Guatemala is a diverse country and visitors will find a little bit of everything and everything is beautiful. If you are traveling to Guatemala you need to know some facts. First of all, is not as dangerous as you hear in the news. News is made to talk about bad things happening and omit the good and positive. Like the proverb says: no news is good news. Obviously you have to take precautions when traveling in Guatemala and to any country you are not familiar with. Daily live is different especially in large cities and there are things you should avoid in order to not have problems or being the victim of a crime.
An excellent option is not to adventure on your own. Guatemala is not an expensive country and you can enjoy a safe budget vacation, but it doesn’t hurt to spend a little extra on safety. The public transportation system is out of date and complicated and if you do not know the roads it is not safe to drive a rental car either. A GPS helps but it could take you on a wrong path since it is not like using it in in Europe or the US. Some of the information is not up to date or fully correct or might take you on a dangerous road. An expert driver with a private vehicle will know which roads not to take for safety or because they are not in good condition.
Having a specialist taking you from one destination to the other is the best idea and absolutely safe. Someone who knows the country will give you a worry free vacation and you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest.
Among other precautions you can take is not to travel at night, not leaving the hotel with all the cash, keeping just a copy of your passport on you during the day, avoiding lonely streets and partying until too late at night and into the early morning. Most of the hotels have room safes or the reception will gladly store your valuables.
Guatemala is a small jewel almost everywhere you go. The small towns are very charming and you will meet friendly people throughout Guatemala. You can decide if whether you want to travel just to the main destinations like Antigua, Tikal, Lake Atitlan or be adventurous and visit off the beaten path locations. Whatever you decide follow safety precautions and consult with an expert where it is safe to go.
Celebration of All Saints’ Day, elaboration of giant kites and other traditions in Guatemala
On November 1 Guatemala celebrates the day of all the Saints. On this day several specialty dishes and sweets are made, among other “Fiambre”. It contains several types of vegetables, meats, sausages, chicken, cheeses and spices. The All Saints’ tradition is rooted in Guatemalan for a long time.
People also visit the graves of their loved ones. Some of them start prepping the tombs days before the All Saints’ Day to make sure they look pretty. On November 1st they gather at the cemeteries to bring flowers and offerings to their deceased relatives. This is the way they pay tribute to people who are no longer with them. Most people also take food to eat at the cemetery with their loved ones.
Another special tradition is the elaboration of giant kites. There are only two places where visitors can admire the giant kites: Santiago Sacatepeques and Sumpango. Young people and adults form groups of 10 to 20 people to elaborate the kites during the nights. It takes them between 4 to 6 months to build one giant kite and most of the kites are finished in the cemetery where later they are elevated to the air in memory of all the loved ones that already passed away. In Santiago you will find the biggest kites, they can measure up to 25 meters.
The tradition of elaborating and raising kites attracts local and foreign tourists because of the imposing appearance of these colorful giants that adorn the sky, culminating with the colorful celebrations in the local cemeteries.
Another tradition takes place in Todos Santos Cuchumatanes next to Huehuetenango. The Ribbon Race is a horse race where the riders dress in ceremonial costumes. Before the race the brotherhood asks the saints and mother earth for their permission to race and offer them the blood of a rooster. In occasions the blood of the rooster mixes up with the horseman’s blood when they fall of the horses. Been a horseman is sing of bravery. The horsemen have to ride drunk and if one dies it is another celebration because it is a sign of abundance and good health for the people of the village.
Due to the geographical position of Guatemala, the climate does not change much during the year and the seasons are not like in most other countries. Guatemala is known as the country of the eternal spring. The country is always green and lush.
There are only two seasons in Guatemala, the dry and the rainy season. The dry season is the best time to visit and it lasts from November to May. The rainy season is between June and October with more rain falling in September and October. During the rainy season there are days without rain but sometimes it can rain two or three days in a row.
During the Dry season the best time is from mid-November to February. The climate is less humid and fresh during these classic winter month on the Northern hemisphere. In November and December nights can get chilly and the temperature can drop to 5 degrees Celsius in the highlands. The dry season also includes the most beautiful sky formations, with and without clouds. The sun is bright and the light intense during the day.
The climate is different in almost every destination you will visit. You can experience the freshness of the city and be in the heat of the beach in just two hours. The highlands are colder and if you drive 2 to 3 hours you can be in the lowlands with higher temperatures. Guatemala has a climate zone for every taste.
Guatemala, Cradle of Maya Civilization, has an archeological wealth with monumental sites all over the country, which date back more than 3,500 years.
Let’s start with the periods of the Mayan Civilization. The experts in Archeology have learned that the Mayan Civilization is divided for its study in general chronological periods that vary according to the site:
Early Preclassic, Middle Preclassic, Late Preclasic, Protoclassic, Early Classic, Late Classic, Epiclassic or Terminal Preclássic (not all the experts agree on the name), Early Postclassic and Late Postclassic.
In Guatemala, the Mayans built one of the most refined civilizations of the world and history. Between the most important Mayan cities we can find The National Park El Mirador – Rio Azul (Blue River) and Tikal National Park, this last one was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in in 1979. Read more…
We are in that time of the year, when the time passes faster. Guatemala is full with the Christmas spirit starting in November, not only the stores and malls are already all decorated for the season; people are more relaxed and joyful.
Guatemalans are very religious people, that is why all the religious celebrations are traditional in Guatemala and December is one of the most important months for celebrations. The starting point of the festivities in December and the Christmas season is “La Quema del Diablo” or the devil’s burning.
The devil’s burning has its base in the Immaculate Conception of Mary feast day, celebrated on December 8th. The devil’s burning starts at 6:00pm on December 7th, and is a magical/religious Guatemalan celebration; it coincides with the 9 months memorial of Mary and the Advent of Jesus. This ritual is symbol of spiritual clean up. At 6:00pm people set fire to all the trash that symbolizes all the bad fillings and impurity in their life. Read more…