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Our destination guides, recipes and travel tips will help you plan the best trip to Guatemala. We’ve been living in and exploring Guatemala for more than 30 years! Use our insider tips and resources to discover the best traditional Guatemalan food, the most memorable hotels and top places to go including Antigua, Tikal and Lake Atitlan.
Important Information About Guatemala
If you love culture, cuisine, and outdoor adventure, Guatemala is one of the world’s most fascinating and memorable countries to visit.
From exploring the archeological site of Tikal to climbing steaming volcanoes, there are so many things to do in Guatemala you’d need a lifetime to experience it all.
Although many tourists often skip the country’s capital city, they shouldn’t! Guatemala City is home to world-class museums, markets and cathedrals. So it’s worth spending a few days in the capital.
Antigua is less than 45 minutes away from the capital city. This UNESCO Heritage Site is filled with open-air markets bursting with tropical produce, well-preserved colonial churches, Spanish-language schools, Spanish-Baroque architecture, and a wide range of restaurants serving traditional and contemporary Guatemalan cuisine.
If hiking is more your thing, climbing the Pacaya volcano is a memorable excursion, especially if done in the afternoon when it’s possible to witness the sunset.
Then there are the Mayan ruins, more than 1,500 to be exact, including Tikal, one of the top wonders of the Mayan empire.
Finally, suppose you are looking to relax on a beach. In that case, Guatemala not only has Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, but it’s also home to Lake Atitlan the beautiful crater lake which is near the Mayan towns of Panajachel, Solola, Chichicastenango and San Pedro La Laguna.
All in all, Guatemala’s fascinating mix of pre-Hispanic, Mayan, Afro-Caribbean, and Catholic roots make it truly a unique destination to visit.
Best Time To Visit
Guatemala has a tropical climate, making it an ideal destination for year-round trips. The perfect time to visit Guatemala is during the dry season, which runs from November to April.
The busiest times for tourism are between December to March and July to August. March and April are the hottest months. The rainy season starts in May and ends in October, with the wettest months being September and October.
Although the rainy season may be off-putting for some travelers, storms and rainfall often are limited to late afternoon and usually clear up within a couple of hours.
Guatemala’s climate also depends on what areas you are visiting as the tropical rainforests and coastlines can be hot and humid. However, the temperate highlands are refreshingly springlike – giving rise to Guatemala being known as the “Land of Eternal Spring.”
Try to time your visit for one of Guatemala’s incredible festivals and celebrations. From the processions of Semana Santa at Easter in Antigua to the kite-flying spectacles around Day of the Dead, there’s a wide range of unique and spectacular cultural events.
Guatemala can be an affordable country to visit. It’s slightly more expensive than Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador but cheaper than Costa Rica or Panama.
In cities and towns like Antigua or Guatemala City, the cost per night for a hotel is around $50-80 per night for double occupancy in a 3-star hotel.
For meals, a simple dinner at a restaurant can cost less than $10. Guatemala doesn’t produce wine, so it imports it. A good glass of wine can be expensive; instead, opt for a local Gallo beer or one of the fresh fruit drinks.
Buses between major cities are also pretty affordable. However, the price depends on whether you take a shuttle van or a “chicken bus.” A ride from Guatemala City to Antigua can cost $40 on a shuttle bus and just $2 on a chicken bus.
Lastly, the most expensive part of Guatemala is the activities. If you plan on visiting remote locations such as Semuc Champey for example, transportation costs can add up.
Some quick travel tips for your time in Guatemala:
- Avoid drinking tap water and only drink purified or bottled water when traveling in Guatemala.
- Outside of Antigua and Panajachel, many people speak only Spanish or one of the Mayan languages. So bring a dictionary, hire a guide or use a translation app.
- Be sure to try traditional Guatemalan food. The national dish is pepian, a chicken stew in a sauce of ground pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and local spices often served with rice. Other famous Guatemalan dishes include jocon, kak-ik, pulique and suban-ik. Don’t miss trying tamales, and chiles rellenos.
- Follow our safety tips for travel in Guatemala.
- Make sure to make time to go shopping for local crafts, weavings and souvenirs. Visit the mercado central in Guatemala City, the shops and cooperatives in Antigua or Chichicastenango, the largest market in the country and one of the largest in Latin America.
What To Pack
When traveling to Guatemala, you should pack a couple of key things, which include:
- Sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen. During the summer months, the sun is intense so you’ll need sun protection.
- WiFi can be poor or non-existent outside of the major tourist centres. If you need to stay connected, consider a portable WiFi service such as Solis, which delivers mobile data on demand, a day-pass or subscription basis.
- Beachwear, including a swimsuit.
- Comfortable walking shoes, especially if you plan on going hiking.
- Light-weight pants, sweaters, and long-sleeve shirts for protection from mosquitos. Antigua and the indigenous villages around Lake Atitlan have spring-like temperatures throughout the year, so it’s best to bring a couple of warmer items.
- Multiple credit cards and cash. Some locations, restaurants, or stores will not accept some international cards or won’t accept credit cards at all. Bring a couple of backup options.
- Capital City: Guatemala City
- Currency: Guatemalan quetzal
- Official Language(s): Spanish
- Plugs & Electrical Information: Types A and B and operate on a 120V supply voltage and 60Hz
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