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Guatemala, perhaps Central America's most beautiful and enticing country, is also its most complex and conflicted. Thirty-six years of civil war ended in 1996 with a set of peace accords, but only after 200,000 had been killed (and unknown numbers "disappeared") and over a million displaced — the overwhelming majority of them Maya. Psychological trauma and unfulfilled conditions of the Peace Accords are enduring legacies of the war years.

Despite all this, Guatemala remains a popular destination due to its fascinating culture (up to 60 percent of the country self-identifies as indigenous, and rituals, festivals, and sacred ...

Guatemala, perhaps Central America's most beautiful and enticing country, is also its most complex and conflicted. Thirty-six years of civil war ended in 1996 with a set of peace accords, but only after 200,000 had been killed (and unknown numbers "disappeared") and over a million displaced — the overwhelming majority of them Maya. Psychological trauma and unfulfilled conditions of the Peace Accords are enduring legacies of the war years.

Despite all this, Guatemala remains a popular destination due to its fascinating culture (up to 60 percent of the country self-identifies as indigenous, and rituals, festivals, and sacred monuments are highlights); unparalleled archaeological complexes including Tikal and El Mirador, both in the jungle; more than two dozen volcanoes; and a well-established Spanish-as-foreign-language industry centered in Antigua, Quetzaltenango and Lake Atitlán.

Conner Gorry
About the Expert

Conner Gorry is a contributor to more than a dozen Lonely Planet guidebooks and is the lead writer for Lonely Planet's Yucatan, Belize, and Guatemala guides.

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Conner Gorry for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Central America; bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico
  • Language: Spanish (60%), Amerindian languages (40%)
  • Currency: Guatemalan Quetzal; US Dollar
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall