Central America 2010Interesting Facts...List

7 Interesting Facts About Guatemala

A few other travel blogs such as EverythingEverywhere.com and NomadicMatt.com have started doing posts for their different destinations where they list off random and interesting facts they have found about that city or country. I have been thoroughly enjoying these posts and have decided to follow suite with some of my own since I’m sure I’ll be visiting some places that haven’t been covered yet. I find most of these facts on the web but some of them come from talking to locals and expats living in the areas. The goal of these posts will be to put information that may be readily available across multiple sources, all into one post. I’ll start this series with posts from the three countries I visited last summer, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. First off, Guatemala!

1. The official name of Guatemala is the Republic of Guatemala and the name Guatemala comes from the Maya-Toltec language and means “land of the trees” (source)

2. The country is 108,889 square kilometers and is ranked as 106th (out of 251) largest country by the CIA Factbook, right between Cuba (105) and Iceland (107).
*note – This list contains many “countries” that are not recognized by the United Nations

3. Spanish is the official language of Guatemala, but there are over 20 different Mayan dialects that are spoken throughout the country, especially in rural areas. According to one of my guides in Guatemala, who worked at a Spanish school in Antigua, some of the dialects are so drastically different from each other, that people speaking in those dialects might not even be able to communicate with each other, even though they are considered to speak the same language.

4. A scene from the original Star Wars movie “A New Hope” was shot in Guatemala in the Tikal National Park, which I was lucky enough to visit while on my trip. You can check out my photo below and then a youtube link to the actual scene in the movie can be found here.

5. The Guatemalan currency is the Quetzal. The currency is named after the Resplendent Quetzal, which is a fragile and rare bird that happens to be the national bird of Guatemala. Apparently, in the time of the Mayan Empire, the birds tail feathers were actually used as currency. (source)

6. Guatemala is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Spanish colonial city of Antigua, the mayan ruins of Tikal National Park, and the ruins of Quirigua.

7. Shortly after Guatemala gained its Independence from Spain, the United Provinces of Central America were formed. The confederation was made up of present day Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica. It existed from 1823 until 1840, when it was split up by continuous civil war between the different regions.
*note, at that time Guatemala claimed to own what is present day Belize so that land would have also fallen under this confederation. (source1, source2)

I’ll be returning to Guatemala at the beginning of next month and will most likely do another post with even more facts from Guatemala, so feel free to leave some more random facts in the comments and I’ll be sure to add them (and credit you) in the next post!

  1. Jeremy B

    Thanks for the information on Guatemala! It’s great to learn little bits of information like this. Now I will have to go and watch the youtube link for Star Wars! 🙂

  2. Jozef Maxted

    Looks like an amazing place. Would definitely love to go there some time!

  3. Jade

    Awesome! What area will you be in when you return?

    1. Matt

      I’ll be back in Antigua and I also plan on visiting Montericco. I won’t be there very long but wanted to show my friend around a bit.

  4. Norbert

    Pretty interesting facts. Guatemala has climbed a lot in my places-to-go list. Right now I’m debating about going there next year. Good to know more facts about this fascinating place.

  5. crazy sexy fun traveler

    Nice to learn more about Guatemala, knew some of the facts but not the one about Star Wars 😀 Was meant to be in Guatemala this Xmas but broke up with my Guatemalan boyfriend before i could get there haha, shame!

  6. Robin

    I know shamefully little about Guatamal or South America for that matter so this post was a great read.

  7. Bridgette

    my family is from Guatemala, so i visit there alot and it is a beautiful place. the food, the ruins, Antigua, everything. if you go back you should visit Livingston, Guatemala its a great little island

    1. Matt

      Yea I wanted to go there but did not have time. Next time!

  8. Alexe

    this is sweeeet

  9. Joann

    I have been to Guatemala I love it can’t wait to go back my husband is from Gualan Zacapa.

  10. Jacqueline Gil

    Ron Zacapa was the first rum ever to be inducted into the International Rum Festival’s Hall of Fame in 2003 after Ron Zacapa Rum had won first place in the premium rums category 4 years in a row at the International Rum Festival 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001.
    Guatemala also has the 4th University (Universidad de San Carlos) founded in the Americas established in 1676, decreed a University by King Charles II of Spain and Pope Innocent XI. It is has the best medical school in Central America.
    Guatemala is without a doubt The best country in Central America: the food has so much flavor (yellowest eggs I’ve ever seen!), the weather is perfect and doesn’t drive you crazy (like in El Salvador or Nicaragua where the heat keeps you up at night), the people are wonderful and polite. You will not find so much history, so much culture, or so much beauty anywhere else in Central America while still growing into a very modern country (the Oakland mall in Guatemala is even better than most malls in the U.S.).
    If you can visit Antigua, Guatemala during Holy Week, you would be a very lucky person =D

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