Guatemala Travel Guide

from Travel Insurance Direct
0800 652 9944
Travel Insurance Direct



Guatemala is located in the northern part of Central America bordering the N. Pacific Ocean between Mexico and El Salvador, and Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea ) between Honduras and Belize.


The majority of the country’s population lives in the highlands, and there are tropical areas on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, with the northern part being mainly tropical jungle. The terrain is mostly mountainous with coastal plains and limestone plateau. The highest elevation is the volcano, Volcan Tajumulco The country offers a fascinating mix of landscapes with tropical rainforest in the lowlands at the north of the country, where Tikal and many of the Mayan sites are located. The Highlands area has pine forests and is a place where the inhabitants still wear their traditional colourful outfits.


The population is mainly comprised of Mestizo (mix of Amerindian and Spanish), Amerindian (Mayan), Whites, and others. The main language spoken is Spanish, with approx. 23 other Amerindian languages spoken including Kekchi, Mam, Xinca, Garifuna, Cakchiquel and Quiché . Roman Catholic is the main religion with some Protestant and other indigenous Mayan beliefs. The system of government is a constitutional democratic republic. Guatemala was once a site of the ancient Mayan civilization. It was conquered by the Spanish in the 1500s and became a republic about ten years later.


The Mayans inhabited Guatemala , and also the neighbouring countries of Mexico , El Salvador , Honduras and Belize . The Mayan culture spans from 2000 BC to 1500 AD. Many sites contain hieroglyphics which have yet to be deciphered. The Mayans were instrumental in early development of astronomy and mathematics and other science disciplines.


Among the many fascinating places to visit in Guatemala is Tikal National Park . The park is situated in tropical jungle and is a World Heritage Monument . It is regarded as a very important cultural site with thousands of ancient buildings, including many temples and plazas. The Temple of the Great Jaguar was built in approx. 700 AD and is more than 160’ high. Many other temples in the area reach heights of over 200’. The Great Plaza in Tikal contains many altars and ceremonial buildings and the largest pyramid stands at about 100’ high.


Guatemala ’s capital, Guatemala City , is a cosmopolitan city situated in a valley overlooked by a volcano but there are not too many high rise buildings. There are lots of interesting locations to visit with Mayan ruins close by, and museums, a cathedral, and several markets. The area called Zone 10 has lots of good nightlife and restaurants for all tastes.


Close to the capital is La Antigua Guatemala, the former colonial capital, which is a popular spot for tourists with its interesting historical centre. There are many monuments and buildings such as remains of old churches and convents.

Guatemala ’s next largest city is Quetzaltenango. It is located approx. 130 miles NW of Guatemala City in a valley surrounded by volcanoes and mountains. It blends the Mayan traditional culture with modern ways of living.


Some other popular places to visit include: Chichicastenango, located approximately 88 miles from Guatemala City is a commercial center, which has an Indian market two days a week. The markets draw the Indian inhabitants from the area and provide a good opportunity for tourists to see the merchants trading produce, handicrafts, carvings, etc. Many towns near to this region are also good places to find souvenirs of pottery, Wooden toys, silver jewellery and textiles.

Guatemala is a fascinating destination for nature lovers with its mixed terrain and variety of ecosystems of jungles, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, caves, mountains, valleys and volcanoes holding many species of fauna and flora.


For beach lovers, the Pacific Coast of Guatemala has volcanic black sandy beaches. The Caribbean coastal area has sandy beaches and forests, and scenic fishing communities of mainly Afro-Caribbean ancestry. Sailing, scuba diving and other water sports are popular here, and trips to the Cays of Belize are also available.


Many of the rivers and lakes, such as Lakes Atitlan and Isabal are at the foot of the volcanic mountains and offer a variety of watersport activities such as boating, diving, fishing and water skiing.. For the adventurous and energetic, many of the volcanoes can be climbed for fantastic views and photo opportunities.


Weather / Climate:
Guatemala ’s climate is very good year-round. The wet season is considered to be May-Nov. The climate and therefore average temperatures does vary according to the altitude and area, but is generally very warm throughout the country. The north of the country has a tropical, hot climate with majority of rain between May-Sept. The coastal areas and NE areas tend to be dry and hot (Nov-Apr).




Disclaimer: While we have tried to ensure the information in this Travel Guide is correct we do not accept responsibility for any inaccuracy or the content of external links.

Inclusion in this Travel Guide does not guarantee travel insurance is available in any country at any given time. Travel Insurance is not available in countries where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued an advisory against travel.

We strongly advise a visit to the FCO website for updated travel information and general travel advice before you book and pay for any travel.