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Tikal, Guatemala. Author Pedro Szekely. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution
Tikal, Guatemala. Author Pedro Szekely

Guatemala: ancient Mayan cities, volcanoes and colonial towns

Guatemala (República de Guatemala) is a presidential republic located in Central America, the country is washed to the south-west by Pacific Ocean, and to the east by the Caribbean Sea, bordered to the north and west by Mexico, to the north-east by Belize, to the east by Honduras, to the south-east by El Salvador.

The Guatemala territory is formed in large part by mountains, which for the most part are volcanic, about 60% of the territory is mountainous. Two mountain ranges across the country from west to east, the two chains are separated from the Motagua River Valley, the Southern chain is the Sierra Madre, the continuation of the Mexican one, here are imposing volcanic cones, all of 37 volcanoes in Guatemala belong to this chain.

Among them the Tacaná (4,093 m), Santa María (3,772 m), Atitlán (3,537 m), Fuego (3,763 m), Agua (3,766 m), Pacaya (2,552 m), there is also the volcano Tajumulco, with 4,220 meters high, it’s the highest mountain of Guatemala and Central America.

Guatemala Map

Guatemala Map

The Northern chain is formed from the massif of the Cuchumatanes Altos (3,993 m), Sierra de Chuacús (2,651 m) and Sierra de las Minas (3,140 m). To the north of the mountain is the limestone plateau of Petén, a flat region rich in forests, continuation of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. The waterways of Guatemala are generally short, particularly those flowing into the Pacific Ocean, the largest river in the country is the Motagua (approximately 400 km long), which flows into the Gulf of Honduras in the Caribbean Sea, another important river is the Usumacinta, which marks the border with Mexico; between the lakes, the largest is Lake Izabal (590 sq km).

Agriculture is the most important economic sector of Guatemala, are produced coffee, bananas, sugar cane, corn, rice, beans and wheat. Important also are wood and breeding pigs, sheep and cattle. A certain importance is also covered by the mining sector are extract salt, zinc, lead, antimony, nickel, tungsten and oil. The most developed industries are those related to the processing of agricultural products such as sugar mills, breweries and for the processing of coffee. Remarkable also the tourism, thanks to sites such as Tikal, Lake Atitlan, Antigua Guatemala.

  • Area: 108,889 sqkm. (Arable 17,5%, Pastures 23,9%, Forests and Woodlands 53,4%, Uncultivated and Unproductive 5,2%)
  • Population: 13,018,000 (2007 data) (Amerindian 55%, Mestizos (descendants of European and Amerindian) 30%, European15%).
  • State Capital: Guatemala City.
  • Language: Official language is Spanish. Indios speak Amerindian languages (23 Amerindian languages are recognized as National Languages, among them: Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca).
  • Religion: Roman Catholic 70%; Protestant 30%.
  • Currency: Quetzal (GTQ)
  • Time: UTC -6 hours.

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