Best Central America Destinations

Guatemala Travel Guide

Guatemala Travel Guide: Planning a vacation in Guatemala soon? Excellent choice!

Explore the Mayan heart of Central America, with incredible ruins, bustling markets, colorful architecture, dense jungles, and active volcanoes.

Let our guide enhance your experience!

Martsam Travel has carefully curated a range of tours in Guatemala, exploring everything it offers.

We have used all our local insights to ensure every visitor can make the most of their time in this diverse, picturesque country.

Nothing is too much for the team at Martsam Travel, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions you have about our day trips and tour packages.

In the meantime, read through our Guatemala travel guide for all the inspiration and information you need ahead of your trip.

Where is Guatemala?

Let’s start by getting our bearings. Guatemala sits in the heart of Central America. It shares borders with Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.

This central location makes Guatemala a popular hub for exploring all these neighboring countries. With Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama within easy reach too, Guatemala is an ideal gateway for adventures in Central America.

What is the Best Time to Travel to Guatemala and Why?

Guatemala sits squarely in the Tropic of Cancer. Because of this, temperatures here are very mild and vary little throughout the year. As with any other country, however, there are regional and seasonal differences.

In the Central Valley, the average high temperature is 77°F (25°C) with the average low coming in at 55°F (12.7°C). Keep in mind that at higher altitudes temperatures drop significantly at night.

Guatemala also has a dry and rainy season. The dry season typically lasts from October to early May, while the rainy season occurs between late May and the end of September.

Learn more about the best time of year to visit Guatemala.

The Best Time to Visit Guatemala by Month

What you consider the best times to visit Guatemala will depend on what you want to see and do.

Broadly speaking, many visitors to the country want to enjoy outdoor activities, so it’s best to avoid the rainy season.

If this is true for you, don’t travel between late May and the end of September. Focus instead on the dry season of October to early May.

This period has plenty of sunshine, warm weather, and a low chance of rain.

Unsurprisingly, this is also the high season when prices are highest. If you’re looking to keep costs as low as possible, you should consider the low (and rainy) season.

These snapshot facts about Guatemala’s weather can help in your decision-making process:

  • Guatemala’s warmest month is April (81°F/27°C)
  • Guatemala’s coolest month is January (74°F/23°C)
  • Guatemala’s rainiest month is June
  • Guatemala’s driest month is February
  • Guatemala’s most crowded months are December and April
  • Guatemala’s least crowded months are June, July, and September

Guatemala is a Natural Paradise!

If you’re a nature lover, you may never want to leave Guatemala! The natural landscape consists of rivers and valleys, spectacular lakes, lowland jungles, temperate plateaus, tropical plains, swamps, and an incredible 37 volcanoes!

The Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean meet our coastlines to the north and south, respectively.

Guatemala is home to 19 ecosystems, 300 microclimates, and millions of species of flora and fauna. These include over 700 bird species, mammals like the jaguar and tapir, and a huge range of reptiles and insects.

Around 1.4 million hectares of Guatemala’s natural paradise belong to the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, national parks, private reserves, and communities focused on conservation.

Is Guatemala Safe for Tourists?

Every traveler has their own sense of safety, so it’s impossible to give a universal answer to this question. However, Guatemala is like every other tourist destination around the world: the most popular areas and attractions are safe for everyone.

Planning your trip in advance lets you obtain plenty of information about the places you want to visit. You can also assess the quality of professional, certified tour companies like Martsam Travel.

Choosing from our range of day trips and tours in Guatemala offers fun, adventure, education, and, most importantly, peace of mind.

When in Guatemala, tourists should simply take the same precautions they would in any other country that isn’t their own.

So, is Guatemala safe for tourists? Yes, absolutely! And even more so with Martsam Travel.

Which Areas Should a Tourist Avoid in Guatemala?

Like any country, Guatemala is not without crime. But it’s important to note that the vast majority of tourist visits are trouble-free.

Situations involving travel advisories are constantly evolving. At the time of writing, tourists are advised to avoid traveling to:

  • San Marcos Department (not including the city of San Marcos)
  • Huehuetenango Department (not including the city of Huehuetenango)
  • Zone 18 and the city of Villa Nueva in Guatemala City

Within Guatemala City, Central America’s largest city, it’s also recommended to take particular care in Zone 1 (the historical center) and Zone 10 (Zona Viva).

What is the Official Language of Guatemala?

Guatemala’s official language is Spanish. Many locals also speak one of the 22 native languages descended from ancient Mayan communities, as well as Xinca and Garifuna.

You can rest assured that when you’re in locations popular with tourists and expats, communicating in English shouldn’t be a problem. What’s more, the team at Martsam Travel also speaks English.

How is Guatemalan Spanish Different?

The primary difference between Guatemalan Spanish and Spanish used in any other country comes down to accent and vocabulary. Of course, this is the case with all nations that share a common language.

So, for example, Guatemalan Spanish has plenty in common with Mexican Spanish. But even then, there are plenty of differences between the two.

In many cases, this comes down to the influences of Mayan languages on Guatemalan Spanish speakers.

But with more shared qualities than differences, communication with anyone who speaks Spanish, be they from Spain or Latin America, is rarely, if ever, a problem.

Traditional Foods to Try When in Guatemala

Mealtimes are a big deal in Guatemala! In a country where street food rivals restaurants for deliciousness, there are plenty of traditional foods to try on your trip.

Some of our tips to tuck into include:

  • Pepián
  • Kak’ik
  • Empanadas
  • Hilachas
  • Rellenitos
  • Granitas
  • Tamales
  • Chiles rellenos
  • Tortillas
  • Pupusas
  • Atol
  • Caldo chocolate

How to Navigate the Public Transport System in Guatemala

Guatemala has a comprehensive public transport system, so you don’t always need to take private options. But it can take some getting used to.

The typical public transport options you will encounter include:

Tuk-tuks and Taxis

Tuk-tuks in Guatemala work in the same way as in any other country. They’re ideal for short, inexpensive journeys. 

But the longer the trip, the more you will appreciate a taxi’s comfort. Naturally, they are more expensive.

In both cases, it’s fine (and expected) to haggle with the driver.

Chicken Buses

These repurposed American school buses painted in funky designs and colors are Guatemala’s most iconic form of transportation.

In many cases, they’re the only option available when traveling between towns. For this reason and more, chicken buses are how many Guatemalans get around.


In the smaller towns and cities outside of Guatemala City’s formalized public transport system, it’s typical to find collectivos.

They usually come in the form of people carriers or minibusses. 

Passengers are encouraged to cram in and they only leave when full. Each collectivo has a person hanging out the door shouting out its destination.

Generally speaking, if it’s heading where you need to go, you can flag it down!

Pickups and Lanchas

The further away from cities and larger towns you get, the less likely you are to find collectivo services.

In their place, you’ll almost certainly find pickup trucks complete with bars that passengers hold on to. You’ll appreciate the fresh air!

Even more excitingly, lanchas are speedboats that provide rapid travel around locations like Lake Atitlan and Rio Dulce. Just make sure you’re heading in the right direction!

As with collectivos, lanchas only leave when enough passengers board. With this in mind, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to reach wherever you’re going.

Do You Need a Visa to Enter Guatemala?

For many visitors, a valid passport is the only document needed to enter Guatemala. US, Canadian, and European citizens do not need a visa.

What Essential Items Should I Pack for a Guatemala Trip?

What you should put in your suitcase or backpack depends on your personal needs and the kind of trip you plan to take. Will you be backpacking around the country and staying in hostels? Or do you want to make leisurely day trips while staying at a luxury hotel?

It’s impossible to draw up a comprehensive list of the things you should bring, so we encourage you to use this information as a starting point.

The official currency in Guatemala is the quetzal. Many top tourist attractions accept US dollars and credit cards, but you should visit a bank to exchange your native currency for quetzales. You will need to show your passport when doing this.

Guatemala is an incredibly diverse country, so the clothes you should bring depend on what region(s) you plan to visit. Some items speak for themselves: if you’re going to the beach, bring swimwear. Plan to go hiking? Bring broken-in hiking boots or walking shoes, thermals, and waterproofs.

And remember, at high altitudes, the temperature plummets at night, so bring warm-weather gear!

Generally speaking, focus on packing comfortable and functional clothes. And always look to dress in layers. This means you can still regulate your temperature even if you do get caught out.

Highlights of Trips to Guatemala

No two itineraries for traveling in Guatemala are the same. Budgets, available time, interests, age, and general travel preferences will influence what you can and want to see.

However, some of the most popular highlights of vacations in Guatemala include:

  • Exploring centuries-old traditions and history in Antigua Guatemala
  • Visiting the modern, international metropolis of Guatemala City
  • Hiking Acatenango or Pacaya, two of Guatemala’s impressive volcanoes
  • Entering the 950-acre cloud forest in Finca El Pilar private nature reserve
  • Marveling at Lake Atitlán, “the most beautiful lake on Earth”
  • Purchasing beautiful Mayan handicrafts at Chichicastenango market
  • Admiring the ancient rock art at Quiriguá, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

While this list contains awe-inspiring, unforgettable sites and activities, it’s only an introduction to all the things you can see and do in Guatemala. For example, you can find national parks, nature reserves, and archaeological sites spread across the country.

This is why we provide such a wide range of tour packages, from Guatemala cultural tours to adventure tours in Guatemala.

Things to Know When Traveling to Guatemala

We’ve covered plenty of information in this Guatemala travel guide, and all the information is essential in its own way.

To summarise and expand, some of the most important things to know when traveling to Guatemala include:

  • Get all the necessary vaccinations before you leave your home country
  • If you want DEET-free bug spray, bring your own
  • Pack plenty of strong sunscreen before you travel
  • Make sure you pack lightweight, quick-drying clothing
  • You may not be able to find your preferred feminine hygiene products when here
  • If you’re in doubt about social conventions, play it safe and cover up
  • Always drink bottled or purified water and avoid tap water
  • When hiking, always head out with an experienced local guide

Unlock an Authentic Guatemala Experience with Trusted Tour Guides

We hope our Guatemala travel guide has inspired as much as it has informed. If you have any further questions that we haven’t addressed, please feel free to get in touch. Our team is on hand to answer queries of every kind.

Our Guatemala tour packages truly showcase the beauty, history, and culture of this amazing country.

For the ultimate in flexibility and freedom, consider a tailor-made itinerary. Our custom tour packages in Guatemala let you design your own experience. The type of hotel, methods of transport, and places to visit — the choice is yours!

Acatenango Volcano Tour - Nocturnal view of Fuego Volcano erupting, seen from Acatenango Volcano, showcasing spectacular bursts of radiant magma, during the Volcano Hiking Trail in Guatemala.
Overnight Tour

4×4 Acatenango Volcano Tour | Private Overnight Adventure

Join our Private 4x4 Acatenango Volcano Tour for an unforgettable overnight adventure. Start with a scenic drive and hike, then camp at 3,600 meters to witness the spectacular nocturnal eruptions of Fuego Volcano. Rise early to catch a magical sunrise from Acatenango's peak, and enjoy breathtaking views throughout this unique experience in Guatemala.
Couple enjoying a tranquil moment at the pristine Lake Atitlan during the Guatemala Nature Retreat tour.

Guatemala Nature Retreat: 9-Day Antigua & Atitlan Escape

A short break to enjoy 3 of the best destinations located in the highlands of Guatemala, framed in a spectacular landscape and natural world.
Lady immersed in a lush forest, finding tranquility during the Women in Nature Guatemala wellness tour by Martsam Travel.

Guatemala Wellness Tour | Women In Nature

A short break to enjoy 3 of the best destinations located in the highlands of Guatemala, framed in a spectacular landscape and natural world.
Woman meditating in a serene session at Lake Atitlan, surrounded by natural beauty, as part of the Guatemala Nature and Wellness Expedition

Guatemala Nature and Wellness Expedition

A short break to enjoy 3 of the best destinations located in the highlands of Guatemala, framed in a spectacular landscape and natural world.
Markets & Textiles in Guatemala

Textile Tours of Guatemala: Exploring Rich Market History

The Guatemala Markets & Textiles Tour is the ultimate cultural adventure for those exploring this beautiful country’s vibrant markets and textiles.
Exploring Copan Ruins from Guatemala City by Air

Exploring Copan Ruins from Guatemala City by Air

The park is a refuge that allows the visitor to enjoy a balanced combination of pre-Hispanic cultural patrimony and biodiversity.
Day Tour

Pacaya Volcano Day Tour

Embark on a Thrilling Pacaya Volcano Day Tour and discover Guatemala's natural wonders. This adventure offers a spectacular hiking experience, showcasing the awe-inspiring power of nature. Immerse yourself in Pacaya's dynamic environment. Ascend well-trodden paths, witness flowing lava, and enjoy panoramic vistas. Suitable for all skill levels, the tour includes guided hikes and horseback rides, […]
Culture Tour

El Mirador Jungle Trek

El Mirador is a large pre-Columbian Mayan settlement, located in the north of the modern department of Peten.
Culture Tour

Las Guacamayas Nature Tour

The park is a refuge that allows the visitor to enjoy a balanced combination of pre-Hispanic cultural patrimony and biodiversity.

Over 200 5 Star Reviews

5 star reviews

Visiting the Maya ruins in Peten Guatemala is a fabulous travel experience. Lily and the team at Martsam Travel in Guatemala are experts at making your travel plans come true. ln addition to the immense cultural value of the sites, you have chances to see unusual tropical animals. Totally great experience!


5 star reviews
A travel agency that makes you feel assisted every step of the trip – what a nice experience. Lily was checking every day to make sure things were going as well as possible, and went out of the way to accommodate last minute changes to my trip.


5 star reviews

I am beyond thankful that we found Martsam as they made our 10 day trip so perfect. We learned so much about Guatemalan and Mayan history. The hotels they booked for us were beautiful, luxurious, and affordable. I HIGHLY recommend using Martsum to plan a trip to Guatemala!!!


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