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Destination: visit Guatemala

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Geography

Officially the Republic of Guatemala, Guatemala is located in Central America. It has borders to Mexico in the north/northwest, to Belize in the northeast, to Honduras in the southeast, to El Salvador in the south. It has a small Caribbean coastline in the east and a Pacific coastline to the southwest. Two mountain chains divide Guatemala in three different regions: the cool highlands with the heaviest population, the tropical area along the Caribbean and Pacific coast, and the tropical jungle in the northern lowlands (also known as Peten). These three regions differ in climate, elevation, and landscape, providing dramatic contrasts between colder drier highland peaks and humid tropical lowlands. Volcan Tajumulco, is the highest point in the Central American countries.

Guatemala City, with its 1.075 million inhabitants is the capital of the country. The largest cities include Mixco, Villa Nueva, Petapa and San Juan Sacatepequez. The majority of the population (60%) speaks Spanish, while the remaining 40% speaks Amerindian languages. There are 23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, kekchi, Mam, Garifuna and Xinca.

The Quetzal is the official currency of Guatemala.

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Weather

The weather varies in the different regions of the country. It is usually mild in the Central and Western Highlands, but it can get cool even in the summer especially at higher altitudes. El Peten and the Pacific Coast have a tropical like weather that is hot and humid. The rainy season starts in mid May and ends in mid October, while the months of March and April are extremely hot, especially in the Pacific coastal plain.

History

The Maya civilization flourished in Guatemala during the first millennium AD. Guatemala was conquered in 1524 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado and won its independence in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century it experienced several military and civilian governments, as well as a 36 year guerrilla war. Finally in 1996 the government signed a peace agreement finally ending the conflict.

Cuisine

Many of the traditional dishes of Guatemala are based on the Mayan tradition. The key ingredients are corn, chilies and beans. Some foods are eaten on specific days of the week, while others are associated with specific occasions. For example paches (a kind of tamale made from potatoes) are eaten on Thursday, while fiambre are usually eaten on All Saints Day on November 1st.

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Destinations

Lake Atitlan is a beautiful lake surrounded by many picturesque villages and volcanoes.
Antigua Guatemala is a Colonial Spanish capital, a World Heritage site.
Rio Dulce, is home of one of the largest bridges in Central America. Here there are many sites to visit.

Things to do in Guatemala

you can visit Castillo San Felipe de Lara (a Spanish colonial fort) or the Hot Springs Waterfalls, or you can take a Lancha tour through the Majestic Canyon, go on jungle hikes, or sailing.
El Mirador, Tikal, Aguateca, Iximche’, Nakum and Yaxha are all big Mayan sites.

Curiosities
The name Guatemala comes from the Maya-Toltec language and it means “land of the trees”.

The Quetzal, the national currency is named after the Resplendent Quetzal, a fragile and rare bird that is also the national bird of Guatemala.

There are three UNESCO world Heritage sites in Guatemala: Antigua, the mayan ruins of Quirigua and of the Tikal National Park.

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