Guatemala is a country of great natural landscapes, strong religious practices, preserved Indigenous traditions, and the best watermelon in the world! This Central American country is snuggled between the Caribbean Sea, Pacific Ocean, southern tip of Mexico, and surrounding countries of Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. Guatemala holds about 67,592 square kilometers of land, which is slightly smaller than the US state of Tennessee. This country is home to upwards of 12 million people, with 2 million inhabitants in the capital of Guatemala City.
The country has 14 eco-regions ranging from mangrove forests to ocean bodies, and has five different ecosystems. An outstanding 252 wetlands reside in Guatemala, including five lakes, 61 lagoons, 100 rivers and 3 swamps. These natural oases are home to around 1,246 known species with only 6.7% thriving and 8.1% in threatened states. Similarly, the Guatemalan fauna, of around 8,681 species, record that only 13.5% are abundant and growing well.
Over 6 million people, half of the population of Guatemala, claim Indigenous ancestry. The natives of today are descendants of the Mayan culture that thrived in this region prior to 1000 B.C. The first evidence of human settlers in Guatemala goes back to at least 12,000 B.C., though certain evidence suggests this date may be as early as 18,000 B.C.
The modern-day Indigenous are proud and hardworking people, who have retained many of their traditions. In some parts of the country, many still dress in the colorful way of their ancestors and speak only their native language. The majority of the population of Guatemala is Ladinos, a mix between Indigenous and Spanish cultures. However, the term can also refer to Indigenous people that have left their ancestral ways and adopted a more modern culture.
Both ladinos and indigenous alike live modestly, and at times in very basic conditions, for example, using palm fronds to create a thatched roof. Nonetheless, they are very proud people who tend to work long hard hours, seven days a week, commonly making their living off the forest or through tourism. The primary forest products include chicle, a sap from a tree used to make chewing gum, xate, a leafy palm used in floral arrangements, allspice, and timber, which, unfortunately, is rapidly disappearing. Thankfully, the region of Peten and the UN-declared Mayan Biosphere Reserve are areas of intense international attention to protect the unique cultural and natural resources remaining in the second largest forested area in the Americas, after the Amazon basin.
The best time to travel to Guatemala depends on what cultural and sightseeing aspects attract you most. In regards to weather, December to February hold cold mornings and nights, March and April are the warmest and driest months, while May and June bring buzzing mosquitoes. October and November ends the rainy, muggy season and bring colder temperatures back to Guatemala.
The best time to travel in regards to cultural activities lie between the two main Christian holidays in December and April. During the Christian pass-over month of April, Guatemala is alive with religious ceremonies and traditions. A second high season, typically for North Americans visitors, is between June and August. If you are planning to travel during these months, advanced reservations and booking are advised.
Walking around the busy streets of Guatemala City or exploring the enormous temples of the ancient Mayans, this country holds many hidden jewels. Guatemala has something for everyone, from eating watermelon and mangos galore, swimming in the warm ocean waters, or discovering a new way of life! The people of “Guate” are warm and generous, and await your visit!