Guatemala (‘place of many trees’) lives up to its name and gives visitors an thrilling view of Central America. The country with the highest and most active volcanoes, remarkable Mayan ruins, dense jungles and an indigenous culture that flourishes through its traditional music, lively dance and colourful embroidered clothing.
Years of historical activity has left the country with an abundance of archaeological sites as well as colonial cities. Its landscape is renowned for spectacular views with mountains and some of the most impressing stretches of river in the world.
The Mayan heart of Central America, Guatemala borders Mexico to the north and west, Belize to the northeast and Honduras and El Salvador to the east. Scattered around this mountainous and jungle covered country, the impressive ancient Mayan ruins and colonial buildings are a reminder of Guatemala’s heritage and civilised past.
Until recently, Guatemala was little visited and this culturally rich, archaeologically fascinating country, with its diverse natural environment, is a one-off that must be visited to be understood.
With the Caribbean to its east, The Pacific Ocean to the south west and Mexico bordering on the north and west, Guatemala is located in Central America and has an area of just over 108,000 square kilometres. Guatemala lies between latitudes 13° and 18°N, and longitudes 88° and 93°W. Guatemala’s terrain is very mixed, with mountains, rainforests, small dessert patches as well as an extensive coast. The capital: Guatemala de la Asunción- ‘Guatemala City’ is located in the highlands or the Pacific Coast region; two of three major areas in the country that are divided by the two mountain chains. The three regions vary in climate and contrast one another in landscape.
Despite the large amount of poverty in the country, Guatemala has a relatively stable government as a constitutional democratic republic. The President of Guatemala is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Since January 2008 Álvaro Colom has been the president of Guatemala.
Economy / Tourism
Guatemala’s main source of (foreign) income comes from remittances from Guatemalans who fled the country during the civil war to the United States. A quarter of the country’s GDP comes from agriculture with it serving as employment for half the population; bananas are the country’s main export as well as coffee, sugar and textiles. The service sector is the largest part of GDP for the country. Tourism is starting to become an increasing source of income for Guatemala.
There are over 20 ‘Mayan’ languages which are spoken by many indigenous Guatemalans. The official first language in the country is Spanish; however it is not spoken at all by some; which include elderly natives and those living in rural areas and on the Caribbean coast. Spanish is a first or second language to around 93% of the population.
Religious freedom features in the country’s constitution. The two main religions in Guatemala are Catholic and Protestant: with approximately 57% Catholic and 40% protestant and 3% Eastern Orthodox. There are also small communities of Jews, Buddhists and the indigenous Mayan faith followers.