Antigua is a beautiful city, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the central highlands of Guatemala. Honoured for its rich history, the city is home to spectacular Spanish-style Baroque architecture, eerily beautiful ruins and multiple museums.
Volcanoes, temples, ancient Maya traditions—you’ll find it all in Guatemala. Visit off-the-beaten-path villages, marvel at archaeological sites, relax on pristine white sand beaches or seek out wildlife in untamed, tangled jungles. This is a country that is rich in both history and landscape, and the opportunities for adventure in Guatemala are endless.
Currency: Quetzal (GTQ)
Government: Unitary Presidential Constitutional Republic
DID YOU KNOW?
- The official name of Guatemala is the Republic of Guatemala, and the name Guatemala in Mayan means “Land of the Trees.”
- While Spanish is the official language of Guatemala, there are more than 20 different Mayan dialects spoken throughout the country.
- A scene from the original Star Wars movie was shot in Guatemala’s Tikal National Park.
- Guatemala is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Antigua, Tikal National Park and Quirigua.
Guatemala’s climate is generally hot year-round, making it a consistently desirable travel location. The rainy season is from May to November, but the north has a hot tropical climate with rain only between May and September. The coastal regions are also hot with a dry season between November and April and a rainy season from May to October.
- Rainy: May – November
- Dry: November – April
The first evidence of humans in Guatemala dates back to as early as 12,000 BCE. The region was occupied by the Mayans in its early years until the civilization collapsed around 900 CE; as such, Guatemala is home to many ancient Maya ruins. Spanish explorers claimed the land in the 1500s, and it wasn’t until 300 years later that Guatemala proclaimed its independence from Spain.
Since the early 1900s, Guatemala has been home to much political turmoil with fighting and resistance from various guerrilla groups. However, in 1996, the fighting ended with a peace accord between the guerillas and the government. Since then, the country has witnessed economic growth, development and successful democratic elections.
TIKAL NATIONAL PARK
Tikal National Park in northern Guatemala is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of Mayan civilization, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Tikal was the capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya, and the site’s architecture dates as far back as the 4th century BCE.
Antigua is located close to Guatemala City and is much calmer and safer than the capital. It’s also possible to take buses from here to most parts of Guatemala. While you’re in Antigua, check out the ChocoMuseo, where you’ll learn how the ancient Mayas used cacao and even how to make your own chocolate.
Market days on Thursdays and Sundays at Chichicastenango are hugely popular with tourists. Here you will find vendors selling handicrafts, food, flowers, pottery, wooden boxes, condiments, medicinal plants, candles, grindstones, machetes and even animals. People flock to the market in hopes of finding something unique to this part of the world.
A World Heritage Site, Quirigua is a small but important Mayan city. Here, tourists can see ancient temples and rocks formed into giant mythological animals. This city is a must for anyone who is interested in ancient Mayan civilization.
Many tourists go to Fuentes Georginas in the western highlands of Guatemala because it is home to sulfurous hot springs. To reach the springs, you’ll need to hike through a tropical jungle—which makes this region a hugely popular trekking destination for outdoor lovers from all over the world.
The Mayans are possibly one of the most intriguing civilizations of the past (who didn’t follow the December 21st end-of-the-world hooplah?). Here are five sites you’ll want to explore to learn about their culture (and why the world didn’t end).
From volcanoes to jungles, ancient ruins to charming cities, here are the best things to see and experience in Guatemala.
The city of Quetzaltenango is tucked in the cloud forests of Guatemala’s Western Highlands, and is home to some of the country’s best hiking. Here are the top trails to trek.
In Canada and the US today, we’re scaring ourselves with Halloween tricks and costumes. But head south, and everyone is preparing for tomorrow’s Day of the Dead, to celebrate and communicate with the souls of the departed. In the highlands of Guatemala, Michele Peterson connects with the locals—both dead and living.
In the midst of Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations in Guatemala, Karen Catchpole and Eric Mohl help make an intricate traditional street carpet. Then watch it get trampled under hundreds of pious feet.
More insider tips on jungle trekking to northern Guatemala’s El Mirador, in one of the most spectacular—and most remote—Mayan archaeological sites in the Mundo Maya.
All the insider tips you need to do the jungle trek to El Mirador in northern Guatemala, one of the most spectacular—and most remote—Mayan archaeological sites in the Mundo Maya.