There are a few ways to get from Lake Atitlán to Tikal National Park, but flying is the best option as the two destinations are about 397 miles (640 km) apart. Note that Lake Atitlán doesn't have its own airport—you'll first need to travel to Guatemala City, which will require you to take a private transfer or group shuttle.
Although the drive between the two points is long, it is possible to hire a private driver or rent a car in nearby Antigua to make the 12-hour journey from Lake Atitlán to Tikal. This is a good option if you'd like to maximize the amount of countryside you see during your stay.
You can also take an overnight bus from Panajachel in Lake Atitlán to Tikal, but you'll have to transfer in Guatemala City. Traveling at night in Guatemala can be quite dangerous, especially in Zone 1 where most buses depart, so this is not a recommended option.
If you're interested in seeing the Guatemalan Highlands without the hassle of arranging your own transit, consider jumping on our 7-day itinerary that includes tours of village workshops in Antigua, a Mayan market tour in Lake Atitlán, a guided trek through Tikal National Park, and more.
By Plane and Private Transfer
Duration: 5 hours, more depending on transfers
To take a flight, you'll first have to take a private transfer or group shuttle from Lake Atitlán to Guatemala City's La Aurora International Airport (GUA), which will take about three hours.
It should be fairly easy to find a driver or a group shuttle in Panajachel or another larger town by the lake, but consider talking with a local specialist for help in organizing your transfer to Guatemala City.
Multiple direct flights leave Guatemala City for Mundo Maya International Airport (FRS) in Flores each day, and the flight lasts one hour. Once you land in Flores, you're about 45 minutes from the entrance to Tikal National Park, so you'll need to take and additional private transfer or taxi from the airport to the entrance to the park.
By Private Transfer or Rental Car
Duration: 12 hours, more with stops and traffic
If you'd rather take the scenic route to Tikal, you can hire a driver or rent your own car for the journey. There are some small rental companies in Lake Atitlán, but the larger international companies are about two hours away in Antigua, so a private transfer is usually more convenient.
Some routes for this journey include a ferry, so if you are driving yourself, be sure to carefully study the routes before you set off. A private driver will know the most convenient route to take, and they'll also be able to recommend the best places to stop along the way. If you would like to split the journey up into two days, be sure to make your hotel reservations ahead of time.
If you take route CA-14, you can book an overnight stay in Cobán, which is about halfway between the lake and Tikal. There are some beautiful colonial churches in town, plus turquoise swimming holes and lagoons that are popular with locals and tourists that will hold extra appeal for those interested in birdwatching.
Duration: 14 hours, more with stops and transfers
Although most travelers in Guatemala don't encounter any issues, the majority of crime in the country occurs after dark. There is an overnight bus that will take you to Tikal from Guatemala City, but the bus station is in a fairly notorious area of town where petty theft and robberies are common.
We cannot recommend taking the night bus or any late-night transportation between major cities in Guatemala.