Guatemala at a Glance
Moving to Guatemala
The country is divided into 22 departments which are subdivided into 335 municipalities. There are over 2 million people (2012 estimate) living in the capital, Guatemala City, which is located towards the south of the central Highland region.
The Land and Its People
Guatemala is a predominantly mountainous country, split into three distinct regions: the northernmost Peten region, the Highlands, and the Pacific coast. Most of the major cities are situated in the Highlands, all at altitudes of 1,500 m or more above sea level. The highest point in Central America is also here: the Tajumulco Volcano.
The country has fascinating and diverse flora and fauna, with 14 different eco-regions ranging from mangroves to desert, and five ecosystems. There are 252 listed wetlands, including lakes, lagoons, rivers and swamps, which are teeming with wildlife, some of which is endangered.
The population of Guatemala is approximately 15 million and the median age is 21, making it one of the youngest populations in Central America. The population is growing faster than other Latin American countries, possibly due to a lack of information about contraception. Health and development problems, such as malnutrition, illiteracy, and infant mortality, are rife and disproportionately affect the indigenous people.
Roughly 60% of the population is of Mestizo or European descent with the remaining 40% being made up of indigenous people. This ratio is about the same for the languages spoken: 60% Spanish and 40% Amerindian, of which there are 23 officially recognized versions. The predominant religions are Roman Catholic and Protestant, as well as native indigenous belief systems.
The Climate in Guatemala
The seasons in Guatemala are effectively the dry season and the wet. The dry season runs from November to April and the wet season from May to October. Expatriates moving to Guatemala can look forward to temperatures which are fairly constant all year round in each region. They vary based on altitude, rather than time of year.
The three regions experience different climates. The coastal plains and lowlands, stretching approximately 1 km inland from both Pacific and Caribbean shores, have a tropical climate with high temperatures and humidity. The highly populated central region has a temperate climate with average temperatures of 18°C and the less populated mountains naturally have a cool climate.
Getting to Guatemala
Most international flights land at Aeropuerto La Aurora in Guatemala City, but some flights from neighboring Central American countries come in to Flores. The Guatemalan national carrier is called Aviateca, which is part of the larger TACA group. The flight time from New York is just over five hours, and from Madrid it is 11 and a half hours.
There are entry points into Guatemala by road from all of its Central American neighbors, including Ciudad Hidalgo and Talisman for Mexico, El Florido for Honduras, San Cristobal for El Salvador and Melchor de Mencos for Belize.