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Location:Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico, and bordering the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) between Honduras and Belize
Area:108,889 sq km
Population:17,422,821 (July 2021 est.)
Languages:Spanish (official) 69.9%, Maya languages 29.7% (Q'eqchi' 8.3%, K'iche 7.8%, Mam 4.4%, Kaqchikel 3%, Q'anjob'al 1.2%, Poqomchi' 1%, other 4%), other 0.4% (includes Xinca and Garifuna); note - the 2003 Law of National Languages officially recognized 23 indigenous languages, including 21 Maya languages, Xinca, and Garifuna (2018 est.)
Religion:Roman Catholic 41.7%, Evangelical 38.8%, other 2.7%, atheist 0.1%, none 13.8%, unspecified 2.9% (2018 est.)
Things to Do
1. Tikal Ruins
Explore the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal, one of the largest archaeological sites in the Americas. Marvel at the towering pyramids and intricate stone carvings that offer a glimpse into the Mayan civilization.
2. Lake Atitlan
Visit the stunning Lake Atitlan, surrounded by majestic volcanoes and picturesque Mayan villages. Take a boat ride on the lake, hike the surrounding trails, or simply relax and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.
3. Antigua Guatemala
Explore the charming colonial city of Antigua Guatemala, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wander through its cobblestone streets, visit the beautiful churches, and admire the well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture.
4. Semuc Champey
Discover the natural wonder of Semuc Champey, a series of turquoise pools and cascading waterfalls hidden in the lush Guatemalan jungle. Take a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear waters or hike to the viewpoint for breathtaking views.
5. Chichicastenango Market
Experience the vibrant atmosphere of the Chichicastenango Market, one of the largest and most colorful indigenous markets in Central America. Browse through the stalls filled with traditional crafts, textiles, and fresh produce.
6. Pacaya Volcano
Embark on a thrilling hike up the Pacaya Volcano, one of Guatemala's most active volcanoes. Witness the lava flows and volcanic ash up close, and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape from the summit.
7. Iximche Mayan Ruins
Visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Iximche, the former capital of the Kaqchikel Maya civilization. Explore the archaeological site, which includes ceremonial plazas, temples, and ball courts.
Experience the unique Afro-Caribbean culture of Livingston, a coastal town located at the mouth of the Rio Dulce. Taste the delicious local cuisine, visit the Garifuna community, and relax on the beautiful beaches.
9. Rio Dulce
Cruise along the scenic Rio Dulce, a picturesque river surrounded by lush jungle and limestone cliffs. Explore the river by boat, visit the hot springs, or take a dip in the refreshing waterfalls.
Discover the cultural and historical hub of Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela. Visit the colonial buildings, explore the local markets, and immerse yourself in the vibrant arts and music scene.
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Guatemala has a tropical climate, with temperatures averaging around 25-30 degrees Celsius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the year. However, temperatures can vary greatly depending on the altitude and location. Coastal regions are typically hot and humid, while the highlands are cooler and more temperate. The rainy season, known as the "green season," typically runs from May to October, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in September and October.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Guatemala depends on your travel plans and preferences. If you're looking to avoid the rain and enjoy warm weather, the dry season from November to April is the best time to visit. This is also the peak tourist season, so expect crowds and higher prices. If you don't mind some rain and are looking for fewer crowds and lower prices, the green season from May to October can also be a good time to visit. The highlands are also a great destination during this season, as the cooler temperatures and lush greenery make for a pleasant visit.
Guatemala has a wide range of hotels to choose from, including budget-friendly options and luxury resorts. In major cities such as Guatemala City and Antigua, you'll find a variety of international hotel chains as well as locally-owned properties. In more rural areas, you may have to rely on smaller, more basic hotels or guesthouses.
Guatemala also has a growing number of hostels, which are a budget-friendly accommodation option. They often have shared dorm rooms as well as private rooms and offer a more social atmosphere than traditional hotels. Hostels are popular among backpackers and other budget-conscious travelers.
Another option for accommodation in Guatemala is vacation rentals, such as apartments or villas. This can be a good option for groups or families traveling together, as it allows for more space and privacy than a hotel room. Vacation rentals can also be a more budget-friendly option, as the cost can be split among multiple people.
Camping and Eco-Lodges
For those who want to be closer to nature, camping and eco-lodges are also options. These can be found in national parks and other protected areas and offer a unique way to experience Guatemala's natural beauty.
Guatemala has a variety of public transportation options, including buses and minibuses. These are the most affordable option for getting around, but can be crowded and uncomfortable. The public transportation system is not well-organized, so it's best to ask locals for directions and advice.
Taxis are also widely available in Guatemala, and can be a convenient option for getting around larger cities like Guatemala City and Antigua. Be sure to negotiate the fare before getting in, as prices are often negotiable.
Rental cars are also an option in Guatemala, but it is important to keep in mind that driving conditions can be challenging. The road infrastructure is not well-developed, and driving can be dangerous in rural areas.
Another option is to hire a private driver or tour company, which can be a convenient and safe way to get around the country, particularly if you plan to visit multiple destinations. This option can be relatively expensive but can also be more comfortable and reliable.
For traveling between different regions of the country, air travel is also an option, but the options are limited and prices can be relatively high. However, it can save a lot of time, especially if you plan to travel to remote places that are not easily accessible by land.
- The currency in Guatemala is the Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ).
Cash And Cards
- It is advisable to carry both cash and cards in Guatemala.
- Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, and major tourist areas.
- However, it is recommended to have some cash on hand for small purchases and in case of emergencies.
- ATMs are readily available in major cities and tourist areas.
- It is recommended to use ATMs located inside banks or secure areas to minimize the risk of card skimming.
- Notify your bank before traveling to Guatemala to avoid any issues with your card being blocked.
- Tipping is customary in Guatemala.
- In restaurants, a 10% service charge is often included in the bill.
- If the service charge is not included, it is customary to leave a 10-15% tip.
- Tipping is also common for taxi drivers, tour guides, and hotel staff.
Cost Of Living
- The cost of living in Guatemala is relatively low compared to many other countries.
- Accommodation, meals, transportation, and entertainment are generally affordable.
- However, prices may vary depending on the location and tourist demand.
- Common scams in Guatemala include:
- Fake police officers asking for identification or bribes.
- Fake tour operators offering cheap deals but providing poor services.
- Pickpocketing and bag snatching in crowded areas.
- Be cautious and use common sense to avoid falling for scams.