Articles about Guatemala
Small group escorted tours to Guatemala. Places of interest for like minded travellers who are curious.
The need to know
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, Environment, & Weather
Guatemala 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. The climate varies slightly: March and April are the warmest and driest months, May to October are the wettest and the coldest months are November to February.
World heritage sites
There are 3 sites in Guatemala listed on the World Heritage List. You can view the listed properties here: (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/gt). Guatemala’s listed properties include:
Antigua, the capital of the Captaincy-General of Guatemala, was founded in the early 16th century. Built 1,530.17 m above sea level.
Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua – 34 hectares of land dedicated exclusively to the conservation of the ancient architecture and the seventeen monuments that were carved between 426 AD and 810 AD and make up this great city.
Tikal National Park – Tikal National Park is one of the few World Heritage properties inscribed according to both natural and cultural criteria for its extraordinary biodiversity and archaeological importance. It comprises 57,600 hectares of wetlands, savannah, tropical broadleaf and palm forests with thousands of architectural and artistic remains of the Mayan civilization from the Preclassic Period (600 B.C.) to the decline and eventual collapse of the urban centre around 900 AD.
Festivals & Events
Guatemalans, with their faith and strong sense of traditions, both Maya and Catholic, are experts in celebrating national holidays and
Semana Santa (Holy Week) – The most famous celebration in Guatemala. The festivities in Antigua are arguably the most impressive in Latin America.
Brightly colored carpets of sawdust and flower petals—alfombras—pave the city streets and church floors.
Jueves de Ascencion (Ascension Day) – Each year on May 9th, the Ascension Day is celebrated at Lake Chicabal, a highland crater lake sacred to the Mam Maya. This Guatemalan celebration includes traditional music, flowers and prayers by the lakeshore.
Fiesta de Santiago (Antigua Fair) – Antigua holds its fair—the festival of Santiago (Saint James)—on July 25th. This Guatemalan festival is marked by processions, concerts, folkloric dancing, and carnival rides.
Mayan Folktales: Folklore from Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
by James D. Sexton
Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala (American Encounters/Global Interactions)
by Kirsten Weld
Eating & Drinking
Guatemalan food is filling with strong flavours. In popular toursit cities, including Antigue and Lago de Atitlán, you can feast on a wide selection of global dishes. In places orientated more to a Guatemalan clientele, you’re likely to be offered a lot of simply prepared grilled or fried meat dishes and have much less choice, mainly revolving around the “three-card trick” of eggs, beans and tortillas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Gallo, a medium-strength lager, is the most popular beer in Guatemala.
Rum (ron) and aguardiente, a clear and lethal sugarcane spirit, are very popular and cheap. Guatemalans drink coffee or tea in the morning. Atol, a warm, sweet drink made with either maize, rice (or even plantain) and sugar is also very popular, especially in the highlands.
Health & Safety
As of writing, smartraveller.gov.au advises travellers to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling through Guatemala. Crime is a significant problem in some of Guatemala’s major cities, so keep your valaubles close and pay attention to your personal security.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. The electricity supply in Guatemala runs at 110V and 60Hz. Guatemala uses the Type A and Type B electric plug types, so make sure you have the right travel adaptor with you.
The best of Guatemala
Tikal, ancient Mayan citadel, with iconic ruins of temples and palaces, in the rainforests of northern Guatemala. Possibly dating to the 1st century A.D.
Lake Atitlán, a lake in massive volcanic crater in Guatemala’s southwestern highlands, known for its Mayan villages and volcanoes with striking pointed cones.
Antigua, a small city surrounded by volcanoes in southern Guatemala, renowned for its Spanish colonial buildings civilization.
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What is the time zone?
Guatemala has a single time zone, Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5). Daylight savings are not observed in Guatemala.
Is tipping customary in Guatemala?
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services. Tipping is appreciated in Guatemala, with small tips for hotel staff, tour guides, and servers in upscale restaurants. In restaurants, a tip of around 10% is customary.
What is the internet access like in Guatemala?
Wifi should be freely accessible in most hotels, cafes and restaurants in urban areas, though connection speeds can vary, particularly in more isolated areas.
Can I use my mobile/cell phone while in Guatemala?
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Guatemala. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Guatemala
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although some locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of quetzal in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Before departing on your trip, contact your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.