Best time to go to Guatemala

Best time to go to Guatemala


Temperature & rainfall

The best time to visit Guatemala is Nov-Apr, when the rain ceases and the sun shines. Christmas and Easter holidays are very busy, so book well ahead if travelling at this time – especially for Antigua. The May-Oct rainy season is still warm but very humid, especially in lower regions including Tikal and Petén, and road travel can be disrupted. Rains usually fall in the afternoon and evening – so make the most of your mornings! Nov is a good month to travel as the scenery remains green, and All Saints’ Day on Nov 1st is worth experiencing – without being as crazy as celebrations in neighbouring Mexico.

Things to do in Guatemala


What to do in Guatemala, & what not to

What to do in Guatemala…


Guatemala sits squarely on the Ruta Maya, running through the Yucatán Peninsula and Belize. The incredible archaeological site of Tikal shows the power of the Mayan civilisation. A sprawling city that stretched through many kilometres of jungle, much of which is still being excavated, there are five towering temples to climb for a panoramic view over the site. Less well known is the site of Iximché, capital of an ancient Kaqchikel Maya kingdom, with pyramids, temples and evidence of human sacrifice.
Mayan culture isn’t consigned to history. Over 40 percent of Guatemalans identify as full Maya, with another 40 percent mestizo – of mixed indigenous/European heritage. ‘Maya’ is not a homogenous term; over 21 Mayan languages are spoken in Guatemala alone, and the elaborately embroidered textiles and clothing will vary from community to community. Visitors can meet the Maya in thriving textile and food markets, during homestays and during village tours, particularly around Lake Atitlán, in which you might learn to grind blue corn or weave reed mats.
Beaches may not feature in a Guate itinerary, but there are plenty of opportunities to spend time on the water. Cruise down the Río Dulce to Livingston to meet the Garifuna people and look out for manatees in the mangroves. Kayak around Lake Atitlán, or boat across the lake beneath the looming volcanoes. Take a dip in the tepid waters of Lake Petén Itzá, with the island town of Flores as your base.

What not to do in Guatemala…


Stay here. If you are lucky enough to have two weeks’ holiday or longer, then make the most of Central America’s tightly clustered borders and cross over into Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula for more Mayan exploration as well as a dip in a cenote. Travel overland to Belize, where you can relax on paradise cays, snorkel or scuba, and discover a Mayan “underworld” in the incredible ATM cave. A longer tour can take you all the way along the isthmus to the Panama Canal.
Dismiss the danger. You’re unlikely to get into any trouble on your Guatemala holiday – as long as you travel sensibly. Guatemala was in the throes of civil war until 1996, and while today the Mayan villages and glassy lakes present a picture of peace, Guatemala City’s shocking crime rate tells another story. Drugs and gangs still blight the capital, and walking around the city alone, or at night, is not advised.
Go on a diet. In common with much of Latin America, Guatemalan food is simple yet incredibly heavy. While Mexico has the taco, Guatemala has the tamal – a heavy maize dough wrapped in a banana leaf. Tamales can have many fillings, including chicken, pork, beef, olives or roasted peppers. Sweet tamales contain chocolate, nuts and dried fruit. In the Garifuna villages of the Caribbean coast, African flavours seep in, with tapado – coconut fish soup – a delicious specialty.
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Guatemala travel tips


advice from our friends in Guatemala

When to go


Nancy Ableser from our supplier, Tucan Travel, recommends the Day of the Dead: “The kite festival in Santiago Sacatepéquez, not far from Antigua, on Day of the Dead, November 1st. It's a huge party in a cemetery! Music, ice cream, picnics on graves and crypts, kite flying. There is an annual contest for the art work on the 22-metre diameter kites; these ones don't fly, but they are incredibly intricate in the art and design.”

When to go


Scott Marquardt, tour leader with our supplier Tucan Travel tells us the best time to visit Central America: “In general November is a perfect time to visit Central America, with the rain tailing off and still not too many tourists, although there is the odd chance of a hurricane or two coming up the Caribbean Coast.”

Vicky Rodford from our supplier Intrepid Travel: “Arriving over Easter (Semana Santa) has pros and cons. The cons are that everywhere is really busy as many Guatemalans have this as a holiday period; the pros are without a doubt the festivities over the Easter weekend, particularly in Antigua.”

Shopping advice


Vicky Rodford from our supplier, Intrepid Travel: “Head to Chichicastenango market and haggle hard! There are some great local handicrafts on offer and it’s a perfect chance to immerse yourself in local life for a few hours.”

Shopping advice


Nancy Ableser from our supplier, Tucan Travel: “Guatemala is the best place for shopping in Central America. Even when you go to Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica, you'll see Guatemalan textiles, bags, etc, with the word “Belize”, “Honduras” or “Costa Rica” embroidered on them! Most of the other Central American countries don't have much in the way of their own textiles, so they try to make it look like Guatemalan textiles are theirs.”

Foodie tips


Nancy Ableser from our supplier, Tucan Travel, shares her tips on Guatemalan food: “It's tasty, but it's pretty heavy. There is a lot of rice, beans, meat and plantains, and not many vegetables, or seasonings. But don’t miss the tapado in Livingston. It's the traditional Garifuna coconut seafood soup.”

Overland travel tips


Rosanna Neophytou, also from Tucan Travel, advises those considering a Central America overland holiday: “Travelling overland through Central America is a fantastic experience – you will get a taste of just how the locals live as you travel through various towns, city and countryside, each offering very different views. Going on a colourful chicken bus in Guatemala is always an experience to remember, as it drives past spectacular volcanoes. There will always be something to see out the windows! Be open minded; there are often long travel days between the stops. Prepare for this but also keep your eyes open if you can – you will often be rewarded with fantastic views. For any lengthy journeys bring a mixture of clothing. Bring a jumper especially on overnight buses – it gets surprisingly cool especially in the mountainous areas.”

Guatemala travel advice


advice from our holiday reviews

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Guatemala travel advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
“Practice walking uphill before embarking on the volcano hike! Take a Spanish phrasebook for Guatemala if your Spanish is as bad as ours. Lots of bug repellent. Many memory cards for photos, I think my son took 950 photos. Take a waterproof, the rains when they come are phenomenal. Wifi is around but don't rely on it -use the phone as a camera, leave your email behind. Have faith in your guides, they are brilliant and know their stuff.” – Alex Holmes
“The morning spent at Tikal in Guatemala was excellent. This activity is definitely best done in the early morning light as it gets very warm and less pleasant to walk in the jungle after 10am.” – Diana Urbina
“Be prepared that some hotels do not seem to have hot water – weather was warm – not a big issue.” – Fran McQuail on a Belize & Guatemala adventure holiday
Photo credits: [Temp chart: Abel Pardo López] [When to go Nancy: gringologue] [Shopping advice vicky: Gabridelca] [Foodie tips: Luisfi] [Tip1: Colin Meusel] [Tip2: CarlosVanVegas] [Helpdesk: David Amsler]
Written by Vicki Brown
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