Guatemala is a small country in Central America offering a mix of experiences. Guatemala City is a crowded and rather poor city of over a million inhabitants. The western highlands are mainly modern Mayan towns whilst the Caribbean coast is generally hot and steamy. Tikal is considered one of the world’s wonders with towering pyramids and more than 3000 structures in a six square mile site including palaces, temples and Mayan platforms, ball courts and steam baths dating back to around 600BC. Most visitors head for the jungle in the north which has some impressive Mayan ruins and the beautiful area in the mountains around Lake Atitlan, which has many picturesque villages and impressive volcanoes. Guatemala has some of the highest mountains and volcanoes in the whole of Central America, along with many archeological treasures. Visitors come to Guatemala for the unspoilt rainforest and abundance of wildlife. Up on the volcanoes you will need a jacket as it is windy and cold although the ground will be warm underfoot! Wear long trousers to avoid getting cut on the razor-sharp lava rocks.
The local currency is the exotic-sounding Quetzal, named after the national bird. US dollars are widely accepted and the exchange rate should be around 8 quetzals to the dollar. Always carry some cash as ATMs are not available in all towns. There are ATMs at the airport and in major cities only. Traveler’s checks are not accepted, even in major banks in Guatemala City! Be prepared to barter when you shop.
Spanish is the local language although it is spoken with a local dialect.