Although petite in size, Guatemala's climate can vary significantly based on altitude and proximity to the coast. The highlands experiences milder, more temperate conditions, while rainforests and coastlines are consistently hot and humid. Two dry seasons coincide with the peak tourism periods: a longer one from November to March and a brief one that occurs in July and August. But with charming cities, outdoor adventures and a packed festival calendar, this captivating Central American country has reasons to visit all year round.
Best for: great views and vibes on Acatenango Volcano
Sun seekers (especially those in the Northern Hemisphere) can rejoice in January, as it's one of Guatemala's driest, sunniest months. Trekking conditions in the highlands are clear and mud-free, making it the perfect time to conquer an active adventure to Acatenango Volcano. If you're hoping for blue skies, amazing views and a chance to see spewing lava, January is a safe choice, especially since rainy-season treks are often cancelled.
Although the rest of the country will be warm in January, around 26-29°C, keep in mind that it does get quite cold at higher elevations. Nighttime temps can drop as low as 0°C at Acatenango, so make sure to pack warm layers for any overnight treks.
Best for: enjoying coffee harvest season at Lake Atitlan
February is the height of Guatemala's warm, dry winter, so you can expect hours of sunshine and very little rainfall. It's a great month to visit picturesque Lake Atitlan, especially before the summer holiday crowds arrive in July. Temperatures hover around 23°C, and the lake is typically calm and smooth, making it a breeze to zip from village to village on one of the many lanchitas that ferry passengers around.
February is also coffee harvest season in Guatemala. Coffee is the country's number 1 export, and while you're safe to assume that you can get a really good cuppa anywhere, the coffee produced in the rich soil around Lake Atitlan is some of the most flavourful and unique in the world. A visit to a local farm to learn how the locals harvest the cherries, followed by a leisurely cup on the banks of the lake is the recipe for a perfect February day.
Best for: beating the heat in Rio Dulce
March is one of the hottest months of the year, and since the rains haven't arrived to cool things down, it's the perfect time to head to the water. Rio Dulce is a sleepy river town known for its handful of jungle ecolodges that boast tons of water-based activities. Swim in waterfalls, kayak through the river, search for manatees by canoe, or just chill out in a hammock with a cold Gallo beer. With temps often soaring to 32°C, it might just be too hot to do anything else.
March is relatively quiet, but prices tend to skyrocket and crowds intensify toward the end of the month as the Semana Santa approaches.
Best for: embracing the chaos of Holy Week celebrations
A trip to Guatemala in April is bound to overlap with some Holy Week, or Semana Santa, celebrations, so if you can't beat the crowds... might as well join 'em. Holy Week takes place in the days leading up to Easter, and locals and visitors flock to Antigua and Lake Atitlan for infectious celebrations, lively parades and dynamic markets with delicious street food offerings. Mayan "carpets" or decorative patterns made from flower petals, dyed sawdust and plants line the streets in an eye-popping display of vibrant colour.
If visiting Lake Atitlan during Holy Week and want a truly unique experience, you might want to head to Santiago to check out the parade of cheeky Mayan "saint" Maximón. A notoriously un-saintlike figure, Maximón's effigy is paraded through town while locals honour him with gifts of alcohol, cigarettes and money. Befriend some townspeople and keep an open mind... this isn't a celebration you'll forget anytime soon!
Holy Week is one of the busiest weeks of the year, and accommodation starts booking up months in advance. Prices will undoubtedly be higher, but the spectacles you'll witness are 100% worth it.
Best for: off-season accommodation deals in Antigua
May is the beginning of the rainy season in Guatemala, which means crowds start to thin and life moves a little slower again. Temperatures hover between 25-29°C, and afternoon showers are inevitable but rarely last all day. If you have a decent rain jacket and can deal with a few evening puddles, you'll reap the benefits of quieter streets and off-season accommodation deals.
May is a great time to wander the charming cobblestoned streets of Antigua because even if you get caught in a storm, there are tons of great restaurants, museums and shops to duck into for shelter. The main plaza is perfect for people-watching, so grab a coffee, let the storm pass and take in this charming city.
Best for: early morning adventures and mastering the art of the siesta
June is one of the wettest and quietest months in Guatemala. Smack dab in the middle of the rainy season, and with no major festivals or events to create crowds, you might have most attractions to yourself. But since showers only last a few hours and happen later in the day, you can spend sunny mornings exploring and afternoons perfecting the art of the siesta... because who doesn't love dozing off to the sound of raindrops?
If you're out at Lake Atitlan, grab your umbrella and make the journey out to Chichicastenango, Central America's largest market. Spend the morning checking out some local handicrafts before heading back to your (undoubtedly off-season priced) accommodation to watch the rains roll in. Atitlan's volcanoes make for a particularly mystifying backdrop during a lightning storm.
Best for: enjoying the pools of Semuc Champey during the Canícula
Still considered the rainy season, July is an excellent time to visit some Guatemalan hotspots that may be overcrowded in the drier months. The turquoise pools of Semuc Champey are one of the most popular destinations in the country, but the area can get quite busy. The plus side of visiting during the off-season is that crowds are scared off by the threat of rain, so the atmosphere is so much more peaceful, and the pools are just as beautiful in the wet months.
Every year, usually in July, Guatemala undergoes a phenomenon called the Canícula, (which loosely translates to "dog days"). Canícula is a brief break in the rainy season where days are clear, dry and very hot since there's no respite from afternoon rains. If your visit to Semuc Champey happens to coincide with the Canícula, swimming in the pools, exploring the caves or tubing down the Cahabon River are surefire ways to help you beat the heat.
Best for: Spanish lessons, shopping and museum-hopping
August is the beginning of hurricane season in Guatemala, and heavy rains can pose travel challenges like road blockages, mudslides and flooding on the coast. It's a great time to hunker down in Antigua or Guatemala City and visit some of the incredible museums, shops and restaurants these cities offer. Both cities have immersive Spanish language schools for travellers, which is a fantastic way to spend a rainy afternoon.
August is also the height of tropical fruit season, so if you really want to feel like a local, stop at a street stall and grab a fresh smoothie with starfruit, mango and guanabana on your way to your lesson.
Best for: sea turtle hatching season and Independence Day celebrations
Another wet month in Guatemala, September can be unpredictable weather-wise, but afternoon deluges usually provide relief from humid 29-32°C days. On the Pacific Coast, September is the height of hatching season for turtles, with Olive Ridleys, leatherbacks and Eastern Pacific green turtles all taking refuge on the beaches. There are several conservation organisations that you can visit to watch hatchlings make their way from nest to sea and learn how to preserve these wonderful creatures' habitats.
Independence Day celebrations kick off mid-month, and major cities can be particularly busy. It's a great time to lean into the party atmosphere and learn about Guatemalan culture, customs and indigenous traditions from the locals. Parades, fireworks and traditional dress are common and street food is aplenty, so try some comida típica like tamales (a classic meal-on-the-go wrapped in banana leaves) or atol de elote (a corn-based hot beverage).
Best for: shoulder season solitude and having attractions to yourself
The combination of the tail end of the rainy season paired with the calm before the festive season makes October one of the quietest months in Guatemala. You can score some great deals on accommodations, and as long as you have an umbrella, a rain jacket and a positive attitude, you might get some of the major attractions to yourself.
It's a good time to head up to Flores, known as the "gateway to the Mayan ruins," to visit the breathtaking temples of Tikal. While you're still likely to experience a downpour, they're mostly relegated to the late afternoons, and when the crowds clear out, you'll have the freedom to explore the ruins in solitude.
Best for: Dia de los Muertos and other festival fervor
November is the start of two of the most festive months of the year. In early November, like most Central American countries, Guatemalans celebrate el Día de Los Muertos. Elaborate altars and skull decorations will be everywhere, and families will get together to honour deceased family and friends with ofrendas of their favourite foods, lots of alcohol and a big party atmosphere.
The rainy season showers have brought gorgeous flowers to the countryside and highlands late this month, Antigua comes alive with its annual flower show. The cobblestone streets are lined with brightly coloured blooms moulded into sculptures and art pieces. Since larger towns like Antigua, Guatemala City and Panajachel experience an influx of travellers during this festival season, booking your activities early is a good idea.
Best for: celebrating the holidays AND the return of the dry season
December might just be the busiest month to visit Guatemala, but for good reason. The rains have let up, the weather is ideal with temps sitting between 21-28°C, and festivities are kicking off all month long. Like most other holidays, Christmas celebrations in Guatemala involve parades, feasts, markets and performances, and although the crowds will be large... what's a party without some friends to enjoy it with?
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