The meandering Interamericana (Hwy 1), running 345km along the mountain ridges between Guatemala City and the Mexican border at La Mesilla, passes close to all of the region’s most important places, and countless buses roar up and down it all day, every day. Two key intersections act as major bus interchanges: Los Encuentros for Panajachel and Chichicastenango, and Cuatro Caminos for Quetzaltenango. If you can’t find a bus going all the way to your destination, simply get one to Los Encuentros or Cuatro Caminos and change there. These transfers are usually seamless, with not-too-frustrating waiting times and locals who are always ready to help travelers find the right bus.
Travel is easiest in the morning and, for smaller places, on market days. By mid- or late afternoon, buses may be difficult to find, and it’s not generally a good idea to be out on the roads after dark. On more-remote routes further off the beaten track, you may be relying more on pickups or trucks than buses for transportation.
Shuttle minibuses ferry tourists between the major destinations of the region and beyond. They travel faster, more comfortably and more expensively than buses. There’s a belief that shuttles are more vulnerable to highway robbery, because a vanload of gringos (Westerners) is such a tempting target. In reality, the percentage of shuttles that gets held up is minuscule – but you have to make up your own mind.