Guatemala Overview

Guatemala has more people than any other Central American country. Most of Guatemala’s people live in the rugged mountains in the central part of the country. There, on a high plateau, lies Guatemala City, the capital and industrial centre of Guatemala, and the largest city in Central America.

Almost half the people are Indians whose way of life differs greatly from that of other Guatemalans. Their ancestors, the Maya Indians, built a highly developed civilization hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus landed in America.

Rich culture lives on in the market towns of the highlands. Shopping for medicinal roots, and embroidered waistcoats at Chichicastenango is well worth the vertiginous bus ride.


Guatemala has a tropical climate. Temperatures vary greatly from area to area because of differences in altitude. The plains and lowlands have an average yearly temperature of about 80 °F (27 °C), with little seasonal change. Mountain valleys are usually comfortably mild. They have a yearly average temperature of 60 °F to 70 °F (16 °C to 21 °C). The higher valleys sometimes have frost, and average 40 °F (4 °C).

The rainy season in Guatemala generally lasts from May to November, and daily showers fall during most of this period.


CAPITAL: Guatemala
POPULATION: 13 million
ELECTRIC CURRENT: 115/125V, 60Hz. To power any electrical item an international adapter or two pin plug is required.


There have been several armed attacks in 2008 on tourists travelling to/from and around major tourist sites such as Antigua, Tikal, Peten and Lake Atitlan. You are advised to avoid the Godinez by-pass via Patzun between Guatemala City and Panajachel. You should use the Pan American Highway to Solola instead. The road between Cocales (Suchitepequez) and San Lucas Toliman (Atitlan) should also be avoided where possible. Care should also be taken on the road between Santiago and San Pedro on the shores of lake Atitlan as there have been armed attacks on this route. In addition, other minor roads around Lake Atitlan, have also seen instances of armed attack against tourists. There are adequate boat services between the towns and the lakeshore, which may be a safer alternative.

There has been an increase in the last three months of “express kidnappings” at ATM machines, petrol station forecourts, and shopping centres and of robberies that occur in and around the area of the airport, zone 10 and Los Proceres Boulevard. We advise caution in circulating in these areas and not to display wealth or valuable items.

Information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK