MaximoNivel > Destinations > Guatemala

Guatemala

Guatemala is warm, friendly and welcoming. It’s one of the most historically significant countries in Central America, and it’s one of the top 25 ecologically diverse countries in the world. Join us in the magical city of Antigua!

Guatemala Flag

Guatemala literally means the “land of many trees.” Because of its shape, the country is bordered by four different countries—Mexico to the north, Belize to the northeast, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast; and has both Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The country’s abundance of unique ecosystems makes the entire region a utopia of biodiversity. Guatemala’s ancient Maya civilization is represented by countless archeological sites throughout the country, and “Guatemaltecos” are very proud of their indigenous cultures.

Guatemala Map
Population: 12,727,566
Geography: 108,890 Km² (42,043 square miles).
Guatemala is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Tennessee. The highest point is Tajumulco Volcano at 4,220 meters (13,845 feet) above seal level.
Capital: Guatemala City
Founded: 2 January 1776
Currency: Quetzal (Q).
U.S. dollars are accepted in all places of business, but are NOT available at ATMs. All money exchange is done at banks.
Government: Elected democracy
Languages: Spanish.
Also Amerindian languages (23 official languages, including K’iche’ Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca.
Time Zone: UTC -6:00

La AntiguaAntigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala is situated at 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level in the central highlands, in the department of Sacatepéquez. Antigua is the most popular destination in the country for both tourists and local Guatemalans alike. The city is famous for its well preserved colonial architecture and spectacular ruins—so much so that the entire city is designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site by the United Nations. As Antigua is a major destination for both international and local visitors, the government has made great efforts to ensure safety and a special “tourist police” force is deployed around the city, making Antigua the safest place in Guatemala!

Guatemala Tuc TucGetting Around

The city of Antigua is an easy 30-45 minutes by bus or private shuttle from the capital of Guatemala City, where most international flights land. In Antigua, It’s easy to follow the basic grid system of the center and it’s easy to explore on foot as everything is within a 10-15 minute walk. Motorcycle taxis (‘tuk-tuks’) and regular taxis are also available and can be found at the city center or in front of most churches. Traveling out of Antigua and into the capital city is also easy with taxis, shuttles, and “chicken buses” available at most hours of the day. When taking a “chicken bus,” you should take your seat and wait for someone to collect the bus fare.

Guatemala-FoodFood

Guatemalan gastronomy is based on traditional Mayan cuisine. Corn and corn meal are staple foods and the corn tortillas, served warm and wrapped in cloth, shouldn’t be missed. Black beans are eaten at almost every meal. Rice, eggs, and famers’ cheese are also part of daily meals.

Chicken, pork, and beef are the country’s most popular meats and are normally accompanied by beans and rice. Meats are often served in stews (“caldos”) or cooked in a spicy chili sauce. Pepián, a thick meat and vegetable stew, is a common dish in the city of Antigua, and seafood is common along the coast. Other popular dishes include mosh (oatmeal) and chiles stuffed with meat and vegetables (“chiles rellenos”).

Fresh fruits and vegetables, such as yucca, carrots, plantains, beets, and cucumbers, are easy to find. Be sure to try the Guatemalan coffee, which is some of the best in the world!

Guatemala-CultureCulture

Guatemalan culture is an interesting mix of ancient Mayan traditions with colonial Spanish and modern western influences. For example, the main religions are a combination of Catholicism or Evangelical Christian combined with Mayan beliefs resulting in a unique spirituality. Guatemalans are very conservative and you should take care not to draw extra attention to yourself.

Some cultural recommendations include:
– Dress conservatively
– Avoid open displays of affection in public
– Do not bathe nude at the beach
– Speak softly and politely even if you’re angry
– Ask permission before taking someone’s picture
– Wear shoes or sandals at your family-stay; don’t go barefoot in the house
– Understand that time is often flexible and people aren’t always punctual
– Do not point fingers at someone, as it is considered accusatory
– Cover your tattoos, as these are associated with gangs and criminals
– Avoid topics such as pre-marital sex, teen pregnancy, and abortion

Guatemala ShoppingShopping

Antigua has great little shops, boutiques, and small locally owned stores where you can buy souvenirs, traditional textiles, ceramics, and antiques. The city center and the surrounding villages are also famous for their handicraft markets, as well as their open-air markets for great fruits and vegetables.

Guatemala FoodEating Out

All around the charming city of Antigua, there’s an abundance of excellent restaurants including traditional Guatemalan food, Mexican food, and international fare. You can enjoy delicious and inexpensive local meals at a number of restaurants and at the central market. Prices range from as little as $0.80 (USD) at the market to very expensive and elegantly prepared international dishes at high-end restaurants.

Guatemala NightLifeNightlife

Most clubs and bars in Antigua are concentrated around the Arco de Santa Catalina or within a block or two of the Central Plaza. There’s a lively nightlife with a wide variety of places, including live music. Bars and restaurants officially wrap up business at 1:00AM, but there’s an active after-hours scene, so people who prefer late nights won’t be disappointed. Antigua is a safe city, but it pays to be vigilant. You should never walk alone at night, and be very careful with your valuables.