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Guatemala is a small country (the size of Ohio) in the Central America region. It has borders to Mexico in the north/northwest, to Belize in the northeast, to Honduras in the southeast, to El Salvador in the south. It has a Pacific coastline to the southwest, and a tiny piece of Caribbean coastline to the east.
Guatemala has a rich and distinctive culture from the long mix of elements from Spain and the native Maya people. This diverse history and the natural beauty of the land have created a destination rich in interesting and scenic sites.
The climate in the Central and Western Highlands is generally mild. It can get cool at night even in the summers, especially at the higher altitudes.
El Petén and the Pacific Coast are tropically hot and steamy.
It is difficult to travel in the more remote areas during the rainy season between mid-May and mid-October (into mid-November in the north).
The months of March and April are very hot especially in the low lying areas such as the Pacific coastal plain.
around Guatemala City, stretching north to the border with Petén region.
Lake Atitlan and many modern Maya villages
hot and steamy, beaches, and boat access to and from Belize
hot, jungle region in the north with the most impressive ancient Maya ruins
steamy highlands going down to the Pacific beaches
Cities and towns
Guatemala City — Capital and largest city with many amenities
Antigua Guatemala — Colonial Spanish capital of Central America, a World Heritage site, and the most popular among tourists
Flores — Island capital of Petén, good starting point to access Mayan ruins of Tikal.
Melchor de Mencos — Border town which is the main crossing point to Belize
Panajachel — Gateway to Lake Atitlán, a beautiful and busy tourist area
Puerto Barrios — Caribbean seaport with speedboats to and from Belize
Puerto San José — Pacific seaport
Quetzaltenango — Second largest city, in the western highlands. Commonly called "Xela".
Sayaxché — River gateway in Petén
Coban — Town with a rich culture and a great launching point to travel to Semuc Champay
El Mirador — massive early Maya site, perhaps the cradle of Maya civilization. Still being uncovered and studied; less developed for visitors than the other largest Maya sites.
Tikal — long considered the largest of Maya ruins (although the ongoing investigations of El Mirador may challenge this claim), this huge and impressive ancient Maya site is probably worth the trip to Guatemala by itself. Stay in the park or in nearby Flores the night before in order to organise a early morning trip to Tikal, to see the sun rise over the ruins. Tours are easily organised from the surrounding areas.
Aguateca — some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins in Guatemala where you are more likely to encounter archaeologists at work than tourists with cameras
El Peru (Waká) — a three day trek/boat trip from Flores and identified as the source of many looted Maya artefacts
Iximché — ruins in the Central Highlands, an easy day trip from Guatemala City or Antigua.
Nakúm — an impressive Classic Maya site
Yaxhá — ruins with more than 500 structures, between Flores and Melchor de Mencos
Valid passports are required, except for citizens of Central American countries.
Guatemala's main airport, La Aurora International Airport (GUA), is in Guatemala City. International flights arrive mostly from other Central American countries and North America. The airport recently underwent modernizing reconstruction.
From Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador access is via the Pan-American Highway. Road access is also possible with more difficulty from Belize. If you've rented a car in Belize and wish to drive into Guatemala, the immigration officials will require a you to produce a letter of from the rental agencies authorizing you to take the car outside the country.
There are several ferries to and from Puerto Barrios and Livingston, and Punta Gorda, Belize.
Guatemala has several first-class (or Pullman) inter-city bus companies:Adrenalina Tours, Linea Dorada, ADN, Fuente del Norte, Galgos, and Alamo. In addition, the international companies Tica Bus and King Quality provide service in Guatemala.
Prepare to travel by van around central and north-western Guatemala, especially the Ixil Triangle region and the area surrounding Coban. The Ixil Triangle lacks any real infrastructure, and what is there is unkempt. As well, Central Guatemala's population does not warrant chicken bus existence.
The closest thing to having a trolley for regular public transportation are the green Transmetro buses in Guatemala City that run on dedicated lanes to bypass the parallel traffic and stopping at a limited number of stops along the road. There's also has a local trolley tour (actually a bus made to look like trolley) service aimed at tourists.
There is a rail network but, aside from the occasional steam charter aimed at tourist groups, no trains - neither freight nor passenger - have run since 2007.
Spanish is the official language of Guatemala, and the most commonly spoken. Over twenty indigenous languages are still spoken throughout, but many of the Maya people have at least a working knowledge of basic Spanish as well, except in the more remote areas. For the Garifuna people in Livingston, Garifuna and an archaic form of British English are the main languages.
What to see
Maya ruins are the key attractions in the country and the most notable are El Mirador, perhaps the cradle of Maya civilisation, and Tikal.
Guatemala has a lot of volcanoes, many of them over 3,000 metres high.
Volcán de Pacaya (2500m) - this is an active volcano about 30 minutes outside of Antigua. Some days it will not be accessible as the volcano may be too active to observe safely. Bring a jacket since it will be windy and cold at the top .
Guatemala is rich in natural beauty and travel opportunities, it's a country that offers so much to those willing to step off the beaten track for a little while.
Antigua Guatemala is often regarded as the travellers hub, a crumbling, picture-perfect central american town ringed by volcanoes. From here you can take a hike up Volcano Pacaya, take a bus to the bustling market of Chichicastenango, or simply sip some coffee in a street-side cafe and watch the world go by.
Lake Atitlan (or Lago de Atitlán) is another frequent stop on any visitors itinerary. A volcano-rimmed lake with plenty of backpacker hostels and Mayan villages that dot the shores.
Flores in Guatemala's wild north is a tourist friendly island in the middle of Lake Petén Itzá. From here you can take a bus ride to one of best preserved Mayan ruins in the world, Tikal. Howler monkeys and dense jungle make walking around the ruins an adventure in itself.
Semuc Champey, Lanquin, near Coban, Alta Verapaz. Semuc Champey is a cascade of turquoise limestone pools created by the river plunging below ground for a stretch before rushing back out through a spectacular waterfall. Definitely worth making the trip to Lanquin for as well as the beautiful lodges that have sprung up from the captivating hilly landscape.
In different parts of Guatemala can perform many adventure activities in island flores can make a 5-day hike to reach el mirador archeological site, or can rent kayaks on Lake Atitlan, climb the volcanoes that have Guatemala,cycling tours and others activities can be performed in any part of this country. in several cities tourists can contact community tourguide could ask for their services.