Traveling around the lake is best and most convenient by boat. You can catch boats that serve Santiago Atitlán, the eastern shore, and some lake tours from the Barceló del Lago, at the end of Calle del Rancho in Panajachel. There's another dock at the end of Calle del Embarcadero where you can catch boats to San Pedro la Laguna, Santa Cruz and all towns in between. Most rides are on large, tourist-oriented ferries, but you can also catch smaller, faster boats called lanchas, although you'll pay a bit more for the speed and relative privacy. Most of the tours will take you to San Pedro, Santiago Atitlan and San Antonio Palopó and will take most of the day (6-8 hours) and will cost only around 50- 70 Q, depending on how good you are at negotiating.
You can hike around the lake, although it would take a couple days to get all the way around it. It's also possible to hop on a local bus, but routes are very limited. You might have better luck hailing down a pickup truck and asking for a ride. For a small fee, you should be able to get just about anywhere you need to go.
To get to and from San Pedro la Laguna:
-Boat: to San Marco, Santiago, Panajachel and other lake villages. 15-30Q.
-Pick-up Truck: to Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Santiago, San Marco and other villages
-Shuttle: to Antigua
to/from Guatemala City - leaving S.Pedro starting at 6am. Transportes Wendy, Mendez, Pedrana. Leaving Guate starting at 11am from Zona 4. Leaving approx 5 time per day. Take this bus to get to Main highway (km 138), Los Encuentros, Chimaltenango.
to/from Xela(Quetzaltenango), Huehue, Mexico - take bus to Main highway/Interamericana (km 138) and catch bus going north/west. change at Cuatro Caminos for Xela. if going to mexico, catch bus going to Huehuetenango and change buses there to La Mesilla. if going to Nebaj, change at Huehue and bus East.
to/from Chichicastenango - bus going towards Guate, get off at Los Encuentros to catch bus to Chichi. Reverse: any bus to Los Encuentros, bus going North towards huehue, etc., get off at km 138, bus to S. Pedro
to/from Antigua - bus towards Guate, change Chimaltenango. Reverse: bus to Chimaltenango, bus towards Xela, Huehue, Quiché, get off at km 138, bus to S.Pedro.
Most people arrive to Lake Atitlan via the town Panajachel, and from here the easiest way to get to other destinations at the lake is by boat. There's a lot of possibilities, and you will probably have to bargain a bit with the boat owner to get a good price.
The main destinations is Santiago Atitlan, San Pedro la Laguna, San Antonio Palopo.
By Boat - to San Pedro, Santiago, San Marco, Santa Cruz and other lake villages, take a boat from the main pier. 15-30Q.
By Pick-up Truck - to San Marcos, Santa Catarina, San Antonio, Sololá and other villages
By Shuttle: direct shuttles available to Antigua and San Cristobal de las Casas (Mexico)
to Guate - direct buses leaving about every hour. take this to Los Encuentros (for Chichicastenango) and Chimaltenango (for Antigua)
from Chichi - bus to Los Encuentros, bus to Sololá or Panajachel
from Antigua - bus to Chimaltenango - any bus going north - at Los Encuentros get bus going to Sololá or Pana
from/to Mexico - from Mesilla, bus to Huehue - 4 caminos (any bus going south to Xela at least) - Los Encuentros - Sololá or Pana. same in reverse.
We took a shuttle from the airport . We had our hotel arrange it and there was someone waiting for us when we arrived . It cost $50.00 for the two of us. ( a little more since it was prearranged)
When we left we took a shuttle to Guatemala city . It took 4.5 hours via Antigua where we picked up more people. It can take longer depending ob traffic. Cost $22.00 each .
It is easy to arrange transportation in Panajachel.
The shuttle was a mini bus that held about 7 people. Quite comfortable and safe.
There are lots of boats going to the villages around the lake . There are frequent four hour ferries going to Santiago from Panajachel and private water taxies making regukar trips to the other towns and villages around the lake. Prices are pretty low , less than 15 quetzales.
You don't need reservations . just go the the lakefront dock.
Its a good idea to travel very light , probably no taxis to pick you up at the other side.
It is a great way of discovering the environment. Of course you can also reach all the villages riding with a bus along the lake. But is much more fun taking a boat, like this you get a totally different view of the lake.
IF YOU ARRIVE AT THE LAKESIDE IN PANAJACHEL THEN YOU'LL FIND BOATS WHICH WILL TAKE YOU TO TOWNS OR VILLAGES AROUND THE LAKE SUCH AS SAN PEDRO LA LAGUNA, SANTIAGO ATITLAN, ETC.
BUT BE WARNED, THEY WON'T SAIL AWAY UNTIL MORE PASSENGERS BOARD THEM.
AS FAR AS I REMEMBER I THINK IT COST Q20
There are plenty of ferries that take you around the lake at several times during the day. The times of the ferries and the fast boats change so ask around for the current schedule. There are two kinds of transports available: A slow ferry that connects Panajachel, Santiago de Atitlan and San Pedro); and a faster boat network connecting these towns to smaller towns and other destinations.
To get anywhere around the Lake you must take a water Taxi. I believe at that time the price was around 5 US dollars and like most places you will pay more than a local - this is just the custom and don't complain about it. The Lake can become rough at times and the ride a little bumpy. I had a hard time on the road coming into Pana so my stomach was a little upset, but on the return I had no problem.
Bustrip of 169 km - 7,5 Quetzales, 3 buses or minibuses
Huehuetanango - Los Encuentros (3 hrs)
Los Encuentros - Solola (15 min)
Solola - Panajachel (30 min)
This last part was in a VM van where, I don't exaggerate, more than 25 people were stuck.
The best way to go Antigua from Mexico is by San Cristobal de Las Casas. You can get a bus to Ciudad Cuauhtemoc on the boarder and cross into La Mesilla, Guatemala. Get your ticket a day in advance. From the boarder you will need to go through passport control in Mexico and then take a mini bus to the boarder control in Guatemala town of La Mesilla. Once in Guatemala you have to take about 6 chicken buses to Panajachel which is on Lago Atitlan (gorgeous lake). It is not to difficult to do as the people are increadibly friendly, but it is quite an adventure. You have to throw your pack on the roof so it can be hectic change buses quickly and usually requires lots of running. Once at the lake grab a beer and then get a water taxi to San Pedro on the other side as it is far nicer than touristy Panajachel. It is possible to do all in one day, but you got be sharp and not miss the bus.
There are several buses available from Guatemala City taking but a few hours to get you to Panajachel. The prices are dirt cheap (under $1 USD an hour). Also, the buses are not much to ask (refitted, old school buses from the US or Canada).
Many of the villages around the lake are connected by a limited network of buses or collectivos (often made up of nothing more than a pickup truck). This may not make that many rounds during the day so better ask a local for the up to date schedule. Prices are dirt cheap at under $1 USD per hour.