Guatemala

DSCF0086DSCF0255Guatemala City Palace Square

 

How one country can pack so much cultural and geographic diversity into an area the size of Tennessee (and less than half the size of the UK) kind of boggles the mind, and yet Guatemala does it seamlessly. It’s home to everything from ancient Maya temples and Spanish colonial cities to cloud-shrouded highland villages and vibrant Caribbean towns. There are steaming volcanoes, lazy rivers, remote cloud forests, and vast swaths of untamed jungle. What truly make this country unique, though, are the modern-day Mayas whose intriguing culture, centuries-old traditions, and myriad languages (there are 21 in total) continue to thrive today.

Guatemala is bordered by Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. It has a small snippet of Caribbean coastline (here, you’ll find the laidback Garífuna town of Lívingston) and a flat, 250-kilometer-long (155-mile) Pacific stretch that’s notable mostly for its fantastic deep sea fishing and nesting sea turtles.

A bit further inland, a vast volcanic mountain chain juts up dramatically to form the Guatemalan highlands and the heart of today’s Maya culture. Here, you’ll find Lake Atitlán, with its trio of rugged volcanoes and handful of indigenous towns, as well as the colorful, sprawling market of Chichicastenango. Head east from Atitlán, and you’ll arrive in Antigua—Guatemala’s take on colonial city quaint—as well as the country’s bustling capital, Guatemala City.

The country’s northern half is dominated by the sparsely populated department of El Petén. An isolated region that teems with wildlife (and has a surprising number of great lodging and eating options, too), El Petén is home to Guatemala’s best-known Maya archaeological site, Tikal, as well as myriad other impressive, off-the-beaten-path ruins.

Although five days is enough time to see some of Guatemala’s more popular destinations, eight to ten days will give you a better shot at really getting to know this diverse, beautiful country.

BEST TIMES TO TRAVEL – GUATEMALA

• Rainy season: From May to October there is a rainy season. June is the month with the higher average pluvial precipitation peaks. July and August typically offer a week of dry weather “Indian summer”, which are ideal moments for traveling because the rain stops but the bird biology and behavior remains in the winter moment.

• Dry-cold season: From November to February the weather is dry but can be cold, especially in the early morning and evening. These months have the lower peaks of temperature in January, and low average ranges in pluvial precipitation.

• Dry-warm season: From March to April the weather is hot and dry. The higher temperature peaks are in April and also the lower precipitation averages.

GUATEMALA RAINFOREST – PETEN REGION

• Dry Season: March / April / May • Least Mosquitoes – The Colder / Fresher months are November to Feb when there are least mosquitoes • Most Mosquitoes: August & Sept are the WORST months for humidity and mosquitoes • Hottest Months: May & June are the hottest months • Hazy Months: April / May can be the worst months for forest fires and create hazy days.

EL MIRADOR ARCHAEOLOGY SITE

Best time would be in June, July, and August because we can get into excavations and tunnels that might be closed otherwise with the archaeologists. Oct Nov Jan Feb are great for the weather and archaeologist’s availability. March and April are very hot and chiggers and ticks are bad during those months.

GUATEMALA COFFEE SEASON

Guatemalan coffee season – picking and processing – is from November to April

BIDWATCHING

The best bird watching months are November and March for both indigenous and migratory Birds and also June / July which is mating season

• October to April – Neotropical migratory season: A Neotropical migratory bird breeds in Canada and the United States during the northern summer and spends the northern winter in Mexico, Central America, South America or the Caribbean islands. Basically the migratory season goes from October to April. The climate is dry, fresh, and ideal for traveling, the biodiversity of birds is at a peak and the activity of birds searching for food is an amazing spectacle. Possibly the best months for visiting the country are November (when all the migrant birds are already in the country) and March (when most of the migrant birds are moving from the neotropical region to the north). There are about 200 species of Neotropical migratory birds. The majority are songbirds (such as warblers, thrushes, tanagers, and vireos), but there are also many shorebirds (such as sandpipers, plovers, and terns), some raptors (such as hawks, kites and vultures), and a few types of waterfowl (such as teal).

• June & July – Local breeding season: During the months of June and July the climate is wet and cold in most of the highlands. The migrant birds are gone, but the local resident birds are starting to breed so most of the birds can be seen in couples. Their nest, eggs and reproductive behavior are accessible and it is the best moment for emotive pictures.