At the most basic level, Guatemala is a country in Central America. It is surrounded by Mexico, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras as well as the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and is the most populous country in Central America with 15.8 million people. Guatemala is mostly mountainous with small patches of desert and the lowlands of Petén. Active volcanoes criss-cross the land, making for interesting landscapes.
Guatemala formed the backbone of the Mayan civilization thousands of years ago. During the 16th Century, the Spanish colonized most of the country which subsequently become part of New Spain. In 1821, the country gained independence but not stability. From the late 19th Century until 1944, the country was subsequently ruled by a series of dictators. A pro-democratic revolution raged from 1944 until 1954 when another dictator was installed, and from 1960 until 1996, Guatemala was the center of a bloody civil war. In the final year of that war, the UN backed a peace proposal that brought an end to violence and brought democracy to the country. However, crime, the drug trade, instability and poverty still plague Guatemala.
Today Guatemala is on the rise. The country is known as a biodiversity hotspot owing to its rich variety of environments. It is also home to a unique mix of Spanish and Mayan cultures. Guatemala’s main export is coffee followed by raw sugar, bananas, gold and precious metal ore. Interestingly, the country’s currency is called the Quetzal, which is also the name of the national bird.
The main attraction in Guatemala are the Mayan ruins, particularly El Mirador and Tikal. Climbing up one of the many active volcanoes also presents a thrill. Antigua offers access to many of them. Flores and Semuc Champey are home to wild jungles and exciting waterfalls, and hiking around the Rio Dulce area is sure to please nature lovers. Finally, if you are visiting Lake Atitlán, don’t miss the chance to enjoy some kayaking or boating in this tranquil setting.
Guatemala’s main airport is La Aurora International Airport (GUA) in Guatemala City, which welcomes flights from North America and Central America. It is also possible to fly into Flores, Petén or to drive from Mexico, Honduras or El Salvador. Buses operate from Honduras, Belize, Mexico and El Salvador to Guatemala. Furthermore, ferries leave from Belize to Guatemala’s Caribbean coast.
Once you are in the country, you can travel from point A to point B by bus, van, picop, rental car, plane, trolley or train.
Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.