Culture in Guatemala

| | Updated: August 20, 2022

Meet People Creating the Culture in Guatemala!

Intrigued by the culture in Guatemala? Want to explore the best experiences of Guatemalan and Belizean culture? Let PAC give you the bird’s-eye-view of these two countries—below you will find a collection of in-depth articles and interviews profiling people to meet and places to go—insights worth planning your trip around!

Explore the culture in Guatemala below before reading on to learn about its neighbor and the culture of Belize.

Maya civilization once flourished in what is today Belize and Guatemala, and the countries are rich with impressive Mayan sites. Dive into the best cultural experiences of Central America starting in these two countries. Deep in the Guatemalan jungle are the mysterious ancient ruins of Tikal, one of the major sites of the Mayan civilization, which was a thriving metropolis from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. Tikal, which encompasses more than 3,000 buildings, is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage property for both its cultural significance and biodiversity. Belize features smaller but equally fascinating sites: Caracol and Xunantunich are in the western part of the country near the Guatemalan border, and Lamanai, which is further north.

The Culture of Antigua

The small city of Antigua in the central highlands of Guatemala is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Antigua is famous largely because of its exquisite Spanish Baroque architecture, dramatically set against the peaks of three volcanoes that surround the city. Explore gorgeous period pieces like the Santo Domingo Monastery (now a hotel), La Merced Church, and the evocative ruins of La Recoleccion. Browse through the renown Nim Po’t market, home of the world’s largest retail Maya textiles collection. Make excursions to communities just outside the city to meet some of these artisans and learn about their weaving techniques.

For immersion in a different cultural genre, visit San Juan Comalapa, about an hour north of Antigua in Guatemala’s western highlands, renowned as a community of painters. With a total population of about 40,000, there are more than 500 residents who wield a brush, producing their own brand of “naive” art. Visitors can meet the town’s most well-known painter today, Oscar Peren, and the up-and-coming Dilia España, both of Kaqchikel Mayan heritage.

The Culture of Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala is 31 miles northwest of Antigua but worlds away. The 1,000-foot deep lake is surrounded by three volcanoes and villages of Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel Mayans, who have an array of rich cultural traditions. Visit Casa de Mascaras, where ornate masks are carved that are worn during performances of the ‘Conquest Dance.’ Make the trek to Chichicastenango or “Chi Chi” two hours away in the Highlands, where the twice-weekly market offers a bonanza of Mayan artistry and creativity.