ESCAPE THE USUAL
Less than an hour away from Guatemala City, La Antigua makes people feel like they’re a million miles and a few centuries away. A bit of history: founded in the early 16th century, La Antigua was the third capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala until a series of earthquakes prompted the government to move to the current site of Guatemala City. Today this nearly 500-year-old city is the crown jewel of Guatemala’s tourism—a magnet for visitors from around the world thanks to its colonial-era buildings, history, and vibrant culture. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is also Guatemala’s second most soughtafter MICE destination, predominantly for incentives and smaller VIP meetings, upscale dinners, inaugurations, and closing ceremonies in its many plazas, gardens, and historic buildings. Planners with green meetings in mind will be happy to know that most of La Antigua is extremely eco-conscious. Bottled water, for example, is nowhere to be found in hotel rooms. Instead, guests will find handmade clay eco-filters that are refilled daily and serve fresh, pure water—a fairly recent (1980) Guatemalan invention that revolutionized drinking water across the country and beyond.
La Antigua’s ancient cobblestone streets are lined with restaurants serving amazing cuisine, coffee shops, art galleries, charming bars, and shopping in boutiques, artisan markets, and more. Outdoors, eco-adventures for groups range from hiking the slopes of the Pacaya Volcano to exploring an aromatic coffee plantation, and there are voluntourism opportunities available for them to give back to local communities. The city’s small size and the number of inspired boutique hotels have prompted organizations to plan unforgettable city-wide takeovers. As an example of just how unique that type of event can be, let’s talk transportation: while in the city, attendees can be ferried to and from their hotel and different events aboard a local tuk-tuk—a three-wheeled motorized rickshaw—with the sponsoring company logo on the side and pre-negotiated fares.
CONNECTIVITY & TRANSPORTATION
There are two international airports in the country: La Aurora (GUA), in Guatemala City, and Mundo Maya (FRS), in the city of Flores. Modern and efficient, La Aurora moves up to 4 million passengers per year and operates more than 260 weekly flights with over 160 nonstop flights per week to cities in North America, Latin America, and Europe. Formerly the Flores International Airport, the Mundo Maya International Airport is located in the town of Flores, about an hour from the ancient Mayan city of Tikal. The country also has a network of domestic airports including the La Tierra de Dios Airport in Puerto Barrios, Izabal; Los Altos Airport in Quetzaltenango; and Retalhuleu Airport.
Currently, there are 34 new frequencies to and from the country, including 14 to the United States and 7 to Europe, as well as four new domestic frequencies—including daily roundtrip flights from Guatemala City to Petén—, which help shorten transit time within the country for visitors. There are several transportation companies available for groups within Guatemala City, Antigua, and Lake Atitlán that offer air-conditioned vans and buses, and taxi service is widely available (radio taxis are recommended). However, there are two unique and very fun forms of transportation that can make an impact on groups: the so-called chicken bus—a brightly-colored and extremely ornate vehicle typical of Guatemala—and the tiny tuk-tuks—motorized scooters that can take 2 to 3 passengers at a time and can wind their way through busy traffic.
AIRLINES WITH OFFICES IN GUATEMALA
- American Airlines
- Continental Airlines
- Copa Airlines
- Delta Iberia
- United Airlines
ESTIMATED NONSTOP FLIGHT TIMES
- Chicago, IL 4h 10m
- Los Angeles, CA 4h 15m
- New York, NY 4h 30m
- Miami, FL 2h 50m
- Mexico City, Mexico 1h 55m
- Panama City, Panama 2h 15m
- Madrid, Spain 11h 30m
OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Guatemala
CAPITAL: Guatemala City
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Spanish
TYPE OF GOVERNMENT: Republican, democratic, and representative.
CURRENCY: Quetzal; the main tourism areas accept US dollars, traveler’s checks, and credit cards
EXCHANGE RATE: US$1 = Q7.66 (as of May 2019)
DIRECT FOREIGN INVESTMENT (2017) US$1,147 million
POPULATION (2018): 17.5 million (approx.)
GEOGRAPHIC COORDINATES: 15’30 N, 90’ 15 W
TERRITORY EXTENSION: 108,890 km2
LOCATION: Guatemala borders Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Gulf of Honduras to the East, El Salvador and Honduras to the Southeast, and the Pacific Ocean to the South.
INTERNATIONAL AREA CODE: +502 + number
TIME ZONE: GMT -6 hours, -5 (summer)
ELECTRICITY: 120 V, 60 Hz, A/B
Guatemala is known as the country of eternal spring. Average temperature in the highland region is 18.3ºC (64.9ºF), 25.3ºC (77ºF) in the coastal area, and 19ºC (66ºF) in Guatemala City. There are two main seasons: rainy from May through October (it rains mainly in the afternoons) and dry from November through April.
European and US citizens do not need a visa. Central American citizens can enter Guatemala with their ID card or current passport. Other nationalities can visit www.igm.gob.gt. All regular immigration and customs procedures at the Guatemalan border are free of charge. If there is a charge for a special case, the authorities should issue a receipt.
There is a US$30 (or Quetzal equivalent) airport departure tax, normally included in the price of the ticket.