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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. The country's human rights record has been universally condemned, and Guatemalan democracy is fragile. Despite all this, Guatemala remains a popular destination due to its fascinating culture (up to 60 ...

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. The country's human rights record has been universally condemned, and Guatemalan democracy is fragile. 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. Random violence against tourists has diminished since the Tourist Police was beefed up, but it still occurs. Visitors are advised to be informed and aware.

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