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General Information

National Parks

Archaeological Guatemala

Guatemala City

Antigua

Suggested Tours


Country Events & Trade Fairs Calendar

Visa Requirements for U.S. visitors


Return to Central America



 Revised: 31 Jan 2005

 

  Information
Guatemala is a nation rich in history, famed for its friendly people, native arts and crafts, natural beauty and vast diversity of wild life. Northernmost and most populous of the Central American republics, the country is bordered by Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador, a rugged highland with high mountains that extend east and west. Guatemala’s visitors have a unique opportunity to combine explorations of the nation’s famed Maya ruins with natural history tours through incredible rain forests and jungles that abound in birds and other wildlife as well as unique tropical flora. 

A journey in Guatemala takes the visitor in a few minutes from the lush vegetation of the warm low lands zone to the cold of the pine forests. Most of the nine million Guatemalans live in the valleys of the mountainous regions, in the center of the country, where the climate is temperate. This is the region of lakes and volcanoes for which Guatemala is known throughout the world. Guatemala is also a country of magic, as chronicled by the first historians and travelers, not only because of the beauty and splendor of its climate and landscape, but for the spirit of fantasy that has always been evident in its elaborate religious rituals and the ways of its people.

The restored pyramids and temples pay silent tribute to the Maya civilization which first appeared more than 3,000 years ago and the complex Maya society is evident in the impressive structures and ruins of Guatemala’s Tikal, Rio Azul, Uaxactun and Piedras Negras. In this small country of only 70,000 square miles, the ancient Maya civilization had its heyday in the first millennium of our calendar. In 1523, the Spaniard Pedro de Alvarado, sent by Hernán Cortés, launched the conquest of Guatemala and with the cruel destruction and subjugation of the Quiche, Kakchikel and Tzutujil lords, the colonial era opened. Reminders of Maya culture can also be found at Zaculeu in Guatemala’s western highlands and Quirigua in the Motagua Valley which offer magnificent examples of the Post or Late Classic Mayas. 

Guatemala has a diversity of climates, depending on the region and the altitude. Although there is some regional variation, Guatemala has two basic seasons: rainy, from May to October and dry, from November to April. The average temperature is a moderate 75 degrees F (in Guatemala City, the temperature ranges from 17 to 23C (35.6 to 71.4F). Bring lightweight waterproof clothing and an umbrella if visiting in the rainy season they are not as easy to find outside Guatemala City as you might have expected. The evenings can be chilly in the highlands, particularly during November and February, and bringing sweaters is advisable although tourists can of course buy some beautiful sweaters, along with felt jackets, in the Indian markets. March, April and May are generally hot. In other places the climate depends on the time of the year and the altitude. but the lowland area of El Petén in the north is always hot. The Peten, Guatemala’s northern panhandle, is covered by rain forests and occasional humid savannas. The region comprises a third of the country’s total area but is home to only a tiny fraction of the population. It resembles parts of Brazil’s Amazon basin, producing hardwoods, chicle and rubber.  

From pre-Hispanic times, the Guatemalan diet is based on corn, which the visitor will taste on many occasions in the form of tortillas (a sort of pancake). Guatemalan dishes also include beans, meat and chicken, prepared with local spices. These dishes are to be found in specialized restaurants, given the long time they take to prepare. Some of the most traditional dishes most often requested by Guatemalans are the Quetzaltenango tamales, kakik (spiced turkey soup), jocon (chicken in green tomato sauce), guacamole (avocado puree), subanik (beef, pork and chicken vapor-cooked in a highly spiced sauce), and traditional Antigua candy, among other delicacies.

 

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