so you will find all shuttles leave from this point. 90% of the hostels & hotels in Lanquin and inside Semuc Champey will offer free transfers to and from Exon.

Where do the buses arrive in Lake Atitlan from Semuc Champey?

The buses stop next to Calle Santander in Panajachel, which is the main town on Lake Atitlan.

How long does the bus from Semuc Champey to Lake Atitlan take?

Our journey took 10.5 hours but there are reports of anywhere between 10-12 hours.

What is the journey like when travelling via bus from Semuc Champey to Lake Atitlan?

All buses are scheduled to leave Exon just outside of Lanquin at 8 am. Shuttle buses going in all directions are lined up there waiting for the tuk-tuks and trucks from the various accommodations to arrive. Our hotel managed to deliver us on time for the 8 am departure, but that wasn’t the case for all of the passengers on our bus. Our bus hit the road at around 8:30 am and as usual, this is the time the driver decides to fill up with fuel!

We start the snaking journey through the mountain pass out of Lanquin and hit our first traffic jam caused by a market in the neighbouring town called Chiacam. The hold-up wasn’t anything major, just the road is no longer wide enough for the volume of tourist buses and market stalls on both sides.

As seems to be the way with all the buses to/from Semuc Champey, the journey wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Mcdonald's in Coban. After around 1.5 hours of fairly windy roads, 15/20 minutes on Terre firma and a quick wee stop is a nice welcome break.

After the stop we continued on the windy roads until our lunch stop at 12:40 pm, the driver was definitely taking a backhander from the owner of the restaurant as he couldn’t have picked a more expensive stop! We had chicken, rice and salad but at Q75 per person, our budget took a bit of a hit. As usual, we were supposed to stop for 40 minutes and the driver was adamant about that, but we didn’t get moving again until 1:40 pm as we were waiting for the driver to finish his own meal!

After lunch, the roads weren’t quite as windy as before. We settled in for a few more hours of driving. Around 4 pm we noticed the driver had become a little unhappy with the bus. He kept putting his hand on the engine bay next to him, feeling the heat and was making back-to-back calls explaining to anyone who would listen about a strange ‘kadonk, kadonk, kadonk’ sound coming from the engine. But still, he ploughed on. By 4:30 pm he really was unhappy, so pulled into a fuel station where he gave us 10 minutes so he could have a closer inspection & topped up the oil too.

After the wee stop, we were back on the road & the driver continued with his calls & noticeably seemed to be driving slower. Whether that’s because he was being careful or had lack of power I'm not sure, but I’m inclined to think the latter, hoping no lasting damage had been done. Or at least if it had, prayed the bus would make it to Panajachel.

Just after 6 pm our driver had to take a bit of a detour, we were travelling in Holy Week & our planned route took us to a closed road. The knocking had either got quieter by this time or I’d drowned it out as white noise, as it was definitely less noticeable.

The bus made it with no dramas, we arrived in Panajachel just after 7 pm, legs a little stiff from a full day of travelling but excited for the next chapter of our adventure!


We’d read a load of horror stories about the journey from Semuc Champey to Lake Atitlan, and the only thing I can think of is that the bloggers had done the journey quite a few years ago. Yes, the day was long, and the roads were a little windy, but that’s the same throughout Guatemala, it’s mountainous, what do you expect?!

The roads were all sealed and everyone was sat on proper seats.

When people as the question is Semuc Champey worth it...? 100%, get yourself there, you'll love it!

If you’ve done this journey add your comments below to how you found it.

Happy travels


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