46 Interesting Facts About Guatemala

Guatemala is a country in Central America well-known for its awe-inspiring treasures. Let’s explore more about this beautiful country with these facts about its history, culture, food, volcanoes, geography, economy, trade and more.

46 Interesting facts about Guatemala

1. Guatemala became independent in 1821.

2. The national anthem of Guatemala was not written by a Guatemalan, but by a Cuban – José Joaquín Palma.

3. The Quetzal is the national bird, and White Nun Orchid (Monja Blanca) is the national flower of Guatemala.

Quetzal in Guatemalan Jungle
The national bird of Guatemala – Quetzal. Image credit – Sven Breitkopf

4. There are 21 Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala.

5. The currency of Guatemala—Guatemalan Quetzal—is named after the beautiful Quetzal bird. In ancient Mayan times, the feathers of this bird were used as currency.

6. One interesting fact about Guatemala is that Blue denim comes from the country!

7. The instant coffee process was invented in Guatemala by George Washington, an inventor and businessman of Anglo-Belgian origin.

8. Do you like chocolate bars? The first ever chocolate bar was also invented in Guatemala during the Mayan times.

9. Chocolate residue dating back to 460-480 AD was found in a vessel in Guatemala.

10. The country has the second-largest concentration of Ozone.

11. Guatemala was conquered by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1524.

12. The longest civil war in the history of Latin America, which was fought between military governments, right-wing vigilante groups and leftist rebels lasted a good 36 years.

13. By the end of the civil war, 200,000 citizens were dead.

14. Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, which is also the largest and capital city of Guatemala, is known as Guatemala City.

15. Guatemala is known for its steep volcanoes, vast rainforests and ancient Mayan sites.

16. Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales (October 19, 1899 – June 9, 1974) was a Nobel Prize-winning Guatemalan poet-diplomat, novelist, playwright and journalist.

17. Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America. The country saw 6,000 violent deaths in 2014. For a detailed report on crime in the country, as well as some safety tips, read this page.

Geographical facts about Guatemala

Map of Guatemala

18. Motagua River is the longest river in Guatemala. It measures approximately 250 miles. The river is a major transportation artery for coffee, bananas and other fruits that are raised in the valleys of the country’s eastern region.

19. Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America, with a maximum depth of about 340 meters. It is also regarded as the most beautiful lake in the world, serving as the country’s most important national and international tourist attraction.

A Beautiful view of Lake Atitlán
Interesting facts about Guatemala: A Beautiful view of Lake Atitlán. Image credit – Christopher William Adach

The beauty of the lake was praised by two prominent people in history: one being the German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, and the other being Aldous Huxley.

20. Tajumulco Volcano, the highest point in the country and Central America, is 4220 m above sea level.

Volcanoes in Guatemala

21. There are more than 30 volcanoes in Guatemala, out of which three are active.

22. Suchitan, Ixtepeque, Acatenango, Atitlan, Moyuta, Agua, Cerro Santiago, Tajumulco, Chingo, Quezaltepeque, Chiquimula, Cuilapa-Barbarena, Flores, Fuego, Ipala Volc Field, Santa Maria, Almolonga, Santo Tomas, Tahual, Pacaya, Tecuamburro and Toliman are the names of some of the volcanoes from the region.

23. Some of the active volcanoes in Guatemala include – Fuego, Pacaya and Santiaguito.

Flag of Guatemala
Flag of Guatemala. Image credit – Steve Conover

Facts about trade, tourism and economy

24. The export of coffee is the country’s biggest business. Almost 50% of Guatemalans are employed in agricultural activities.

25. Tourism is the second-largest industry in the country, employing approximately 35% of its population.

26. Guatemala City is the industrial and commercial center of the country, employing the remaining 15% of the population.

27. The unequal distribution of land and wealth in the country is the biggest reason for uneven development in the region.

28. The country is also the world’s leading producer of Jade.

A Piece of Green jade from Guatemala
A Piece of Green jade from Guatemala. Image credit – James St. John

29. Fourteen percent (14%) of Guatemalans live on less than $1.25 US a day.

30. Guatemala is the poorest country in Latin America.

31. There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Guatemala. These sites include Antigua Guatemala, Tikal national Park, Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua.

32. Tikal National Park is the world’s first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

33. More than 1.2 million people visit Guatemala every year.

34. If you are interested in seeing lava flow, you may want to visit the Pacaya volcano. Visitors flock to this site to take glimpses of the red-hot lava.

Guatemalan Cultural facts

35. It is a Guatemalan tradition to fire guns into the sky during the Christmas celebration. Sadly, every year between five and ten people die from falling bullets after the act. Seriously, this tradition is taking a toll.

36. Some famous people who were born in Guatemala include – Oscar Isaac (movie actor), Ricardo Arjona (World music singer), Marco Pappa (Soccer player), Rigoberta Menchu (Novelist), Soluna Somay (Rock singer), Cash Luna (Religious leader) and Hector-Neri Castaneda (Philosopher).

37. Guatemalans celebrate “Dia de los Muertos,” or the Day of the Dead, every November 1st. On this day, Guatemalans visit the local cemetery and fly kites in memory of their loved ones. People also paint the gravestones of their relatives with bright colors.

Some amazing facts about Guatemala

38. On May 30, 2010, an enormous hole, 60 feet wide and 30 stories deep, opened up in the middle of Guatemala City, swallowing a three-story building and a home. It also caused the death of a man. The reason for the formation of the sinkhole is thought to be the weak material the city is built on – volcano pumice.

Interesting facts about guatemala: A 60 feet wide and 30 stories deep sinkhole Guatemala
60 feet wide and 30 stories deep sinkhole in Guatemala. Image credit – Infrastructurist.com

39. There are two baths that are built directly over a volcanic vent. You could have a totally natural bath from the rising steam from the bowels of the earth. Are you ready? Note the location – they are in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

40. Maximón, a folk saint venerated in various forms by Maya people of several towns in the highlands of Western Guatemala, is worshiped with careful attention by the locals.

Interesting facts about Guatemala: A statue of Maximón. Image credit – John

Legend has it that when men left the village to work in the field, Maximón crept into town and slept with their wives.

Guatemalan food facts

41. Food in the region is a result of the Mayan and Spanish influence on the people.

42. Guatemalans consume a lot of corn, beans and rice, which are served alongside meat and fish.

43. For breakfast, Guatemalans use eggs, spicy salsas and warm tortillas that are usually served with local cheeses.

44. Fruits also form a significant portion of the diets of Guatemalans. They eat fruits like papayas, mangoes, bananas, pineapples and carambola.

45. Guatemalans eat a meat-heavy diet. Pork and beef is very popular. In some rural regions, chicken is served with the feet still attached.

46. Guatemalans are fond of a spicy stew called ‘topado,’ which is made by combining fish, coconut, banana and cilantro.

Fast facts about Guatemala

Independence15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National anthem"Himno Nacional de Guatemala" (National Anthem of Guatemala)
note: adopted 1897, modified lyrics adopted 1934; Cuban poet Jose Joaquin PALMA anonymously submitted lyrics to a public contest calling for a national anthem; his authorship was not discovered until 1911
National Anthem tune
National symbol(s)quetzal (bird); national colors: blue, white
Capital CityGuatemala City
14°38′N 90°30′W
Largest CityGuatemala City
14°38′N 90°30′W
Total area108,889 sq km
Government typepresidential republic
Population15,189,958 (2016)
Official LanguageSpanish
BordersBelize, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico
CurrencyQuetzal (GTQ)
ReligionRoman catholics
Life expectancy72.29 years (2016)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
Time ZoneCST (UTC−6)
GDP - per capita (PPP):$7,700 (2015 est.)
Terrainmostly mountains with narrow coastal plains and rolling limestone plateau
Natural resourcespetroleum, nickel, rare woods, fish, chicle, hydropower
Agricultural land41.2%
Birth rate24.89 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Death rate4.77 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Sex ratio0.97 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
Internet country code.gt
Internet users4.043 million
percent of population: 27.1% (July 2015 est.)
Calling Code+502
Drives on theRight