18 Fun Facts About Guatemala’s Culture and Geography

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Guatemala is quite popular for its deep-rooted history and is the largest country in Central America.

The country boasts exotic landscapes and great hospitality. I’ve crafted a list of fun facts about Guatemala to highlight its unique culture and geography.

1. Guatemala Has Three UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Guatemala has three UNESCO World Heritage sites that attract tourists and adds pride to the country. They are:

  • Maya archaeological site in Quirigua
  • Tikal National Park in Northern Guatemala
  • Antigua Guatemala

2. Agriculture Helps the Country with a Quarter of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Agriculture is one of the most important industries in Guatemala that contributes to the country’s GDP. The main products they export are sugar, bananas and coffee. 

3. Chocolate Links All the Way Back to Guatemala

It is said that chocolate is originally from Guatemala, as the Mayan civilization used it in the early 6th century A.D.

In the early days, cocoa was used as a cold, thick, and unsweetened drink. As there was no sugar, people used different spices to add flavors to their coffee, which is commonly used for gourmet chocolate production today. 

4. The Natural Beauty of Lake Atitlan is Mesmerizing

Visiting Lake Atitlan will leave you awestruck. The natural beauty of this lake is unmatched, and it is the deepest lake in all of Central America.

Lake atitlan with jetty

The lake has around three spectacular volcanoes with colorful Mayan villages and towns. 

5. Guatemala was Home to the Maya Civilization

The Maya civilization was considered the most sophisticated and advanced civilization of the pre-Columbian era. They built many pyramid temples during their livelihood and were deep into astronomy. 

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Maya civilization invented rubber, developed calendars, used an accurate numerical system, and created a ballgame. Mayans occupied several parts of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. 

6. Volcanoes Have Become Tourist Attractions

Guatemala is one of the few countries that is quite popular for its volcanoes. There are around 37 volcanoes in the country, with 3 currently active. Most of these volcanoes have become tourist attractions. 

The tallest volcano in the country is Tajumulco, which is 13,789 ft. You will find it in San Marcos, and it is the tallest volcano in Central America. 

7. Guatemalans Speak 25 Languages

Guatemala has Spanish as its official language, but people in the country speak a total of 25 languages. Beyond Garifuna, Xinka, and Spanish, 22 other languages originate from the Mayan civilization. 

8. Guatemala Has Many Climates

Guatemala hosts a temperate climate and is known as the “land of eternal spring”. The geography of Guatemala has cold regions, drier areas, damp jungles, hot beaches, and misty mountains.

If you are traveling to Guatemala, pack both summer and winter clothes to deal with the various climates.

9. The National Bird of Guatemala is One Colorful Creature

Quetzal, the colorful creature, is the national bird of Guatemala and are sacred to the ancient Aztecs and Mayas.

a Quetzal flying

They are mostly golden green or iridescent green in color and have long tails and red bellies. They are typically found flying around from Southern Mexico to Bolivia

10. Guatemala Shares Border with Four Countries

Guatemala shares its border with Honduras to the east, Belize to the Northeast, Mexico to the North & West, and El Salvador to the Southeast parts of the country. The Mexico border is the longest in all of this country. 

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11. Guatemala Consists of Two Coastlines 

Guatemala has two coastlines, one in the Pacific Ocean and the other in the Atlantic Ocean. The Pacific Ocean coastline is longer than the other, stretching around 250km from the west of the Mexican border. 

12. Blue Denim is Way Popular in Guatemala

Maya women are into textile production and add craft to it. Keeping that passion intact, these women have made Guatemala the leader of blue denim production. Textile weaving is still popular in twins such as San Antonio, Calientes, Aguas, and others. 

13. Guatemalans Fly Kites as Rituals to Honor the Dead

The “All Saints Day Kite Festival ” is the ritual followed by the people of Guatemala to honor the dead. Held annually on the 1st of November, Guatemalans participate in this ritual, which is said to be running for more than 3000 years. 

Many people and kites at the All Saints Day Kite Festival

People go down to the cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones, and then they fly massive kites in the sky. It is a sight that marks a load of sentiments and is also a tourist attraction. 

14. Longest and Most Functional River in Guatemala is the Motagua River

Motagua river stretches around 250 miles and is used mostly as a major transportation medium for local products. People harvest the local products in the eastern region valleys while commuting through this river. It is to grow quality food for the country. 

15. Guatemala Can Give You the Best Hot Water Bath

There are two volcanic vent baths in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Many locals and tourists alike enjoy baths while the hot steam from the volcanic vent provide that feeling of rejuvenation. 

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16. 35% of the Country’s Population Work in the Tourism Sector

After agriculture, tourism is the industry that provides huge employment opportunities to the people of Guatemala. More than 35% of the country’s population works in the tourism sector, with the other 50% working within agricultural businesses.

17. Traditional Farewells and Greetings among Adults in the Country is Through Physical Touch

In Guatemala, you greet or bid farewell to people by patting their arms or shoulder, shaking hands, embracing them, or kissing their cheeks. Mayan adults also prefer to greet verbally by asking their guests about their family and health. 

18. Guatemalan Frowns Upon Speaking Loudly While in Public

Guatemalans find it rude and treat it as disrespect when someone speaks loudly to them or others in public. Apart from that, it is also taboo for Guatemalans if you put their thumb between the index and middle finger to make a fist. They also find it rude and unacceptable to portray anger.

Joshua Smith

Joshua has visited 10 countries and has another 110 to go! He plans to sail around the world over 5 years, and then spend the next 5 years driving around the world in a 4×4. He prefers to explore the more remote places without the tourists, and yet, doesn’t mind the ritzy feel of business class at 10,000 feet either.

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