The climate of Guatemala has its origin in the phenomena generated by the effect of the general circulation of the atmosphere and the oceanic influence. In addition, developing particular characteristics due to the geographical position and topography of the country.
The four seasons typically marked in the Northern Hemisphere are not in Guatemala. Instead, two particular seasons are observed: The rainy (May to October) and the dry (November to April).
The rainy cycle occurs when the regime of the Northeast Trade Winds is established.
The rainy season usually begins in May; typically cloudy and rainy days in June. In July and part of August, there is a dry period called a heatwave. This is due to the reversal of trade winds and the strengthening of anticyclones in the Gulf of Mexico.
Later, when it weakens and disappears, the heavy rains return again to complete the rainy season (September and October).
The dry season begins with the increase in atmospheric pressure and the migration of cold air masses from the polar zone, which causes a drop in temperature and an increase in wind speed, generally from the north.
This cold season is marked from November to February. Later, the temperature increases, presenting heatwaves in March and April. During this time, there may be some local convective or prefrontal rains due to the influence of cold fronts.
The conditions described are of a general nature, and much of the country experiences warm days and mild nights throughout the year.
Temperatures vary as each region has local climatic characteristics due to regional topography, vegetation, geology, and soil types.
All of which must be considered when determining the best time to visit Guatemala. Coastal areas tend to be hot throughout the year. At the same time, the mountainous highlands can be icy at night and early in the morning, even during the summer months.
Destinations such as Antigua, Guatemala City, and Cobán, between 1,000 and 2,000 meters above sea level, experience a temperate climate.
In contrast, destinations such as Quetzaltenango, Totonicapán, Momostenango, and San Pedro Sacatepequez above this altitude can drop to the point of freezing. Frosts are frequent at the highest elevations in Guatemala of around 3,500-4,000 meters.
The Rainy Season– May to October
Guatemala’s rainy season (or winter) runs from May to October (and extends into November in Petén), with most rain falling in September and October. However, the rain usually appears as heavy afternoon downpours rather than all-day downpours. It is interspersed with warm, sunny spells.
The Dry Season – November to April
Many consider the dry season to be the best time to visit Guatemala. It runs from November through April in most parts of the country, with the Pacific coast experiencing a slightly longer summer season. Clear, blue skies are ideal for hiking mountains and exploring ancient Mayan ruins. However, the air gets misty and hot in mid-March before the rainy season, with the volcanoes nearly invisible.
Sticky, wet conditions can be expected along the low-lying coastlines. The Caribbean coast experiences rainfall throughout the year (though not as heavy as the Pacific coast). But despite the hot and humid days, the sea breeze can be relied upon to bring relief during the nights.
Due to the altitude, Guatemala City, Antigua, Lake Atitlán, and Chichicastenango, the air remains relaxed and relatively free of moisture during the summer season, with warm to hot days and mild nights.
Higher elevation cities like Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango, and El Quiche have cold nights, even during the summer, so be sure to pack warm clothing if you plan to visit these destinations.
In addition to being the best climate in the country, this period coincides with the most important festivals.
On November 1, Guatemalan’s celebrate the dead day; destinations such as Santiago and Sumpango Sacatepequez stand out, marked with the festival of the giant kites, accompanied by music and traditional dishes.
In the region of Todos Santos Cuchumatan, it is celebrated with the race of souls.
This very colorful event attracts tourists and photographers. In the Mayan lands of Petén, the festival of the holy skull is celebrated in San José, which includes a procession that carries human skulls visiting different altars in local houses.
In December, it is the patron fair of Chichicastenango. In this very colorful event, religious activities stand out, a sample of syncretism from the mixture of local beliefs and the Catholic religion. The brotherhoods and their processions, and the Flying Stick.
Also, you can visit the Caribbean village of Livingston in November when the Garinagu Festival is held to commemorate National Garifuna Day. It pays homage to the traditional culture of the Garífuna people of the region, with lively street parties, religious ceremonies, dances, and festivities.
The Burning of the Devil day takes place across the country soon after, and unwanted goods and possessions are burned in giant bonfires to cleanse the devil’s houses. Antigua Guatemala is one of the destinations where this celebration is spectacular with fireworks, a parade of devil effigies, and live music.
The end of the dry season also gives way to what is perhaps the biggest celebration in Guatemala: Holy Week, one of the most colorful manifestations of faith in Latin America.
Sawdust carpets with various motifs await the processions that represent the passion and death and Jesus Christ. Music and culinary expressions are an excellent opportunity to try Guatemalan cuisine.
We can summarize that the dry season (November – April) is the best time to go to Guatemala for climatic and cultural reasons.
Unless you have a particular focus trip such as nature trips and bird watching.