Guatemala is often the favourite country for holidays in Central America. Travellers visit Guatemala in numbers because the volcanoes are the highest and most active and its ancient ruins are often felt to be the most beautiful and awe-inspiring. Much of the passion for Guatemala is due to the many ancient Maya sites, the colonial architectural legacy and spectacular landscapes, The western highlands with steep hillsides and beautiful villages contrast with the equally beautiful and enormous forest reserves of the northern lowlands. These rainforests once housed Mayan civilisation kingdoms. Antigua, the capital, is a delightful and relaxed city full of splendid colonial architecture.
The Maya civilization occupied a vast area in Central and South America from around 2000 BC until 1500 AD. The Mayan culture extended to parts of what is now Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador, and most of Guatemala and Belize. The Mayans built gorgeous temples, pyramids and cities with complex social and political arrangements. There are numerous spectacular remnants of this culture and the descendents of the old Maya still make up more than 50% of the Guatemalan population today. Many interesting customs are intact including weaving, pottery and wood carving, all of which are world renowned.
Guatemala has a huge range of diverse species which dwell in varied spectacular habitats including rain and cloud forest, dry valleys, swamps and spectacular ocean shores.
There are over 30 protected areas, including National Parks and Biological Reserves. Guatemala is famous for its extremely fertile earth, which is the reason why vegetation is so rich and diverse. The wildlife is equally impressive and you can expect to see jaguars, pumas, parrots and toucans on your travels.
Travel in Guatemala is regarded as fairly safe despite its reputation but a number of serious violent crimes have been committed against foreigners. Intercity travel after dark should be avoided even in groups. Group organised activity holidays with experienced guides are an advisable option for Westerners visiting Guatemala.
The lost city lies in jungle northwest of Flores, in the department of El Petén. Steep-sided temples rise to heights of over 44m near dense rainforest. The ruins include plazas, an acropolis, pyramids, temples and a museum.
Is a main tourist attraction in itself lying within the larger Maya Biosphere Reserve which contains the Tikal archaeological site as well as 57,600 hectares of jungle. It is also one of the best places to observe the incredible wildlife in Guatemala.
Is famed for its 300m long natural limestone bridge on top of which is a stepped series of pools with cool, flowing river water good for swimming. Many regard this site as a wonder of Central America. It is a truly beautiful setting.
Guatemala is sub-tropical. The rainy season, Invierno, is from May to October. Dry season is November to April with clear skies and cold nights especially in the highlands.
The best time to visit is between November and March with low temperatures and humidity and clear blue skies.
Politeness and attempting your Spanish helps in any situation. Avoid commenting on crime or anything else controversial. Speak quietly. The locals are gently spoken and find Westerners loud. Public nudity is offensive and westerners should cover up as much as possible, especially in churches or sacred places.