Guatemala boasts some of the most diverse landscapes on earth. These include volcanoes, tropical beaches, and lush rainforests. These are peppered with ancient Mayan villages and relics from bygone days. Add to this the colorful culture and traditions of the local people. The result is a fantastic holiday destination that draws thousands of visitors every year.
Guatemala is one of my favorite winter escapes. Still, you do need to plan the best time of year to visit Guatemala. It’s the only way to avoid treacherous weather conditions. Plan your holiday with this comprehensive look at the best time to visit Guatemala.
What is the Best Time of Year to go to Guatemala?
Guatemala is located fifteen degrees north of the equator in Central America. So you can expect warm temperatures throughout the year. The Guatemalan climate is tropical. Temperatures range from between 70- to 90-degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
Yet, the climate is as diverse as the landscapes. These run the gamut from tropical rain forests to temperate highlands and hot and humid beaches. The weather is hottest in March and April.
Guatemala has two discernable seasons – the dry and the wet season. Though on the Atlantic coastline, the rainfall is not as predictable as it is in other parts of the country.
Here, rain falls throughout the year. The Atlantic seaboard experiences less rain in July and August. So, if you’re planning a holiday to Guatemala at this time, the Atlantic coast makes a good choice of holiday destination.
Expect dry conditions between November and April making this the best time to visit Guatemala. During the rest of the year, May to October, there is plenty of rain. Even when it isn’t raining, the humidity can become overbearing.
Guatemala has three climatic areas all of which depend on altitude.
The Tierra Caliente is Guatemala’s low-lying area reaching up to 3,280 feet above sea level. This tropical area suffers extreme humidity throughout the year. It rains every day, and daytime temperatures can peak at around 104° Fahrenheit. Even at night, you can expect temperatures of around 60° Fahrenheit.
The Tierra Templada is an area containing volcanic mountains. It reaches altitudes of between 3,280 and 5,905 feet above sea level. The Tierra Templada enjoys a more temperate climate.
Expect warm conditions during the dry season. These pleasant weather conditions draw many tourists. They come to enjoy the great hiking or plan to explore the natural beauty of this lovely region.
The parts of the country that rise beyond 5,905 meters are referred to as the Tierra Fria. Because of their altitude, these parts can become quite cold after the sun sets even in the summer months. There are some areas where frost is not uncommon. If you’re headed into these higher grounds make sure to pack a jacket.
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The Wet and Dry Seasons in Guatemala
Rainy Season – May to October
May to October is not the best time to visit Guatemala. You can expect cloud cover from midday followed by heavy rainfalls every afternoon. Overnight rains are also not uncommon. In low-lying Petén, the rainy season doesn’t let up until November each year.
There are many areas in the country where road conditions are far from ideal and heavy rain can create problems for travelers. Transport is often disrupted by the rains. High slopes can also lead to heavy flooding and landslide conditions.
Muddy conditions can make hiking in some areas rather precarious.
During the rainy season, most rain falls upon the eastern and northern parts of the country. You should avoid the coastal towns and the Mayan city of Tikal during this period. They are uncomfortably humid and may experience heavy rainfall.
Yet places such as Lake Atitlán, Quetzaltenango, and Antigua in the Western and Central Highlands are very pleasant during this time of year. You can expect less rain along the Atlantic coast during July and August
The highland areas remain dry and warm during the day. Temperatures drop when the sun sets and can even reach freezing point. So, come prepared for colder evening temperatures.
Plan a winter trip if you’re headed for the beaches in the north.
Dry Season – November to April
The dry season is, without question, the best time to visit Guatemala. The dry weather, that follows many months of drenching tropical rainfall, affords you the chance to see the country under clear blue skies. Expect lush green countryside and plenty of colorful flowers along the way. Since it is best to visit Guatemala during the winter months, you can expect many other tourists.
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Best Time to Visit Guatemala City
Guatemala City has a tropical Savannah climate. It is hottest in April and coolest in November. The city remains warm throughout the year. Temperatures vary from 51° to 84° Fahrenheit.
The best time to visit Guatemala City is from mid-April to late November when the weather is dry and not as hot and humid. June sees the highest rainfall. Though July is dry, the heat and humidity make conditions very uncomfortable.
If you’re planning a visit, it is worth considering a mid-August holiday. Then you can partake in the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Asuncion (more on that later).
Best Time to Visit Lake Atitlan Guatemala
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Also known as Lago de Atitlan, this majestic lake is located more than 4,900 feet above sea level. It is seven miles long and three wide. The three volcanoes that surround the lake offer breathtaking landscapes and plenty of hiking options. Coffee plantations and pretty Mayan villages draw tourists to the area. The lake lies in a crater created by a huge volcanic eruption. It is an area rich in biodiversity.
Like the rest of Guatemala, the best time to visit Lake Atitlan is during the dry months between late May and early November. In this part of the world, rain makes the roads muddy and renders some areas unstable. Landslides become a very real danger. The weather is particularly rough in August and September as this is hurricane season.
You can expect mild temperatures that average 78° Fahrenheit. If you climb to higher altitudes, come prepared. Temperatures can drop by as much as 20° especially at night.
Given the volcanic landscapes, hiking and climbing are particularly popular in this part of the world. Shops and street markets abound in the local villages. There are also plenty of restaurants and art galleries.
You can also visit the coffee plantations on the mountain slopes and learn how coffee is grown and harvested. Try kayaking or fishing in the lake. If you want to visit a lakeside village it’s as simple as jumping onto a water taxi.
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The Best Time to Visit Antigua Guatemala
The best time to visit Antigua, Guatemala, will depend on your priorities and interests. Knowing peak tourist seasons, what weather to expect and the timing of festivals are all important inputs to your holiday plans.
The dry season between November and April is the most popular for tourists to Antigua. Though temperatures in the area don’t vary much, this is the coolest time of year.
Some may argue that the peak tourist season is not the best time to visit Antigua. At these times, the hotels are full and the accommodation is most expensive.
Yet it is tempting to escape the chill of winter in the northern hemisphere with a well-planned trip to Antigua at this time of year. Here, you can expect daily average temperatures to max out at 83.3° Fahrenheit.
You can expect the lowest hotel rates from May to November. This is the rainy season in Guatemala. Yet, thanks to its elevation of almost 5,000 feet above sea level Antigua doesn’t have as much rainfall as the rest of the country.
In my view, the best time to visit Antigua Guatemala is just after the peak season in May and June. The weather is still good and there is more accommodation available at reasonable rates.
Heavy rain falls in the wet season between mid-June to mid-November. You can still expect plenty of sunshine, but it comes with a fair amount of humidity.
The Best Time to Visit the Pacific Coast of Guatemala
The Pacific coast doesn’t draw many tourists and the seaside resorts aren’t great. Still, if you’re looking for some quiet time on the beach, with careful planning, you could enjoy your stay. As with the rest of the country, it is best to visit during the dry months between April and November.
The area offers some interesting diversions. These include nesting leatherback turtles and mangrove forest tours. If you’re in the area between September and January take the time to visit Tortugario Monterrico and watch the release of turtle hatchlings. Book a night tour in June to watch the turtles make their way to the coast to nest. The mangrove forests and wetlands provide shelter to a host of aquatic birds and other animals.
The Pacific coast is also known as the sailfish capital of the world Iztapa. A day’s fishing could net you 20 sailfish. You could also catch yellowtail tuna, wahoo, and dorado. The surfing in this area is also not bad.
Also on the Pacific side, visit the Mayan village of Takelik Abaj. The name means “Standing Stones”. It offers visitors insights into the Mayan culture of 400BC. Takelik Abaj boasts the highest concentration of Olmec sculptures anywhere other than in the Gulf of Mexico.
Other ancient treasures include a Mayan royal tomb and Mayan hieroglyphs. The more than 275 zoomorphs, monuments, and sculptures dating back to between 800 BC and 200 AD.
Stifling humidity and year-round temperatures of around 85° Fahrenheit can get tiring. Still along the coast seaside breezes bring some relief.
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Guatemala is a Catholic country and most of the celebrations center around church holidays. The festivals merge Christian celebrations with Mayan culture and tradition. It is well worth taking the opportunity to enjoy some of the celebrations to get a full appreciation of the people of the country.
Semana Santa – Easter Weekend
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Guatemalans celebrate Holy Week or Semana Santa in the week running up to the Easter weekend. The Spanish brought the tradition of Semana Santa to Guatemala. Today, it is said that Antigua Guatemala holds the world’s most extravagant Holy Week festivity.
Every year Antigua, Guatemala draws thousands of visitors to the Semana Santa activities. This is the largest Easter celebration in the world. Here, you’ll find majestic pageants that include fantastic floats. Alfombra, carpets of flowers and sawdust, complex in design, adorn the streets.
Processions commemorate Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Celebrants carry colorful sculptures dating back to Spanish Colonial times. Rich incense fills the air with intricate aromas.
Churches are lavishly decorated and remain open for long hours for up to a month before holy week. Processions take place every weekend during the month of Lent. This is a celebration well worth including on your itinerary.
Rabin Ajau, Guatemala – End of July
Celebrated annually in the city of Coban, Rabin Ajau translates into “daughter of the king”. This Mayan celebration of women takes place on the last Saturday in July. The locals celebrate the festival with processions, fireworks and traditional dance.
The ceremony centers around a beauty pageant that is about so much more than personal good looks. It takes account of the number of languages contestants speak. It also considers their knowledge of traditions and their leadership skills. The contestants compete in traditional dress.
Mayan New Year – Every 260 Days
The Mayan New Year takes place every 260 days. So, if you want to join the traditional Mayan celebrations you’ll have to find out when the next celebration is held. The ancestral celebrations include singing, dancing, and feasts.
Festive activities happen at sunrise and sunset, the most elaborate of which take place at Lake Atitlán. Festivities and preparations start five days before the new year. It starts with the eradication of any negative energy from the year past.
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Fiesta de la Virgen de la Asuncion – 15th August
Celebrated on 15th August, the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Asuncion commemorates the ascension of Christ’s mother, Mary into Heaven. This is a big feast day in Guatemala and particularly so in Guatemala City. The patron saint of the city is the “Virgin of the Assumption”.
Festivals, celebrations, and rituals are the order of the day. And then there’s the fair that continues for two weeks around the 15th of August. Visitors to the fair can enjoy delicious Guatemalan food like stews, soups, desserts, and sweets.
Families enjoy games and a funfair. Social, cultural and sports events are enjoyed by all.
Independence Day – 15th September
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Guatemalans celebrate Independence Day on the 15th of September with marches and brass bands. On this most important day, you can party to marimba bands, watch traditional dances and view firework displays.
Día de Los Muertos – 1st November
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Día de Los Muertos is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November throughout Latin America. Over this period, the people remember the loved ones who have passed on. They believe that the souls of all the departed return to visit their families at this time.
The festival includes many traditions. Visits to the cemetery, kite flying, communicating with the dead are just a few. Families also feast on traditional foods at this time.
By far the best part of the celebration is the massive kite festivals held in villages close to Guatemala City. Many families spend all year building their kites some of which span 40 feet or more. Families put them to flight over the cemeteries, creating grand displays.
You’ll find some of the best kites displays in the village of Sumpango, 30 miles from Guatemala City. The locals make quite a feast of it with vendors offering all kinds of tasty treats and arts and crafts.
As night approaches, cemeteries light up and music plays. Here, the living and dead party together over sumptuous feasts.
National Day of the Garífuna or Garifuna Settlement Day – 26th November
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The National Day of Garifuna takes place in Livingston on the 26th of November each year. The festival attracts Garifuna people from Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala. Festivities happen over three days. This is a celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture and traditions. It includes traditional food, music, and dance.
Fiesta de Santo Tomás in Chichicastenango – mid-December
Held in mid-December in Chichicastenango, the Fiesta de Santo Tomás begins and ends with a march. Flutes and drums lead the march through Chichi as it is known by locals.
Celebrants carry Catholic icons, accompanied by flute and marimba players. Dancers, wearing costumes and masks entertain the onlookers. At the end of the display, courageous dancers slowly descend from a very lengthy pole supported only by a rope. Fireworks conclude the festival.
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Best Time to Visit by Season – Weather by Season
November to February | Winter
You can expect warm dry days right through the winter. The blue skies contrast with the verdant vegetation emerging radiant from the long rainy season. This is a great time to hike the Western and Central highlands and visit Tikal. The rainfall in the northern areas is not as predictable as elsewhere. So, you may still experience some rain during November and December.
Airfares and accommodation are higher at this time of year as people from Europe and the USA escape the cold winter weather.
You can expect daytime temperatures of between 75° and 80° Fahrenheit during the winter months. Nighttime temperatures are a lot cooler and will average between 63° and 66° Fahrenheit. Up in the mountains, temperatures drop even further, often falling below freezing.
Expect temperatures of between 70° and 80° along the Caribbean coast in the winter. The weather on the Pacific coastline is just as good. You’ll have a completely different beach experience on the black sandy shores of the Pacific Ocean.
March to May | Spring
With temperatures in the region of 90° to 95° Fahrenheit, spring is the hottest season in Guatemala especially along the coastline and in Petén. If you’re in Guatemala in the spring, it’s best to head for Antigua or Lake Atitlán in the Central and Western Highlands. Here the temperatures are a more bearable 70° to 80°.
This is not the best time for climbing because mist will affect visibility. The rains will start towards the end of April and hiking can become treacherous at these times.
June to August – Summer
Summer is not the best time of year to visit Guatemala. Weather conditions are uncomfortable with hot humid mornings and afternoon downpours. Coastal and low-lying areas like Petén receive more rain than the highlands so this is a good time to visit Antigua or Lake Atitlán.
September to October – Fall
Though this is the wettest season of the year in Guatemala, it is also the quietest and the least expensive time to visit. Afternoon rains fall almost every day until the middle of October. Though in some areas such as Tikal, the rain will continue until mid-November.
Fall is also hurricane season. The Caribbean coastline is most heavily afflicted by hurricanes. Still, they also happen on the Pacific coastline so it’s best to remain alert at all times.
The Best Time to Visit Guatemala
It is clear that the best time of year to go to Guatemala is in the dry season. Still, you must take account of what you hope to do when planning your holiday. Consider festive dates and, of course, the availability and price of accommodation and flights.