GUATEMALA - MAIN

Overview

Guatemala is located in Central America and shares borders to the north and west with Mexico, to the southeast with El Salvador and Honduras, to the northeast with Belize and the Caribbean Sea and to the south with the Pacific Ocean. The landscape is predominantly mountainous and heavily forested. A string of volcanoes rises above the southern highlands along the Pacific, three of which are still active. Within this volcanic area are basins of varying sizes which hold the majority of the country's population. The region is drained by rivers flowing into both the Pacific and the Caribbean. One basin west of the capital has no river outlet and thus has formed Lake Atitlan, which is ringed by volcanoes. To the northwest, bordering on Belize and Mexico, lies the low undulating tableland of El Peten, 14,000 square miles of almost inaccessible wilderness covered with dense hardwood forest. This area covers approximately one-third of the national territory, yet contains only 40,000 people.

Antiquity is at the heart of Guatemala: the country incorporates many spectacular Mayan archaeological sites, and the pine forested hills of the highlands are home to Mayan communities that still wear traditional weavings. Guatemala has around 21 different ethnic groups, speaking some 23 languages, of which Spanish is by far the most prevalent.

Indigenous culture still persists almost everywhere in the country: If you thought the Mayans vanished centuries ago you, may be surprised to bump into a few on your travels - as they constitute almost half the population.

The stunning Mayan monuments that dot the jungle landscape are some of the best preserved Mayan Ruins in Central America, the largest and best known of which is Tikal. Guatemala's cities have been subject to cataclysm. Three attempts to establish a capital, before Guatemala City was founded in 1775, were thwarted by battles with indigenous warriors and repeated earthquakes.

Guatemala City today, is faced with many of the same problems that exist in many of the larger urban centers in central and South America. There is considerable poverty and the city is not safe to venture out in at night. The city is used only as a jumping off point in order to get out to the Pacific coast.

Despite Guatemala's often difficult history, visitors are greeted by a warm open friendliness that is quite astonishing. For those looking to target sailfish on their trip, this is the country. The Guatemalan Pacific Coast sail fishing is, by far, the best in the world.


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