Population 17,263,239 (2018)
Coordinates: 15.78° N, 90.23° W
Area Total: 108,889 sq km
Capital: Guatemala City
National Holiday: September 15
Currency: Quetzal (GTQ)
Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador
Guatemala Travel Guide Overview
Guatemala is a Central America country, bordering with Mexico in the north and west, with Belize and the Caribbean Sea, Honduras and El Salvador east, and with the Pacific Ocean on its South. The Capital of Guatemala is Guatemala City. Guatemala’s tourist season depends on the weather mainly. It is a tropical country. The dry season is from November to April. During the raining season (May to October) it tends to rain a few hours only. Especially from May to July it is a good time to visit, when nature is lush.
Guatemala has a something for every kind of traveler: adventure, nature, history, culture and leisure. Guatemala is most known for the Mayan Archeological Sites. Guatemala is truly the heart of the Mayan Culture, you will find archeological sites all over the country in different size and styles, but the most important are located north of the country in the department of Peten. An excellent time to visit Guatemala is during Holy Week, specially Antigua, where you can experience first-hand the way Guatemalans live this week, witness the processions and the making of their world famous carpets made of sawdust, just be prepared for the number of people visiting.
Attractions and Activities
Guatemala has a total area of 108,889km² and is home to just over 17 million people. There are over 8 Ethnic groups. In Guatemala you will find amazing view of volcanoes (4 being active), mountains, lakes, rivers forest and towns. There are 14 ecoregions and 5 different ecosystems. Guatemalan people are welcoming and friendly. In Guatemala there are fascinating archeological sites, beautiful natural destinations, colonial cities and indigenous culture.
Guatemala Deparments (States)
Guatemala is divided in 22 departments: Guatemala, Sacatepequez, Solola, Peten, Quiche, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Izabal, Retalhuleu, Quetzaltenango, Zacapa, Santa Rosa, Chimaltenango, Escuintla, Huehuetenango, Chiquimula, El Progreso, Jutiapa, Jalapa, San Marcos, Suchitepequez and Totonicapan.
The department of Guatemala houses the capital of the country, Guatemala City. It is the central gateway for tours going anywhere in the country because the international airport is located here. The Historical Center, where most of the architectonic treasures are concentrated is located in zone 1. The best zones for nightlife are zone 4 and 10. In zone 3 you will find an area called “4 Grados Norte” (Four Degrees North), a trendy part of the city. Zone 10 is also known as “Zona Viva” where the business center is, here you will find most of the hotels in the city, restaurants and bars. In the city there are archeological sites, but they are small and many people do not visit them.
Sacatepequez means grass hill in the Pipil Maya dialect. The capital of Sacatepequez is Antigua Guatemala, famous for its excellent preserved Spanish baroque architecture and the many ruins of colonial churches, restaurants and nightlife. Antigua Guatemala is the perfect base point during your visit to Guatemala. In Sacatepequez you will also find Ciudad Vieja, it was the second capital of Guatemala founded in 1,527 and moved to Antigua Guatemala in 1,543. Other important site is Jocotenango, where you can visit the church and La Azotea (Roof) a cultural center built on an ancient coffee estate, it has three museums, one is a music museum, the other one is a coffee museum and a small costume museum.
The department of Solola is located west of Guatemala. Lake Atitlan is located in this department and is one of the most important destinations when visiting Guatemala. Many people consider this as the most beautiful lake in the world and if you visit it you will agree.
The towns around the lake are populated by different groups of Mayan ethnics. This makes the towns very interesting since, you will see how indigenous people live and learn about their culture. Panajachel is the gateway to the villages around the lake, here you will find most of the hotels, restaurants, and night life and best view since you will have the view to the lake with the three volcanos, Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro, as frame.
Quiche is one of the most populated departments and with more languages of the country, with 5 different languages. Its geographic configuration is very different so its climates are very variable, with cold and mild predominating, although there are some warm zones as well.
The main attraction in Quiche is Chichicastenango due to his cultural richness and the market. Held only on Thursdays and Sundays, it is a colorful market, one of the biggest in Central America. People from the region sell different handmade crafts like textiles, wooden masks, ceramics, güipiles (indigenous blouses), bracelets and other wooden crafts and instruments. Other attractions are Santo Tomas Church, Gucumatz arch, Rossback regional museum, El Calvario Church, ceremonial site Pascual Abaj, and Ceremonial mask museum.
Las Verapaces is the colloquial name for both Alta and Baja Verapaz departments. These two adjacent departments are located north. The capital of Baja Verapaz is Salama and the capital for Alta Verapaz is Coban, also known as Imperial City. These two departments are perfect for nature lovers due to its rich flora and fauna. Las Verapaces are a mountain region and you can find rivers, caves and lakes. Between the most known sites to visit in Las Verapaces are: Semuc Champey, Lanquin caves, Rey Marcos caves, Mario Dary Rivera biotope (also known as Quetzal biotope), Lachua lagoon National Park, Kan-B’a caves, Cahabon River, Candelaria caves and Chicoy Caves.
Izabal is the only department of Guatemala located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. In this department you will find the largest lake of Guatemala, Lake Izabal. The area around the lake and along Rio Dulce River has exuberant vegetation, reason why it offers the visitant a great beauty panorama. In Izabal you will also find two ports: Puerto Barrios port and Santo Tomas de Castilla. One of the municipalities is Livingston, the only place in Guatemala where you will experience the Garifuna culture. Between the natural reserves are: Biotope Chocon Machacas, Rio Dulce, Punta Manabique and Bocas del Polochic. In Izabal you will also find the archeological site of Quirigua; it is a small site but it houses the biggest Mayan stela ever found, with 10.5 meters high. Lake Izabal and Rio Dulce are connected and at the start of Rio Dulce you will find the San Felipe Castle, a fort built to protect the Atlantic coast of Guatemala against pirate attacks in the XVII and XVIII centuries, now it is a National History Monument.
With 35,853 square meters, Peten is the largest department in Guatemala. It is considered one of the lungs of the planet due to the exuberant vegetation. The capital of the department is Flores, an island located on Lake Peten Itza and linked by a causeway to the village of Santa Elena. The Flora and Fauna of Peten form the Maya Biosphere Reserve where endemic species prevail. In this department are located the largest and best examples of the Mayan civilization's heritage, with more than 1,500 archaeological sites, among which stand out: Tikal, El Mirador – Rio Azul, Yaxha, Nakum, Naranjo, Ceibal, Aguateca, Cancuen, Uaxactun, among others.
This beautiful highland department is surrounded by hills and volcanoes. The capital of the department is Quetzaltenango also known as Xela. It is the second most important city in Guatemala due to its territorial extension, industrial activity, tourism, culture and commerce. Xela preserves the ancient traditions of its Mayan-K’iche lineage along with its colonial past and a dynamic modern life. Xela has natural destinations giving the visitor the opportunity to be in touch with nature, like Chicabal volcano and lagoon, Santa Maria volcano, Fuentes Georginas and Cerro El Baul.
The Pacific Coast stretches for almost 300 kilometers with volcanic black sand beaches. The departments with coastal line to the pacific are Rethaluleu, Suchitepequez, Escuintla, Santa Rosa and Jutiapa. In the region visitors can enjoy surfing, sport fishing, climb volcanoes, practice birdwatching, visit archeological sites and visit natural reserves. In Rethaluleu you will find recreational and theme parks to enjoy with the family.
Location and Map
Guatemala is located in Central America with entrance to the Pacific coast and the Caribbean Sea. Its neighbors are Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. The main international airport is in Guatemala City (GUA) and there is another international airport in Flores, Peten (FRS).