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Central America Holidays - Guatemala
Guatemala holidays
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visit Guatemala and see for yourself one of the Central American region’s most colourful & interesting countries. A land of volcanoes, beauty, rainforests and ancient Mayan sites. Golden white beaches to relax and tropical landscape to explore. View our top hotels in Guatemala.
Antigua Town Square
Antigua town
Views of mountain from Antigua
Residential Antigua
Town of Antigua
Typical Guatemala Street
Dickinson Bay
Dickinson Bay
White sands of Dickinson Bay
Livingston Beach
Livingston Beach
Local beach in Livingston
Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey water park
Naturally formed water park
Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park
Mayan ruins in Tikal National Park
Antigua Volcanos
Antigua Volcanos
Explore Volcanos in Guatemala

Come visit Guatemala and see for yourself one of the Central American region’s most colourful & interesting countries. Wander the bustling & vibrant local markets; explore Antigua, the former capital city and a Colonial beauty; visit a coffee or a macadamia plantation; climb a volcano and peer down into its depths; marvel at the variety of flora & fauna; visit one of local communities on the shores of Lake Atitlan; or clamber up one of the many pyramids at the ancient Maya’s most impressive of sites – Tikal.
Guatemala is the beating Mayan heart of Central America. A hop over the border, you’ll find charming colonial streets, jungles, ruins, culture, history and some mad volcanoes. When it comes to adventure, this country is bursting at its seams.
Enjoy traditional music, architecture and art with its ornate churches, convents, parks, plazas, cafes, restaurants, bars and colourful street markets and surrounded by awe-inspiring volcanoes.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the former capital city, atmospheric Antigua is the region’s ‘jewel in the colonial crown’, and noted for its elaborate religious celebrations during Holy Week. Visit the bustling local market, or a local coffee or macadamia plantation, or simply chill with a coffee on the main square, watching the world go by.

Tikal National Park:
Set in rainforest in the north of Guatemala, Tikal is one of the largest set of Maya ruins yet discovered. The city stretches over 575 square kilometres in total, with the centre of the city alone containing more than 3000 buildings and covering 16 sq km's. Though dating back to 400 BC, the city reached its height during the Classic Period, from 200 to 900 AD.

Chichicastenango Market:
One of Guatemala’s vibrant and colourful local markets, ‘Chichi’ as it’s known, serves the local community as well as visitors. Try some local food from one of the hot food stands, or try on a traditional ‘hupil’, typically woven on a backstrap loom. Next to the market is the 400-year old church of Santo Tomás.

Lake Atitlán:
Calm and serene and ringed by 3 volcanoes which create a dramatic back-drop to any boat ride across it, Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America. The culture of the local communities ranged along the shoreline are highly influenced by modern-day Maya.

Semuc Champey:
Semuc Champey consists of a natural limestone bridge under which the Cahabon River flows. A series of stepped turquoise-coloured pools and cascades offers a great place to cool off in the heat of the day. Climb the nearby Mirador for lovely views out over the pools below.

Situated at the mouth of the Rio Dulce, Livingston was once Guatemala’s main Caribbean port. These days its trade is eclipsed by nearby Puerto Barrios and it’s now better known for its mix of communities – Garifuna, Afro-Caribbean, Maya and Ladino. Away from the town there are a couple of nice beaches.

Known as ‘Xela’ by the locals, Quetzaltenango is Guatemala’s second-largest city located in the Highlands at an elevation of around 2,330m. The city has a lively music scene and is home to a number of jazz and blues bands. It also attracts a large number of foreign students to its Spanish schools.

Guatemala City:
Only made into Guatemala’s capital city in the mid 1770s, after a series of earthquakes destroyed the previous capital in Antigua, Guatemala City later hosted the declaration of independence of Central America from Spain and became the capital of the United Provinces of Central America. Known now mostly for its museums such as the Popul Vuh & the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología.

Play Indiana Jones amidst the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal, deep in the northern rainforests. Get in early, wander through it while it’s still empty and feel like you’re discovering it for the first time.
Chill on the ginormous Lake Atitlan, fringed by cute hippie villages, three volcanoes and the Sierra Madre mountains. This could just become your favourite backpacker spot in the Americas.
Sharpen your salsa moves and gorge on delicious street food in the lively markets of Chichicastenango.

Brief Facts.
The ancient Maya civilization of Guatemala reached its zenith between 250 and 800 AD. The civilisation was still in existence, but was weakened and war-torn when the Spaniards conquered and took control of what is now called Guatemala in 1524. During the colonial period, Spanish-born colonists held the reins of power, but large groups of Creoles (Spaniards born in the New World) and mestizos (those of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage) also developed. Guatemala gained independence from Spain in the early 1820s and became a republic in 1847.
In late 1996, Guatemala’s civil war ended when a series of agreements were signed between the Guatemalan government and guerrilla insurgents. Over its 36-year history, the war claimed the lives of an estimated 200,000 people. Since the 1996 peace treaty, relations are better between the Maya and the Ladinos (as those of mixed Spanish and Amerindian descent are known).

Geography and weather.
There is a rainy season throughout Central America which starts around May/June and gradually works its way through until September and even sometimes October. Don't be put off by the term rainy season, as this generally only means sporadic downpours a couple of times a day. Of course there are times when this is not the case but it is fairly rare for continual rain to persist. The only place where rain is almost guaranteed is Rio Dulce, located in the middle of the rainforest. Here the rainy season sometimes continues till Feb! The temperatures in Guatemala are similar to other northern hemisphere countries, where it's warmer in summer (July/August) and cooler in winter (December/January). In the Guatemalan Highlands temperatures at night time are quite cool (Antigua, Lake Atitlan and especially Quetzaltenango). For example December/January nights in the highlands can drop to zero centigrade. Generally, the hottest time in Guatemala will be the months of April to May (before the rain comes!).

Local food and drink.
People are often surprised by the quality and variety on offer in Guatemala This is partly due to the number of ex-pats who have opened up a range of different international restaurants. There is also local cuisine to suit every budget. Chicken, pork and beef are available throughout. Most meals come with corn tortillas and sometimes salad, but often lack hot vegetables. Although you might expect the food to be spicy in this region (‘picante’ in Spanish), this is not usually the case.

Corn (maize), is the staple diet of Guatemala’s indigenous people and you will certainly get a lot of it. Mostly in the form of tortillas which are flat pancake-like things made of corn dough and grilled. The following are a few Guatemalan specialties:

Guatemalan Enchiladas - Different to the Mexican enchiladas, these ones are more like western taco shells topped with chichen/pork, salad and cream. Very tasty. You can buy three for about US$2

Bistec or Pollo Asado - Beef steak or grilled chicken. These are common meals, usually served with tortillas, rice, spring onion, white cheese, and salad. Prices average from US$3-$5. Note that steak in Guatemala tastes good, but can be very tough.

Platanos Asados - (roasted bananas) These are topped either with sugar or cream (or both) for less than US$1 a serving. Keep in mind that the bananas aren't bananas proper...they are a type of plantain, very sweet tasting and are also often served with savoury meals.

If you have any allergies to foods, please come prepared with a list to give to your tour leader who can then translate it into Spanish for you to show every waiter who takes your order. If you are vegetarian you must always specify ‘no carne, puerco, pollo, pescado’ etc etc.In general we do not recommend you buy food off the street, however your tour leader will give advice, e.g. certain streets in Antigua where the local ladies prepare everything well. If you are unsure just try to use common sense and avoid any food that has been sitting around for a long time (and a word of advice – avoid the bright yellow hot chips sold on every road-side).If you are a strict vegetarian you may experience a distinct lack of variety in the food available, especially in small towns. You might find that you are eating a lot of omelets and other egg dishes. Our tour leaders will do their best to provide interesting vegetarian alternatives when arranging group meals in the campsite, but your patience and understanding is requested.

Guatemalan fruit is fresh and cheap. Go to one of the many juice stands and ask for a “liquado de fruta” (fruit smoothie) or “jugo de naranja y zanahoria” (orange & carrot). Papaya, melon, watermelon, mango, and pineapple are very popular, but you can also get fun things like celery, beetroot, & chaya (a spinach-like leaf). Liquados can be made with either water or milk. Always specify if you don’t want sugar (“sin azucar”). Latin Americans have a very sweet tooth and will usually automatically add the sugar!Coke and Pepsi are everywhere. You will also find all sorts of orange, grape, lemon, and lime soft drinks (“Gaseosas”). “Agua Mineral” is sparkling water. Generally speaking it’s best not to expect good coffee/tea in this part of the world. Be warned that Americano (weak black coffee) is the most common, followed by “café con leche” (more like milk with a bit of coffee), and cappuccino (sometimes good). If you ask for tea (“té negro”) you will get teabags. Always ask for “leche fria a parte” (cold milk on the side) as the alternative is likely to be a hot cup of milk with a tea bag inside.

If you only learn one word in Spanish it’s bound to be “Cerveza”. There are countless lagers, and a few dark beers. A beer will cost you anywhere between US$1.50 and $3. The most common are ‘Gallo’ and ‘Tona’, with the more premium ones being ‘Modelo’ and ‘Dorada’.
White rum (ron) are definitely the most commonly drunk spirit in Guatemala. Guatemala is not known for its wine and it is best to order Chilean wine.

Time Difference.
The time difference in Guatemala is GMT/UTC - 6. For other time differences please visit www.timeanddate.com

110 volts, US-style two pronged plugs

Economy of Guatemala:

The economy of Guatemala is a developing economy characterized by a low-income economy with extreme disparities between the wealthy and the poor. Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America with a population of over 17 million people. The GDP of Guatemala was estimated to be $103.6 billion in 2020 and the GDP per capita was estimated to be $5,737 in 2020.

The main drivers of the Guatemalan economy are agriculture, retail and services, manufacturing, and tourism. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy and accounts for nearly one-fourth of the GDP and employs over one-third of the labor force. Major agricultural products include coffee, bananas, sugar cane, and vegetables. Retail and services account for over one-third of the total GDP, while manufacturing accounts for around one-fifth of the GDP. Major manufacturing products include textiles, chemicals, processed food, and beverages.

Tourism is an important sector for the economy, accounting for 4.5% of the total GDP and providing employment opportunities for over half a million people. Guatemala is known for its rich cultural heritage, ancient Mayan ruins, and beautiful natural scenery.

The government of Guatemala has implemented several measures to improve the economy and reduce poverty levels. These include investments in infrastructure, education, and healthcare. There has also been a focus on improving the business environment by providing incentives for foreign investment, promoting trade, and encouraging entrepreneurship.

Despite these efforts, there are still many challenges facing the economy of Guatemala. These include high levels of inequality, a lack of access to finance, and weak government institutions. Poverty levels remain high, with almost two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line. Corruption is also a major problem in Guatemala, with high levels of impunity for those involved in criminal activities.

Overall, the economy of Guatemala is slowly improving and there are signs of progress. The government is investing in infrastructure and education, and there is an increasing focus on improving the business environment. However, more needs to be done to reduce poverty levels and strengthen government institutions in order to ensure that the economy continues to grow.

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