Guatemala Destinations Travel Guide

Flag of Guatemala

Language: Spanish

Currency: Quetzal (GTQ)

Calling Code: 502


Description of Guatemala

Guatemala- is a sovereign state located in Central America, at its northwestern tip, with a wide native culture, product of the Mayan heritage and Castilian influence during the colonial era. In spite of its relatively small territorial extension, Guatemala has a great climatic variety, product of its mountainous relief that goes from the level of the sea to the 4220 meters on that level, this propitiates that in the country exist ecosystems so varied that they go from the mangroves of the Pacific wetlands to the high mountain cloud forests. It borders to the west and north with Mexico, to the east with Belize, the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) and the Republic of Honduras, to the southeast with El Salvador, and to the south with the Pacific Ocean. The country has an area of ​​108,889 km², its capital is Guatemala City, officially called "Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción". The official language is Spanish, although there are twenty-three Mayan languages, the Xinca and Garífuna languages, the latter spoken by the African descendants population in the Caribbean department of Izabal.

The territory where Guatemala is currently located is part of Mesoamerica and the Mayan and Olmec cultures were developed along with the neighboring countries. After the conquest of America, Guatemala became part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain as a General Captaincy. After its independence from Spain in 1821 that same year was formed in the Kingdom of Guatemala, what is now Guatemala became part of the First Mexican Empire as well as the Federal Republic of Central America; not until 1847 when the current republic was established and when the country began to open up with neighboring countries and establishing diplomatic relations with some world powers. After the triumph of a liberal reform in 1871 a series of dictatorial regimes and few democratic ones were established until 1944, the year in which the Guatemalan Revolution of 1944 took place. This revolution lasted until 1954, the year in which a liberation movement The national government resumed the country's power and precipitated the country into a civil war that began in 1960 and ended in 1996.

Already in the 21st century, Guatemala had a relatively stable economic policy that currently positions it as the ninth largest economy in Latin America, however, the levels of poverty and income inequality remain high, even more than when the agreements were signed. of peace in 1996.


Travel Destinations in Guatemala

Antigua is a pleasant town famous for its beautiful parks and magnificent Spanish architecture.

Bocas del Polochic is an extensive nature preserve of diverse ecosystem in Guatemala.

El Mirador Archeological Site is one of the largest, one of the oldest and least uncovered Mayan city state.

El Remate is famous for small eco- friendly hotels designated for tourists who like seclusion and pristine untouched nature.

Grutas de Lanquín is underground cave system with beautiful geological formations situated in Guatemala.

Lake Atitlán is situated 16 km (10 mi) South- East of Antigua in Guatemala. It covers a surface area of 130.1 sq km (50.2 sq mi).

Semuc Champey Natural monument famous for its colorful waters is situated in Alta Verapaz Department.

Tikal is an ancient Mayan site located in El Petén Department of Guatemala was first settled in the 4th century BC.



The name "Guatemala" comes from the Aztec word Cuauhtēmallān, meaning "place of many trees", derived from the Quiche word for "many trees", or possibly trees of the genus Eysenhardtia. This name was given to the territory by the Tlaxcala soldiers who accompanied Pedro de Alvarado during the Spanish conquest.



Borders: Guatemala borders Belize, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico.

Coast: It is washed by two oceans: the Pacific (the ports of Quetzal and San José) and the Atlantic (the Caribbean Sea, the ports of Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomas de Castilla). The most popular beaches and resort areas of the country (Monterrico, San Jose, Retaluleu) are located on the Pacific coast, where windsurfing is most popular among tourists due to high waves. On the Caribbean coast, the beaches of Punta de Palma and Livingston are popular, especially for families with children, due to the lack of waves and the shallow depth of the sea near the coast.

Territory: More than half of the territory of Guatemala belongs to the Cordillera mountain belt, represented by the Sierra Madre volcanic highlands with the highest peak in Central America - the Tajumulco volcano (4220 m) and the fold-block highlands with the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes and Sierra de las Minas, passing to the north into the karst lowlands of Alta Verapaz, descending to the low, slightly hilly Peten plateau. From the side of Belize, the low Mayan mountains enter Guatemala. The Pacific coast is occupied by a low alluvial plain.

Forest covers about 83% of the country's territory according to 2006 data, while deforestation rates are high (1.7% per year).

Volcanoes: There are 33 volcanoes in the country, of which 3 still pose a threat. The most famous Agua volcano in 1541, spewing out streams of boiling water and mud, destroyed the first capital of Guatemala, as well as the Pacaya volcano (the last powerful eruption in 1965).

Climate: tropical, average annual temperature on the coast and on the plain is 23-27°, on the plateau 15-20°; summer or dry season (November-April) and winter or rainy season (May to October) differ only in the amount of precipitation and night temperatures, which in December-January in the mountains drop to -10 ° and on the plateau to 0 °. The concepts of "summer" and "winter" in this case are arbitrary and denote the dry season and the rainy season, respectively. The hottest months are February-May. In winter (from May to October), heavy rainfall causes hurricanes and floods. The most significant occurred in 1998 (Hurricane Mitch) and 2005 (Stan), in which much of the country was affected by floods and winds. On average, 1300 mm of precipitation falls.

Earthquakes: Very common in the country due to volcanoes and the structure of the Pacific floor. The most powerful recent earthquake occurred on February 4, 1976, which destroyed 90% of the capital and other large cities (then more than 20 thousand people died and more than a million were left homeless).

Vegetation: in the forests of Guatemala there are many valuable species of wood - rosewood, cypress, pine species, Guatemalan fir (less often, and only in the western part of the country - sacred fir (Abies religiosa)), mahogany, balsa, guaiac tree, sapodilla, etc.

Animal world: very diverse. Predators are cougars and jaguars. There are anteaters, porcupines, sloths, armadillos. There are no large herbivores, with the exception of tapirs. In the forests of the Pacific coast, iguanas are found - huge lizards up to 2 m long (they are used for meat, iguana eggs are also mined). About 2 thousand species of birds. In the rivers of Guatemala, there are caiman crocodiles, the meat of which is eaten by local residents. The seas washing Guatemala are rich in fish and shrimp.

Lakes: the largest lakes are Izabal, Atitlan, Peten Itza, Amatitlan.



Ancient times
The first settlements on the territory of modern Guatemala arose in the 1st millennium BC. They were inhabited by the Maya Indians, who did not have a single state.

Middle Ages
In II-IX centuries. n. e. - the heyday of the Mayan culture, then a period of decline began. In the X-XI centuries. Toltecs came to Guatemala from Tabasco, which included the Quiche tribes, and conquered the central highlands with the capital Kumarkah (Utatlan). By the end of the XIV century. many peoples of Guatemala were subordinate to the Quiche. In the XV century. the Kaqchikeli people separated from the Kiche, forming their own state.

At the beginning of the XV century. n. e. there were constant wars between small states.

colonial period
In 1523, the colonization of the country by the Spaniards began under the leadership of Pedro de Alvarado. The greatest resistance to the Spaniards was provided by the Quiche tribe, which still remains the largest Indian tribe in Guatemala. Nevertheless, the conquistadors in 1524 captured the main city of the Quiche Gumarkah tribe. By order of Pedro de Alvarado, the city was burned along with his nobility. By that time, Alvarado, along with his allies from the local peoples, had already defeated the main army of the Quiche, which was led by Tekun Uman, a native of the Quiche royal family, who bore the title of "great leader of the warriors", in a battle on the outskirts of the city of Quetzaltenango. According to the chronicles, Alvarado allegedly personally killed Tecum Uman. By 1525 the Indians were mostly subdued. But their last independent state formation on the territory of modern Guatemala, with the capital Tah Itza (Noh Peten), known to the Spaniards as Tayasal, was conquered only in 1697.

From the 16th century, the Spaniards began to create plantations in Guatemala and mine gold and silver. However, the economic development of the country was very weak. Almost only dyes were exported - from indigo and from insects (cochineal). In 1564, the Captaincy General of Guatemala was created.

The importation of Negro slaves into Guatemala was negligible. Almost all blacks disappeared among the local population.

Until 1773, the city of Antigua Guatemala was considered the capital, until it was destroyed by an earthquake. The capital was moved to the current city of Guatemala.

period of independence
19th century
At the beginning of the 19th century, wars of independence began in the Spanish colonies of America. On September 15, 1821, the independence of the Mexican Empire was proclaimed, which included Guatemala. Soon, in 1823, the Central American provinces broke away from Mexico: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, which proclaimed their own, independent state - the United Provinces of Central America. The first President of the Federation was Manuel José Arce. His inconsistency as president, as well as divisions among conservatives and liberals, led the country into civil war (1826-1829). The liberal who replaced him, Francisco Morazán, was unable to cope with the conservatives and suppress separatism in the regions, which led to the collapse of the United Provinces in 1840.

From 1840, the country was ruled by the conservative-backed Rafael Carrera, President of Guatemala from 1844 until his death in 1865.

Beginning in the early 1860s, settlers from Germany began to cultivate coffee plantations in Guatemala, and as a result, coffee became Guatemala's most important export commodity.

In 1871, the liberals staged a coup d'état in Guatemala, and General Rufino Barrillos became president. He expelled monastic orders from Guatemala, confiscated their property, as well as the property of the largest conservatives. Under him, the construction of railways began and a number of measures were taken to develop agriculture and spread the literacy of the population. At the same time, Barrillos passionately desired to re-create a unified state of Central America. After the failure of peace negotiations with neighboring countries, Barrillos decided to organize a federation by force, but was killed in a battle against the army of El Salvador in 1885.

In 1898, the liberal Manuel Cabrera became president, providing the Americans, in particular, the United Fruit Company, with a number of fertile lands on which the company created large plantations of bananas, which became Guatemala's second export product after coffee.

20th century
The United Fruit company at the beginning of the 20th century significantly expanded the Guatemalan port of Puerto Barrios on the Atlantic coast of the country. Then she began to expand the ports of Guatemala on the Pacific coast.

Guatemala took a limited part in the First World War on the side of the Entente.

After the overthrow of Cabrera by the liberals (in 1920), there was a power struggle, in which General Jorge Ubico won in 1931. He provided the United Fruit company with new lands, and for free, and therefore enjoyed the support of the United States. In a short time he became a dictator.


In the 1930s, Germany became Guatemala's largest foreign trade partner after the United States - a third of Guatemala's exports and imports. However, in December 1941, Guatemala was forced, following the United States, to declare war on the Axis countries - Germany, Italy and Japan. Guatemala did not participate in hostilities, it only stopped trade with these countries.

In July 1944, there was a speech by junior army officers, students and teachers against the Ubico dictatorship. In an effort to retain the levers of power, he handed over the presidency to General Ponce. However, in October 1944, he was overthrown in a coup d'état led by Major Arana and Captain Árbenz. About a hundred people were killed during the coup. The country was ruled by a military junta. Then elections were held, and the writer Jose Arevalo became the president of Guatemala, who led a more independent policy from the United States, in particular, established diplomatic relations with the USSR. Arévalo himself called himself a "Christian socialist".

In 1951, Jacobo Arbenz, who had already become a colonel, won the elections, defeating the pro-American politician Miguel Idigoras. Arbenz behaved even more radically - he refused to send a contingent to Korea and nationalized the lands of the United Fruit company, paying her a compensation of one million dollars, although Ubiko gave these lands completely free of charge, and the company demanded 16 million. Economic pressure on Arbenz did not help, and United Fruit began to seek support in the highest echelons of US power. And I found it - with the Dulles brothers, one of whom - Allen - worked as the director of the CIA, and the other - John Foster - was the secretary of state. President Eisenhower also supported them - he believed that Arbens was pro-Soviet and was moving towards communism. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, the influence of workers' and socialist movements and parties had indeed increased. In 1954, the founding congress of the Guatemalan Labor Party was held, with Bernardo Alvarado Monzon as General Secretary.

In June 1954 Árbenz was overthrown as a result of Operation PBSUCCESS. Colonel Castillo Armas became president, who returned the United Fruit lands and refocused on the United States. In 1957 he was killed. Soon, General Idigoras Fuentes became president, under whom a civil war broke out in the country.

It began after an armed uprising of a group of junior army officers was suppressed on November 13, 1960, some of which, after the defeat, left to partisan. In 1962 they were joined by the communist Rebel Armed Forces. In 1963, Idigoras was overthrown by Colonel Peralta Asurdia, who ruled the country until 1966. After that, Mendez Montenegro became president, who started a real army war against the partisans, while entire villages that supported or simply sympathized with the partisans were destroyed. Most parties and movements were outlawed. Their activists were either killed or forced to go underground.

In 1970, Arana Osorio was elected president. Under him, a tough anti-communist policy was also pursued. For example, on September 26, 1972, the leader of the Guatemalan communists, Bernardo Alvarado Monzon, was executed.

In 1974, Lauherud Garcia was elected president.

In 1976, the capital was destroyed by a powerful earthquake. The partisan movement carried out several large-scale military operations. The army responded with massive reprisals.

Subsequent presidents, Lucas Garcia and Rios Montt, further tightened the repression. Montt came to power in 1982. During the reign of Montt (1982-1983), one third of the known murders during the civil war (in which a large share of the blame is also on the conscience of left-wing guerrillas) and numerous punitive actions and repressions against the indigenous Indian population accounted for. At the same time, Rios Montt pursued an active social policy, expanding the base of support for his regime through the movement of patroleros. In 1983, Ríos Montt was overthrown and Oscar Mejia Victores came to power. Under him, a large number of Guatemalans fled to neighboring countries. In May 2013, Rias Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for his involvement in the murder of 1,700 Indians in the northern department of Quiche. This crime dates back to 1982-1983.

President Cerezo Arevalo began to ease the crackdown. In 1991, Josk Antonio Serrano came to power, under which repression resumed.

In 1992, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Indian activist Rigoberta Mencha, who openly condemned the Guatemalan dictatorship. In the same year, negotiations began with partisan groups, on December 29, 1996, the government of Alvaro Arsu signed a peace agreement with the partisans, but neither the former military rulers nor the partisans have been held accountable so far.


XXI Century
Since 2004, the country's president has been Oscar Berger of the Grand National Alliance.

On September 9, 2007, the first round of regular presidential elections was held, in which businessman Alvaro Colom of the center-left National Union of Hope party and former Guatemalan army general Otto Pérez Molina of the center-right Patriot Party won. The second round of elections took place on November 4, 2007. Alvaro Colom won. On January 14, 2008, Alvaro Colom officially took office as President of Guatemala.

The 2011 presidential election was won by Patriot Party candidate Otto Pérez Molina, who defeated Manuel Baldison, the centrist Renewed Democratic Freedom candidate, in the second round. However, in 2015, Molina was forced to resign due to a corruption scandal. Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre assumed the presidency for several months until the newly elected president, former comedian Jimmy Morales, took office in January 2016.

Guatemala has diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation (established with the USSR on February 19, 1945, normalized on January 4, 1991). On January 8, 1992, the Guatemalan government recognized the Russian Federation as the successor state of the USSR.

On November 7, 2012, a magnitude 7.4 earthquake hit Guatemala.


Political structure

Guatemala is a presidential republic. According to the Constitution of Guatemala (Spanish)rus. Since 1985, the president has been the head of state and government.

The highest legislative body is the unicameral Congress of the Republic (158 deputies), elected, like the president, for 4 years.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the country in 2018 was classified on the Democracy Index as a hybrid regime.

Political parties
Main political parties (based on the results of the September 2015 elections):
Renewed Democratic Freedom - Centre-Right, 46 seats;
National Union of Hope - centre-left, 33 seats;
Patriotic Party - right, 18 seats;
Todos - social-liberal, 16 seats;
Front of National Convergence - right-wing nationalist, 11 seats;
Together for Guatemala - centre-left, 7 seats;
Union for Nationalist Change - National Liberal, 6 seats;
Loyalty, Renewal & Order/Unionist Party - Centre-Right, 5 seats;
Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity / Huinac - Left Socialist, 3 seats;
VIVA - conservative-centrist, 3 seats.
Three more small parties are also presented.



Agriculture employs 50% of workers (14% of GDP), 15% in industry (25% of GDP), 35% in the service sector (61% of GDP).

GDP (2017): 68.2 billion dollars (per capita in purchasing power parity - 4.47 thousand dollars, 102nd in the world). Below the poverty level - 56% of the population (in 2004).

The basis of the economy: agriculture. Large landownership predominates: the share of landlords-latifundists and foreign companies (0.2% of all farms) accounts for 3/4 of all cultivated land, the owners of small plots (about 9/10 farms) own only 15% of the land.

The main commercial crops are sugar cane (3.05 million tons in 2016-2017), corn, bananas, coffee (there are more than 125 thousand producers of this plant in the country, Guatemala is one of the ten largest coffee producers, almost half of the crop goes to export to the USA), cardamom (is the largest production in the world, about 300 thousand people from the Guatemalan province of Caban are employed in the cultivation of spices). Consumer crops: corn, beans, vegetables, wheat, potatoes, rice; cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens.

Shrimps are fished and shrimp are processed, including imported ones for subsequent resale. In 2015, Guatemala produced just 122,000 pounds of unpeeled headless shrimp, with 2.488 million pounds of peeled shrimp produced not from domestic farming, but from importing raw shrimp from overseas for processing.

Industry - production of refined sugar, clothing, oil production.

Energy - the main energy carrier in the fuel and energy industry (FEC) is imported and domestic oil. Electricity production 5.9 billion kWh (2000), consumption - 4.8 billion kWh (2000). The share of TPPs on fuel oil is 50%, hydroelectric power plants - 45% and 5% - on other energy sources. Export of electricity - 0.9 billion kWh, import - 1 billion kWh.

Exports ($11.6 billion in 2016): bananas, coffee, sugar, palm oil, fruits and vegetables.

Major buyers: US ($4.11 billion) - 36%, El Salvador ($1.08 billion) - 9.3%, Honduras ($854 million) - 7.4%, Canada ($613 million) - 5.3% and Nicaragua ($569 million) - 34.9%.

Imports ($16.8 billion in 2016): fuel, machinery and vehicles, building materials, grain, fertilizers, electricity.

Top suppliers: United States ($6.41 billion) - 38%, Mexico ($1.92 billion) - 11%, China ($1.89 billion) - 11%, El Salvador ($797 million) - 4.7% and Costa Rica ($583 million) - 3.6%.



53.3% of the population of Guatemala are Hispanic Guatemalans, including 39.3% - mestizos (Ladino), 14.0% - "whites" (Creoles). The Indians mainly belong to the Maya group (41.5%): Quiche (14.2%), Mom (10.1%), Kaqchikel (5.8%), Quekchi (3.9%), Pokom (1, 4%), Kanhobali (1.2%), Khakalteki (1.1%), Tzutuhili (0.9%), Ishili (0.7%), Chukhi (0.5%), Chorti (0.4% ) and etc.; a special group of the mestizo population is made up of the Garifuna (0.2%). Of the non-native population in Guatemala, there are Americans (2.8%), West Indian blacks (2.1%), Chinese (0.2%), immigrants from the UK (0.1%), etc.

As of June 30, 2012, the population of Guatemala is estimated by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) at 15,073,375 inhabitants. Population growth was 2.44% per year.

According to the National Survey of Living Conditions (ENCOVI) in 2011, non-indigenous peoples predominate, which make up 60.2% of the population, indigenous peoples - 39.8%. The proportion of the indigenous population in the department of El Progreso is less than 1.8%, in Zacapa less than 1%, in Xalapa less than 0.1%. The Quiché make up 11.0% of the country's population and 95.9% in the department of Totonicapán. The nationality of Kaqchikels is 7.8% of the population, Kekchi is 8.3%, Mam is 5.2% of the population. In the department of Solola, quiches account for 35.3%, kakchikels - 50.1%. In the department of Alta Verapaz, the Qeqchi make up 79.1% of the population.

According to the 1893 census, indigenous peoples made up 64.7% of the population.

Population dynamics: 1.452 million (1891); 1.842 million (1903); 3.787 million (1950); 4.1 million (1962); 13.6 million (July 2010 estimate).

Birth rate: 27.4 per 1000
Mortality: 5.0 per 1000
Emigration - 2.2 per 1000
Life expectancy: 69 years for men, 73 years for women

Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection—With less than 1 percent of the adult population estimated to be HIV positive, Guatemala is believed to have a concentrated epidemic. However, Guatemala, Central America's largest country, accounts for nearly one-sixth of the HIV-infected Central American population. Since the first case of HIV in the country was reported in 1984, infection has occurred primarily among homosexual men and prostitutes. According to the National AIDS Program (SNAP) at the Ministry of Health, since April 2007 there have been 10,304 officially reported cases of HIV in Guatemala. UNAIDS estimates that 61,000 people are living with HIV in Guatemala, and 2,700 deaths are due to AIDS.

The HIV-infected population of Guatemala lives primarily in urban areas along major transportation routes. According to a 2007 report by the National Epidemiological Center of Guatemala, more than 77% of reported cases of HIV/AIDS occurred in seven departments: Suchitepeques, Guatemala, Izabal, Escuintla, Retaluleu, San Marcos and Quetzaltenango. DREMOTA estimates that 80% of HIV cases are in the 15-49 year old group, with more than 51% of all cases in the 20-34 year old group. The prevalence of HIV among prostitutes is 4%, among street prostitutes - 12%. HIV prevalence among homosexuals in the country is 10%, but in Guatemala City, 18% of homosexuals were HIV positive in 2006, according to basic data collected for the Global Fund project to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. A 2002 study published by UNAIDS in 2007 found infection rates among homosexuals in Guatemala to be 10 times higher than in the general adult population. Other vulnerable populations include prisoners (3.2% prevalence), antisocial youth and street children (3.3%). Data from the Ministry of Health do not report any cases of HIV infection among intravenous drug users or transmission through blood or blood products. The available data indicate that HIV has affected mainly urban populations and mestizos (mixed Amerindian-Spanish peoples); however, preliminary data indicate that the local population (primarily the Maya) may potentially have an increased risk of HIV infection. However, these data are insufficient to determine the extent of the epidemic in this population.

Literacy: 75% male, 63% female (2002 census).

Urban population: 49%.

The religious component of the population: predominantly Catholics and Protestants. Protestants include believers in the Church of God, Assemblies of God, Baptists, Mormons, Adventists, and Quakers. After the entry in the spring of 2010 of the non-canonical organization "Orthodox Catholic Church of Guatemala" into the Constantinople Patriarchate of Orthodox Christians in Guatemala, about 4% of the population.


Foreign policy

The biggest unresolved issue in Guatemala's foreign policy is one of the longest-running territorial disputes that has been going on for more than 150 years between Belize and Guatemala. Guatemala claims an area from the Sarstoon River to the Sibun River with a total area of ​​12,800 square kilometers, which is half the territory of Belize. Also important to Guatemala is its relationship with its large northern neighbor, Mexico. In 2001, Guatemala and Mexico signed a Free Trade Agreement (together with El Salvador and Honduras), known as the Mexico–Northern Triangle Free Trade Agreement.

From 1960 to 1996, a civil war raged in Guatemala. The rebels from the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity were supported by Cuba and Nicaragua, while the Guatemalan government enlisted the support of Argentina and the United States. In December 1996, government representatives and the partisan command signed the "Treaty on a Firm and Lasting Peace", which put an end to the civil war.