Guatemala’s western highlands, known as the Altiplano, contain some of the country’s most striking scenery including the spectacular Lake Atitlán, renowned worldwide for its beauty. Located at 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) above sea level, the lake is ringed by three volcanoes (Atlitlán, Tolimán, and San Pedro La Laguna—The Three Giants), extends over 130 km2 (50 mi2), and is 341 meters (1,118 feet) deep, making it the deepest in Central America. Transportation is by small motor boats that constantly crisscross the water or a handful of double-decker ferries available for rentals to groups. The typical cayucos, or rustic dugout canoes, are also plentiful but used mostly by local fishermen. This stunning landscape is home to 12 Mayan villages with different indigenous languages, signature clothing, and ancient traditions that are vibrantly alive and well in the 21st century. Accommodations in this area tend towards the boutique-with-a-view and are all very eco-conscious. The main attraction for groups, however, is Mother Nature, followed by the colorful village marketplaces.
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
ESTIMATED NONSTOP FLIGHT TIMES
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.