Guatemala Country Information

By | September 29, 2021


The country name “Guatemala” is of Indian origin, whether from the Guauhtematlan or from the Uhatezmalha is not clear, and means “place of piles of wood” or “mountain that spits out water”.


Guatemala lies on the land bridge that connects North America with South America. Its neighbors are Mexico to the north and west, Belize to the northeast, Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast.

Time zone

The time difference between Guatemala and Germany is -6 hours.


The length of the coastal strip of Guatemala on the Pacific Ocean is 245 km, that of the Caribbean Sea is only 85 km. The north-south extension of the country is about 400 km, the west-east extension about 350 km. Guatemala has an area of ​​almost 110,000 square kilometers. The topography of the country is dominated by the mountain ranges of the Central American Cordilleras, which reach an altitude of 3,800 m. The highest peak of this mountain range, which runs through the country in an east-west direction, is the Altos Cuchumatanes with 3,800 m. The highest mountain in the country, the Tajumulco, but belongs to the 33 volcanoes, three of which are still active. A special feature of the country is the Lago de Atitlán, which is located at an altitude of 1,562 m. It is square kilometers with 126 of the largest highland Guatemala and reaches a depth of 384 m.


As early as 2,600 BC. One can prove a settlement of the highlands by Maya peoples. From here they spread into the northern lowlands and the first city-states emerged. In 1524 the country was conquered by the Spaniards from Mexico and the city ​​of Santiago de Guatemala was founded as the capital of the Spanish general captainate. From 1570 it included all of Central America, with the exception of Panama, and parts of southern Mexico. In 1821 the residents of Spanish origin joined the Mexican Empire, which had declared its independence from Spain. After the collapse of the German Empire, Guatemala founded the “Central American Confederation” with other countries ,which was forcibly dissolved by Rafael Carrera in 1839. He founded the Republic of Guatemala, which he ruled as a dictator. Until 1944, the country was ruled by the Caudillo regime with violence and political repression. From 1944 onwards, after the adoption of a democratic constitution, economic and political reforms could be carried out. Various military governments followed over the next 30 years, culminating in a civil war between the army or paramilitary groups and the guerrilla movement “National Revolutionary Unity of Guatemala” (URNG) in the 1970s. It was not until 1996 that a peace agreement between the government and the guerrilla organization URNG succeeded in ending the longest civil war in Latin America.

Flora and fauna

The most famous animal in Guatemala is the legendary quetzal, a bird the size of a dove with colored plumage, with the male carrying a train made of long tail feathers. The quetzal was already worshiped by the Mayans and is now the country’s heraldic animal. Unfortunately, due to its beautiful feathers and the destruction of its habitat in Guatemala, it has become rare.

Otherwise you can find howler monkeys, opposums, sloths, armadillos and pumas. Jaguars and tapirs have also become rare.

In the north there is always moist rainforest, in the center pine savannas, in the south also coniferous forests. The mangrove forests typical of the coastal areas of Central and South America can also be found here. In the higher elevations, dry and cloud forests predominate. On the sides of the mountain facing away from the wind, you can also find mixed forests of oak and pine.


Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and the inflation rate is high. The main branch of the economy is agriculture, the products of which are mostly exported, e.g. coffee, sugar cane, bananas, tobacco, cardamom and cotton. These products are produced in large foreign companies. Basic foods such as rice, maize, beans and potatoes are grown on the small-scale farms in the central highlands. Cattle rearing is practiced in the coastal plains of the Pacific. Industry only accounts for a small proportion of the gross domestic product. Tourism is also gaining in importance again, especially with visitors from North and South America.


The largest population group in Guatemala are descendants of the Mayas and are called indigenous people. They make up around 60% of the population, but are hardly integrated into society. They also only speak their old tribal languages, 23 of which are officially recognized. They live in seclusion in the western highlands. The second largest group consists of Ladinos (30%) who speak Spanish and live in the cities. The third group is numerically the smallest with 5%, but forms the upper class. It consists of the descendants of the immigrant Spaniards. Black, mulatto and black caribs also make up about 5% of the population.


95% of the population profess Christianity, with the Protestant churches finding more and more followers. Many of the ancient Indian customs were incorporated into the Catholic practice of the faith.


The official language and lingua franca is Spanish, and around 23 Indian languages ​​are also officially recognized.

Food and drink

The cuisine of Guatemala is very much influenced by the Mexican cuisine. Tortillas, flat cakes made from corn and water, are served with almost every meal. There are also tamales (corn dough wrapped in a corn leaf), paches (similar to tamales but made from rice), enchiladas with chicken and cheese filling and tacos. In general, a lot of chicken, fish and seafood are eaten in Guatemala.

Typical drinks are atoles made from corn, rice and plantains and horchata made from sweetened rice with cinnamon. Most soft drinks are made from fruit, which is often used to make delicious mixed drinks with water or milk.


To enter Argentina, travelers need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months. Children need their own passport. No visa is required for stays of less than 90 days. Visit computerdo for Caribbean Tourism.

Medical advice

Current information on vaccinations can be found at or the website of the Center for Travel Medicine (CRM).

Security / drugs

The security situation in the country has recently deteriorated, so increased attention when storing luggage, shopping, not traveling at night, not walking alone, etc. is recommended. Current travel advice can also be found at


Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Frequently asked questions about Guatemala

What are the entry requirements for Guatemala?

For German citizens with a valid passport, a visa-free stay in the so-called “CA-4” region of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua is possible for a total of 90 days. The residence permit is issued free of charge upon entry. It is essential to ensure that the passport has an entry stamp.

What vaccinations do you need to travel to Guatemala?

For a short stay, vaccination against hepatitis A, tetanus and diphtheria is recommended. In the case of a long-term stay, vaccinations against hepatitis B, typhoid, and possibly also against rabies may be appropriate. We definitely recommend taking out health insurance abroad with repatriation.

Guatemala Country Information