Located in the mountainous Alta Verapaz region in the Guatemalan Central Highlands, it takes over four hours to get to Cobán from Guatemala City, even though it is only 130 miles (212 km) north of the capital.
Guatemala’s fourth biggest city, Cobán is one of the main transport hubs in the Central Highlands. It is also an ideal spot for doing a day trip to Semuc Champey or breaking up the long journey from Antigua, Tikal, Rio Dulce, and Guatemala City. If time allows, though, it’s worth spending a few days exploring the natural beauty of the area.
You can get to Cobán from Guatemala City via private car, shuttle, and local bus. There are also tours that include stops in Cobán or you can also rent your own car and drive yourself, although driving in Guatemala City is not for the faint-hearted.
By Private or Group Tour
Duration: 4+ hr drive from Guatemala City (traffic dependent)
The historic city of Cobán is becoming a popular stop-off on the way out to Semuc Champey and a tourist destination in its own right, with waterfalls, cloud forests, orchid gardens, and rural Mayan villages. Joining a tour is one of the easiest ways to get out to the Central Highlands and the best way to experience it properly.
The Guatemala Culture & Outdoor discovery tour is one of our favorites. This 10-day tour showcases the best of Guatemala, taking you from the capital to Cobán, Semuc Champey, Tikal, Rio Dulce, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua.
Alternatively, you can check out this 5-day Guatemalan Adventure.
By Private Transfer
Duration: 4+ hrs (traffic dependent)
Private transfer is the most comfortable and convenient way to travel around Guatemala. The long distances can make travel days quite tedious, especially if you are crammed into a bus or a shuttle. With a transfer, your driver will pick you up at your hotel or the airport in Guatemala City and then take you all the way to Cobán, so you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.
By Taxi or Rideshare
Duration: 4+ hrs (traffic dependent)
It is also possible to take a taxi or Uber to Cobán from Guatemala City (or the airport). If you take a taxi, ensure you agree on a price first. Ridesharing apps are an option but aren’t to be relied on as you may struggle to find a driver to take you that far out of the city. Drivers also cancel bookings and request higher prices once you get in the car.
Taxis or procuring the service of a private car with a driver is generally much more reliable. Bear in mind that the cars in Guatemala can be quite small, so a taxi can be a bit of a squeeze, but is probably still more comfortable than being squashed in the back of a bus for over four hours!
By Rental Car
Duration: 4+ hrs
You can also look into renting a car and driving yourself from Guatemala City to Cobán. Once you get out of the crazy city traffic and into the highlands the drive through the mountains and cloud forests is beautiful. Just watch out for runaway chicken buses and ensure you have your international driver's license on hand.
By Shuttle Bus
Duration: 4-5+ hrs (traffic dependent)
There are plenty of tourist shuttle buses to Cobán from Guatemala City. They have several departures every day and will pick you up from your hotel and drop you at the central bus station in Cobán. You might have to stop halfway to meet the bus coming from the other direction and change buses so each driver only has to drive halfway before returning back to their starting point.
By Local Bus
Duration: 6-8+ hrs
Adventurous travelers might choose to brave the local bus from Guatemala City to Cobán, but we wouldn’t really recommend it. Not only is it not the safest way to travel on the crazy mountainous roads, but it takes much longer and you’ll make a lot of stops along the route.
However, if you really want to experience a ride on a famous Guatemalan ‘chicken’ bus—a colorful old American school bus—then you can head out to the Guatemala City bus station and ask for the buses heading to Cobán. Be prepared for a long, hot, cramped ride, be careful with your belongings, and try not to travel after dark.