10 things you ought to know about Guatemala

Since 1996, when the country’s brutal 36-year civil war finally ended, Guatemala has evolved into one of the region’s most tourist-friendly countries. Make sure you know your Maya from your Molina before taking your trip to one of the world’s most rewarding destinations. Here are 10 things you ought to know about Guatemala:

1. Since the civil war ended Guatemala has enjoyed successive democratic elections. Representing the Patriotic Party, Otto Pérez Molina has been the President since January of this year.

2. Along with Honduras, Belize, Mexico’s south and parts of El Salvador, Guatemala was the home of the Mayan civilization.

3. The ancient Mayan city of Chichicastenango retains a 95 percent indigenous population – pick souvenir textiles, wooden masks and necklaces at one of the busy Thursday or Sunday markets.

4. The Maya are arguably most famous for their stepped pyramids, but those interested in the culture shouldn’t overlook important cave sites such as Jolja Cave.

5. In the process a well planned and sensitive renovation program, Tikal boasts five stunning Mayan temple pyramids.

6. The predominant language for Guatemala’s 15 million inhabitants is Spanish, while more than 20 indigenous languages are still spoken throughout the country.

7. Conquered by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alavardo in 1524 and ruled by dictators Manuel Estrada Cabrera and General Jorge Ubico between 1898 and 1944, Guatemala has experienced a tumultuous history.

8. The quetzal is Guatemala’s currency. One quetzal is comprised of 100 centavos. $10 = Q78 (April 2012).

9. Comfortable travel including food, drink, accommodation and activities can be done for around $60 a day, while budget travelers can live for as little as $15.

10. A number of vaccines are recommended for travelers to Guatemala. The only required vaccine is for yellow fever if you’re travelling from a yellow fever-infected country. Consult with your doctor several weeks before your departure.

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

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