20 Interesting And Fun Facts About Guatemala [Explained]

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Guatemala is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Proud to be the largest country in Central America, it is known for its beautiful landscape and hospitality. Bordered by Mexico, El Salvador, Belize, and Honduras, many interesting facts about Guatemala make it an attractive destination.

Common Facts About Guatemala

Officially known as the “Republic of Guatemala”, this is one of many countries in the Americas with a Spanish heritage. It has a relatively high population, ranking 11th with an approximate population of 17.7 million.

Some of the most beautiful attractions in Guatemala include its rainforest, volcanoes, and ancient Mayan sites. It also has a rich culture that is deeply rooted in its history. Here are some facts about Guatemala that you should know.

Historical Facts On Guatemala

Guatemala Is Over 5000 Years

There have been suggestions that Guatemala is the oldest country on the continent, but that topic has been hotly debated.

Based on archaeological facts about Guatemala, the first evidence of human habitation in Guatemala dates as far as 12,000 BC. It is suggested that the area has been habituated for at least 6000 years before its discovery, around 18,000 BC.

With evidence of obsidian arrowheads, historians believe that the initial habitats were hunter-gatherers. There were also signs of agriculture in a certain region with pollen which indicated maize cultivation.

Independence In Guatemala

Although it has evidence of people inhabiting the area for over 5000 years, it is officially just over 200 years. Guatemala celebrates independence on the 15th of September every year.

Prior to that, Spain colonized it in the 1520s. Guatemala gained independence from Spain in 1821, with other countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Guatemala’s Past Conquerors

Guatemala is one of the few American countries not credited to Christopher Columbus. Instead, in 1523, it was invaded by Pedro de Alvarado, who became the country’s governor. He was in the company of his Tlaxcatecan warriors, now known as Mexico.

The warriors called the first capital “Quauhtemallan.” It was in the Nahuatl language but sounded like “Guatemala” to the Spanish.

Guatemala’s Civil War

One important historical fact about Guatemala is that it holds the record for the longest civil war in Latin American history. This brutal war lasted for 36 years, from 1960 to 1996. When the war was done, it had already claimed the lives of at least 200,000 civilians.

The war was between the Guatemalan government and several rebel groups, including the leftist and right-wing vigilante groups. The government was accused of committing genocide against the Maya population and violating civilian human rights.

The Home Of the Maya Civilization

Guatemala is regarded as the home of the Maya Civilization. It is considered one of the most advanced and attractive pre-Columbian civilizations.

Here’s a cool fact about Guatemala, it was home to some of the most brilliant minds on earth. The Mayans were credited as very creative and intelligent people. This was evident in their sophisticated pyramid-temple buildings and their exceptional astronomical knowledge.

They created different accurate numerical systems and calendars. They invented rubber and ballgame, which is regarded as the ancestor of soccer.

Useful Facts About Guatemala For Tourists

Lake Atitlan

One of the most exciting facts about Guatemala is that it houses the deepest Lake in Central America. Lake Atitlan has a depth of 340 meters.

This beautiful lake ranks as one of the world’s most beautiful lakes; whether this is true or not is up for debate. Lake Atitlan, though, serves as one of the best tourist attractions and famous landmarks in Guatemala.

The lake has not been short of praises, though, as Aldous Huxley and Alexander Von Humboldt referenced it as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

Guatemala A Diverse Country

Guatemala is one of the countries with a healthy diversity of amazing cultures. There are at least 20 ethnic groups in Guatemala, which makes it an interesting destination to experience different ethnic cultures.

That said, one of the most interesting Guatemala facts is that it is the birthplace of the Maya civilization.

Although Spanish is the official language in Guatemala and is spoken by at least 90% of the country’s population, there are at least 20 more languages in Guatemala.

That diversity is impressive, which is evident in their beautiful culture. There are 21 Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala.

Multiple Climates, One Guatemala

Generally, Guatemala is known as a country with a temperate climate, but that’s only part of the story. It has a unique geography compared to other countries of the world.

One important Guatemala fact to know is that different areas have varying climates. Beaches are scorching, mountains are misty, lowland jungles are damp, and so on. Some areas are colder, some regions are drier.

Guatemala is a perfect location to experience multiple climates. For your travels, ensure you pack for versatility to prepare for every possible condition.

Tajumulco Volcano

Another cool fact about Guatemala is that it has the highest point in Central America. The Tajumulco volcano stands at least 4200 meters above sea level.

Its peak is considered part of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, a mountain range extending from southern Mexico to Guatemala. Many suggest Tajumulco has two peaks, making other older volcanoes a foundation.

When visiting, you can assess this volcano via the city of San Marcos. The city is on the southeastern part of the volcano and is about 14 km from the site.

One Guatemala, Two Coastlines

Guatemala is well surrounded by many countries. It is bordered to the northwest by Belize, southeast by El Salvador, and to the east by Honduras. Mexico has the longest border with Guatemala as it covers the country to the north and west.

The country is centered between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific ocean. The Pacific coastline is about 250km, while the Atlantic coastline stretches about 150km.

As you would imagine, Guatemala has some amazing beaches, notably the Playa Blanca beach in Izabel. For beach lovers, this is probably the most exciting Guatemala fact. It is one of the few countries in the world with two coastlines.

Cultural Facts About Guatemala

Agriculture Is A Big Part Of The Culture

Agriculture is irreplaceable in Guatemala. It sounds like a cliche, but agriculture is a significant part of the culture in Guatemala. The major cash crops in Guatemala include coffee, bananas, sugar, cotton hemp, and cacao.

One important economic fact about Guatemala is that the agricultural sector generates about 25% of the country’s GDP. More interestingly, the agricultural sector employs about 50% of the country’s labor force.

Christmas In Guatemala

Christmas celebration is a prominent part of Puerto Rico culture and is well adopted in Guatemala. Like Puerto Rico, Guatemala has at least 80% Christians or Catholics.

Families in Guatemala spend Christmas eve together and enjoy the main Christmas meal. The traditional dish depends on the family, but some ever-present food includes tamales. These delicious food are made of different ingredients depending on the region can be corn, rice, or potatoes.

The family sticks together and waits for midnight. When the day turns, they light fireworks to celebrate the birth of Jesus and say a family prayer together around the Christmas tree.

La Quema del Diablo ”Burning The Devil”

Due to the diversity in Guatemala and the relatively high number of ethnic groups, there are many unique traditions in Guatemala.

Here’s an interesting fact about Guatemala, they believe so much in the supernatural. At 6 pm on the 7th of December, they carry out a ritual called La Quema del Diablo, where they burn an effigy of the devil.

The following day the 8th, is the feast of immaculate conception, a holy day for Catholics. Burning the devil before the holy day is a way of getting rid of bad things in preparation for the new year.

Pepian The National Dish

Many many argue that Guatemala doesn’t have a national dish, while some refer to pepian as the national dish. Pepian is a traditional Guatemalan food.

It’s one of the oldest and the most popular dishes in the country which is why many consider it a representative dish.

Most Guatemalan cuisines combine the Mayan and Spanish cultures, which produce exceptional delicacy, and the pepian is no different.

Chicken is the main ingredient, so some call it chicken pepian, although pork and beef can also be used. For either base ingredients, fruits and vegetables like pear, carrots, corn, squash, and potatoes are a staple. This rich mix of spices makes the pepian come alive and is usually served with rice and tortillas.

Dressing In Guatemala

One of the most colorful and interesting facts about Guatemala is that every village has its own unique pattern when it comes to clothes.

The Mayan people are known to be lovers of bright colors, and this reflects in their dresses both capes, blouses, and shirts are mostly bright colors.

With these unique patterns. people can easily be identified on a village basis. Poorer Guatemalans often wear traditional clothing, and Ladinos, though, prefer to dress in the western style.

Other Interesting Facts About Guatemala

Chocolate Originated In Guatemala

Guatemala is sometimes referred to as the origin of chocolate. Although there are some debats about it, it’s a fact that the Mayan culture, as far back as 600 A.D, has used chocolate.

It is claimed that the term “Chocolate” comes from the Mayan language with the root word “xocoatl,” which is translated as bitter water. Those times the basic ingredient for thick, cold, and unsweetened drinks was cocoa.

There was no sugar then, so different spices were used as an additive to add flavor. Some of the main spice include chili peppers which is now a staple ingredient in gourmet chocolate today.

Luis Von Ahn And Duolingo

Here’s an interesting although not entirely surprising Guatemala fact. The country houses some tech geniuses.

Considering some of them are descendants of the intelligent Mayan people, having tech geniuses is not entirely a surprise.

In 2007 Luis Von Ahn, an entrepreneur in Guatemala, founded reCAPTCHA, although he sold it to the Google company just two years later.

Two years later, in 2011, he launched another world-class app and website, Duolingo. A mobile app that helps you learn a new foreign language with ease. To date, Luis is still Duolingo’s CEO. He remains relevant in the tech and education fields.

Quetzal National Bird And Currency

Quetzal is not a common bird in many parts of the world; it is sacred to the Guatemalan people. It is no surprise that it is the National Bird.

Here’s a cool fact about Guatemala, their currency (Quetzal) is named after the national bird. In ancient Mayan times, in addition to cocoa, the quetzal feathers were used as a kind of currency to make transactions.

Volcanoes In Guatemala

Guatemala has over 30 volcanoes. The country is not only known for its extinct volcanoes but also the active ones.

Here’s a Guatemala fact you probably didn’t know. It belongs to a rare group of countries that has at least two active volcanoes. 3 of the volcanoes in Guatemala are active.

The Capital: Guatemala City

Guatemala city is the capital of Guatemala and is central to the country’s economy. Although it is known for its high altitude, ancient Mayan ruins, and its proximity to volcanoes, it is integral to the country’s economy.

The country’s labor force is divided into three by percentage (%). Agriculture employs 50%, tourism employs 35%, while industrial and commercial centers in the capital city employ the remaining 15% of the country’s labor force.  

Discovering More Fun Facts About Guatemala

Guatemala is a fascinating country with an interesting culture and history. From its unique clothing patterns to the chocolate that originated in Mayan times, there are many facts about Guatemala waiting to be discovered by travelers.

From the presence of volcanoes to the iconic national bird Quetzal, this Central American country is worth visiting for those who want to learn more about the region. With so much beauty and diversity on offer, you can’t go wrong when choosing Guatemala as your next destination!


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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.

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