Guatemala is a fascinating and captivating place and the main danger of coming here is that you might not want to leave! It is a country that has a rich Mayan history and culture, mountains and volcanoes, lakes, colourful markets, beaches and steaming jungles, and vibrant towns and cities. There is so much to see that you may not have time to see it all on your first visit, or end up staying longer than you originally planned.
It’s a country that for anyone with a sense of adventure, and a basic level of Spanish, is relatively easy to travel around. Whether your interest is study of language or culture, outdoor activities, archaeological sites, jungle trekking, local festivals or relaxing in a beach or lakeside hammock, you will find something for you in Guatemala. And we are here to assist you with your travel plans.
A note on safety. When planning a trip here, we are sure that you have heard 'You can't go there, it's too dangerous, there is too much crime' . Although you need to take all the normal precautions here that you would take when traveling in any developing country, the situation nowhere near as bad as you may have read about. And Quetzaltenango is a very different city from the capital city. There are only 200,000 inhabitants and most visitors will be based in the busy center of town. Unless you are planning to hang around the very poorest areas of the capital (which we do not recommend), you will not come into contact with the gang crime that is so luridly reported in the foreign media.
This is a priority for us. We advise our students to take normal safety precautions, such as not walking in the city at night, and taking care of valuables in crowded areas or buses, etc. We advise that any hike you undertake independently of the school (either while a student or after you leave) is in a group, and is accompanied by an experienced guide. We can provide students with details of tour operators and qualified and registered independent guides. We provide all students telephone numbers of the local tourist assistance police, reliable taxi drivers and the contact details of the coordinators and directors of the school in case of any emergency situation.
- The republic of Guatemala has a land mass of 108,890 square km.
- Guatemala has over 30 volcanoes, and four of them are active (including Santiaguito, near to Xela which you can trek to and see an eruption of ash every hour)
- Guatemala’s population is estimated at a little over 15 million.
- The population comprises mainly of indigenous Maya and Ladinos (of mixed Mayan and European ancestry), with a small community of Garifuna on the Caribbean coast, and non Maya Xinca.
- Apart from Spanish (which is the official language of the country), 23 other languages are spoken in Guatemala.
- Guatemala is home to Central America’s highest mountain, Volcan Tajulmulco (4,220m)
- The national bird is the Quetzal, after which the currency is named.