7 Interesting Facts About Guatemala

by | Aug 24, 2023 | Travel

I recently visited Guatemala with my girlfriend and learned a lot of interesting things about the country, especially about Mayan history and culture.  We visited Antigua, Guatemala City, Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Santiago Atitlan, and other places.  Here are some of the most interesting things we learned:

1) There are 23 Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala.

Most of the Mayan languages cannot understand each other.  One of our guides spoke a Mayan language and said people who spoke his language could understand two other Mayan languages, but that’s it.  He couldn’t understand the rest of the Mayan languages.  People who don’t speak the same Mayan language communicate with each other in Spanish.  Kids learn their Mayan language at home, and they learn Spanish in school, so many people are bilingual.  However, not everyone is bilingual.  Some people speak purely their Mayan language, and that’s it.  Some Guatemalans speak a bit of English, also.

7 Interesting Facts About Guatemala

Mayan Art.

2) The Mayans didn’t climb volcanoes.

Volcanoes were considered holy and had deep spiritual significance in ancient Mayan culture.  The Mayans were reverent to volcanoes and viewed the volcanoes as being far more powerful than themselves.

3) There is a lost Mayan city below Lake Atitlan.

The lost city is at the north end of the lake near Santiago. The lake’s water levels rose and flooded the city many years ago.  You can still see parts of the underwater city when the water is clear.

7 Interesting Facts About Guatemala.

Site of the lost city in Lago Atitlán. Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala.

4) Guatemala has 37 volcanoes – the most of any country in the world.

Guatemala isn’t a very big country, but it has more volcanoes than any other country in the world. To put things in perspective, Guatemala is about the same size as the state of Kentucky.  Guatemala is the most seismically active country in the world.  Antigua has earthquakes at least 1 time per month (according to a local who has lived there for many years).  Indeed, Antigua was destroyed 3 times between the 1500s and the 1700s, which is why they moved the capital from Antigua to what is now Guatemala City.

7 Interesting Facts About Guatemala

Volcán de Agua. Antigua, Guatemala.

5) Guatemalan food isn’t spicy.

That’s because the climate isn’t good for growing spicy peppers.  However, the climate is great for growing other types of food.  They’re able to grow enormous vegetables.  The vegetables in the street markets were some of the biggest and most luscious I’ve ever seen.  However, the environment is not good for growing spicy peppers.  It’s also difficult and expensive to transport peppers, so the logistics don’t work out, and people just don’t use spicy peppers.  Instead, they use a variety of herbs and spices to flavor the food – sometimes 18 ingredients in a single sauce.

6) Guatemala is very spiritual and religiously devout.

Their religion is a combination of Catholicism and local traditions.  The local traditions were never wiped out by the Spanish or other modern influences.  People are still deeply rooted in Mayan traditions.  A lot of their traditions and practices would be considered pagan by strict Catholics in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

7) Guatemala didn’t start growing coffee until the 1800s – but it’s some of the best coffee in the world.

Near Santiago is one place where they grow it.  If you ever visit Guatemala, you have to try the locally grown coffee.  It really is that good.  The climate in Guatemala is perfect for growing coffee.

7 Interesting Facts About Guatemala

Bathing in the hot springs at Lago Atitlán.

More travel posts by Eddie.
Watch Eddie’s videos.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This