The Best Time to Visit Guatemala for deals, weather, and events

If Guatemala is on your list of places to visit, this post is for you! Before planning your trip, you should know when it’s the best time to visit Guatemala. There’s a lot to consider, from the climate to seasonal events and everything in between. Read on to learn more about Guatemala climate, events, and when to go where, to make the most of your time in the “land of eternal spring”.

Why Guatemala is such an attractive destination to many? There are many reasons why visiting Guatemala is on top of travelers’ bucket lists, especially the outdoorsy’s.

The rugged volcano-studded peaks of the Sierra Madre mountain range lunge into the sky. Lush valleys cut between the hills, then roll down into the coastal plains giving way to the black sand beaches on the Pacific Ocean.

Speaking of which, check out one of the best places to surf in Guatemala! In the north, large swaths of jungle hide the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal and El Mirador.

With its 36 volcanos, jungles, and lakes, Guatemala is a playground for outdoor lovers for sure.

However, if you are more into learning about the ancient culture, visiting Antigua alone would be a good enough reason to travel to Guatemala.

Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Latin America, Antigua Guatemala is a Spanish colonial town with a network of cobblestone streets lined with restaurants, shops, language schools, and old churches.

Antigua Cathedral - the best time to visit Guatemala

I lived in the outskirts of Antigua, right in front of the 3 mighty volcanos surrounding the city, for almost a year while housesitting.

Every time I was free of my duties I would just go to town and get lost among colonial buildings, colorful flowery walls and artisan shops, cute little cafes, and restaurants hidden inside whimsical courtyards.

You can spend days walking around its historical center, a UNESCO world heritage site, and explore the ruins of cathedrals and convents dating back to the 1700s, take a chocolate workshop, or a jade tour.

And at only 2 hours drive, you have the pretty Lake Atitlán, another landmark in Guatemala, a caldera lake nestled between volcanoes at 5,000 feet above sea level. Mayan villages ring the shore, each with its own handicraft, customs, and traditional dress.

There are also plenty of opportunities for adventure, relaxation, and fun. You can go on yoga retreats, get massages for cheap, go hiking, paragliding, zip-lining, and more.

And you can either choose a Guatemala backpacking itinerary or travel in style. There are so many travel options to enjoy this beautiful country.

Hopefully, by now, I’ve convinced you to choose “The land of eternal spring” as your next destination. So, now that you’re ready to make travel plans, let’s get into the details about when is the best time to visit Guatemala.

Antigua Guatemala - The best time to visit Guatemala
Antigua Guatemala Iconic image

An overview of the climate in Guatemala

Two words that probably pop into your mind when I say “Guatemala” are “hot” and “tropical.” While that’s an accurate description for some parts of the country, the average temperatures in Guatemala vary widely depending on elevation.

To give you an example, the average temperature on Guatemala’s Pacific coast is 80ºF, but in Quetzaltenango (a city in the western highlands with a more temperate climate), the average year-round temperature is 58ºF. At even higher elevations, temperatures can drop below freezing overnight. 

Unlike countries in North America, Guatemala doesn’t have four distinct seasons. Instead, there is a wet season and a dry season. 

For most of the country, the rainy season runs from May to October it can rain almost every day during the rainy season. And this is why locals call it winter (Invierno), even though it is officially summer being north of the equator.

The dry season runs from November to April. During this season, plants wither and the landscape gets dusty.  Just before the beginning of the rainy season, the skies can be hazy, with low visibility and poor views.

Lake Atitlan Guatemala
Lake Atitlan

Guatemalans call it summer because of the sunny days and clear blue sky. It is the perfect time to climb the Acatenango, one of the most popular (and challenging) activities, because you will be able to enjoy incredible views of the active volcano Fuego in the incredibly clear sky. it will be also freezing cold though.

There is also a region of Guatemala, north of the mountains, where it rains all year long. This equatorial region sits between the central highlands and the jungles of Petén. It includes the cities of Cobán, Puerto Barrios, Livingston, and most of the Caribbean coast. Unlike the rest of the country, we could name the seasons here “rainy” and “less rainy”.

When is the high season in Guatemala?

The high season for tourists in Guatemala is during the dry season, from December to March. You’ll see bigger crowds and higher prices during this time, especially during Christmas, New Year, and Easter.

If you plan to visit during the tourist season, book your hotels well in advance, especially during the holidays.

When is the low season in Guatemala?

The low season for tourists in this Central American country is during the wettest months: May through October. Hotel rates are sometimes cheaper during the low season. Although there is heavy rain, everything is green and beautiful too. 

Semuc Champey

When is the shoulder season in Guatemala?

If you want to avoid crowds but still get dryer weather, try visiting Guatemala in November or April. 

One perk of going in November is that there are amazing sunsets. This is also kite season in the western highlands. It is easy to buy a kite along the road, head to a hill, and join in the fun.

During these months you get the best of both worlds, also ideal if you plan to climb the volcanos. It’s not too cold and although it may rain you get a good chance to find a clear sky too.

When is hurricane season in Guatemala?

Hurricanes and tropical storms can hit Guatemala between June and November. Peak hurricane season is between August and October. 

Storms usually originate in the Caribbean Sea, but can also form in the Pacific Ocean.

You should check the weather before traveling and avoid getting to Guatemala if a hurricane is coming. It’s not fun, depending on the magnitude, I assure you.

Checken Bus in Guatemala

Visiting Guatemala in the Summer

While the summer months in the northern hemisphere are hot and dry, this isn’t true in Guatemala. June, July, and August are right in the middle of Guatemala’s wet season.

There are many rainy days, especially in July, which is one of the rainiest months of the year in the highland mountains (which includes Guatemala City).

During this season, the rain often develops a pattern, and there will be daily downpours in the late afternoon or during the night. This clears up the air and makes the mountains bright green and beautiful.

Even if you visit during these months, you should still get sunshine and blue skies for part of each day.

This is the best time of year to head to the coastal areas to release baby sea turtles.

If your main purpose is hiking, you should check the weather warnings before you travel at this time of the year. In fact, although hiking tours are happening all year round, tour companies must cancel when the heavy rains make the treks inaccessible.

If you are more into city exploring and archeological sites, you can still enjoy them at this time of the year.

I visited Iximche, at 1hr, 30 min from Antigua and it was raining all the time. I still enjoyed the visit as I was completely alone with the guide on the site. It was pretty surreal and mystical.

Semuc Champey Falls
Semuc Champey

Visit Guatemala in the Spring

During the spring months, Guatemala’s climate transitions from warm temperatures to the cooler weather of the rainy season. 

March and April are some of the hottest months of the year. This can be a perfect time to visit the tropical rainforests of Izabal and Alta Verapaz. These are two regions of Guatemala with a humid climate and an average rainfall of 9 inches per month.

Fortunately, there is less rainfall between February and April, so that may be the best time to make a trip there. 

Semuc Champey, Río Dulce, and the beaches on the Atlantic coast are excellent destinations to choose from during this season.

Santa Catarina Lake Atiltan
Santa Catarina – Atitlan lake

Visit Guatemala in the Fall

Do you plan to visit Guatemala in the Fall? Here’s what you need to know:

Although September and October are still rainy months, it’s fun to take part in Guatemala’s independence day on September 15th.

Most towns have parades and special activities, and there are flags, soccer jerseys, and even popsicles in the national colors.

Also in November, you can enjoy the day of the dead celebrations which are one of the most important festivities in Guatemala as much as in Mexico. I will tell you more about it in the next section below.

In November, there is pleasant weather, with crisp and clear early mornings and great visibility. It’s the best month to watch the sunset over the Lago de Atitlán.

Seeing the sky turn gold and fuchsia behind the volcanoes is a wonderful activity.

Tikal Sunrise
Tikal at sunrise

Visit Guatemala in the Winter 

In most parts of Guatemala, December, January, and February are dry with clear skies and warm days. This is a good time of year to go hiking, climb volcanoes, canoe, kayak, and swim.

During these months, the swells on the Pacific coast are smaller and more perfect, ideal for surfers and body-boarders.

Pack warm clothes if you are in the highlands during this season. These can be the coldest months in Guatemala. Daytime temperatures are warm, but at night the air can get chilly.

Some events you can enjoy during this time include celebrating “Burn the Devil Day” on December 7th. You can also light off fireworks on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, eat special tamales and drink a delicious hot beverage called ponche. (Ponche is made from dried fruits and cinnamon).

When is the best time to visit Guatemala?

Atitlan overview
Lake Atitlan Overview

The best time to visit Guatemala depends on what activities appeal to you the most.

If you plan to do outdoor activities, anytime between mid-November and mid-April can be an excellent choice.

For the greenest and most lush scenery, plan your trip at the beginning of the rainy season, or in November and December.

I recommend avoiding March and April since the air gets hazy from slash-and-burned fields and you may miss out on Guatemala’s best views.

Even though there is heavy rain between May and October, this doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. The rains bring out the best of Guatemala’s natural beauty. There are still warm temperatures during parts of the day, and daytime highs can be quite pleasant.

If you don’t mind some afternoon showers and prefer to avoid crowds, the rainy season could be an ideal time to visit.

Quetzaltenango Santiaguito
Hike to Santiaguito from Quetzaltenango in November

When is the best time to visit Guatemala for hiking Acatenango?

For adrenaline-seekers who come to Guatemala to hike the highest peaks, such as Acatenango, Santa Maria, Tajumulco, or Agua volcanos, the most challenging ones, you should know that although tours are available all year round there are times of the year when you are going to have a better experience.

As we have mentioned before, during the wet season it’s warmer but you run the risk to get rain during the entire hike or have a cloudy and foggy sky which prevents you from seeing Fuego erupting, which is the main reason you do that, right?

In the dry season, you have clear skies for sure but it can be extremely cold at night especially from December through February.

Therefore November will be the best month also for hiking the Acatenango or any other volcanos. You risk getting some shower but you still have better chances to see the Fuego peak clearly.

I have met people who have been on top during the summer as well and they got lucky, but you never know.

During the summer, if it rains a lot, the trails can be temporarily closed as well, for safety reasons. So when you chose your travel dates for hiking the Acatenango you should keep this in mind.

Acatenango Volcano from Finca El Pilar
View of Volcano Acatenango from the Finca El Pilar

Unmissable events in Guatemala 

Now that you have a better idea of when to visit Guatemala, check out these interesting Guatemalan events. Nothing adds fun to a trip like attending a cultural festival.

Semana Santa

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is an entire week of religious ceremonies and celebrations. It corresponds with Easter in North America and runs from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday. Government offices close and almost all Guatemalans have at least a few days off. It’s a busy time for travel. 

Traditionally, people in Guatemala celebrate Semana Santa by going to a body of water, so the Pacific coast and Lake Atitlán are prime destinations.

In the town of Panajachel you’ll find a big party scene with concerts all week long. Make sure you book where to stay in Lake Atitlan ahead of time because this week is packed.

Antigua is the prime destination during Semana Santa. It is famous for its Catholic processions and Easter story reenactments. Hotels in Antigua are usually booked solid up to a year in advance. That just goes to show that this is a cultural activity worth checking out!

Quetzaltenango Cemetery
Quetazaltenango Cemetery

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 2nd. To take part, eat a special dish called “fiambre”. This dish is a salad made from pickled vegetables and cold cuts.

Once you’re done eating, head to the local cemetery. There you’ll find Guatemalan families decorating the graves of their loved ones. They put out candles, food, and drinks and have a picnic in honor of their deceased loved one.

If you are in Antigua make sure you visit Sumpango, at only a 1-hour drive from the city. You will enjoy the Sumpango hike festival where giant colorful kites are flying in the sky for the kite competition.

The cemetery is also full of flowers and colorful altars and people celebrating their deceased.

Sumpango kites
Kites ready to be launched in Sumpango Guatemala
Sumpango kites - best time to visit Guatemala
Kites ready to be launched in Sumpango Guatemala

Independence Day

September 15th is Guatemala’s independence day. If you look at one of the twenty quetzal bills, you can see Guatemala’s founders signing the “Act of Sovereignty” in 1821.

If you’re near Guatemalan schools in the months leading up to Independence Day, you’ll hear the marching band practicing. September 15th is a big deal for them.

Schools and the municipal government put on parades. The festivities include fireworks, music, patriotic merchandise, and delicious street food like fried chicken or tacos.

Sumpango Mother and son dressed in traditional outfit

Christmas Eve

If you’re used to a tranquil and sleepy evening on December 24th, Guatemala will surprise you. All the main Christmas festivities in Guatemala take place on the 24th, rather than the 25th.

Families get together, eat special Christmas tamales, and blow off millions of fireworks at midnight. It’s incredible to watch fireworks light up the sky from every neighborhood in the country.

Many families eat their big dinner and exchange gifts after midnight.

New Year

Much like Christmas Eve, New Year is an excellent event to enjoy during your trip to Guatemala. Friends and families get together for a fun-filled evening of food and drink, followed by fireworks at midnight.

Xela - Cerro Quemado with people doing ceremony
Cerro Quemado from Xela

Go to a town fair

Since Guatemala has a large Catholic population, almost every community has a patron saint. They celebrate their saint during the month of that saint’s day. 

Town fairs involve Ferris wheels, arcade games, loud firecrackers (which I am against), and festival food. Booths pop up in the streets loaded with typical candy, churros, pizzas, and tacos. There are special ceremonies at the Catholic Church, including traditional dances and processions. People and music flood the streets.

Check to see if there is a town fair you can visit during your trip.

Garinagu Festival

This cool event honors the first Garifuna Settlers who came to Guatemala. The Garinagu Festival is celebrated in the town of Livingston on November 26th. Garifuna peoples paddle canoes into the bay to reenact the arrival of their ancestors.

They spend the rest of the day dancing, singing, eating traditional foods, and commemorating the hardships of their forebears.

El Paredon Beach
El Paredon Beach at sunset

Burning of the Devil

On December 7th, many people celebrate Burn the Devil day. They remove trash and other unwanted items from their houses and burn them on the side of the road.

They also burn devil-shaped piñatas and light off firecrackers as a way of scaring off evil spirits. If you’re a bit of a pyromaniac, this could be the perfect opportunity to play with matches.

The largest Burn the Devil celebration in the country takes place in Antigua Guatemala

Cemetery during the Day of the dead with people bringing flowers
San Andres Cemetery during the day of the dead

So when is the best time to travel to Guatemala?

After all that has been said in this article, it is clear that November is the best time of the year to travel to Guatemala. It’s shoulder season, not too cold and not too wet when you can find great deals and smaller crowds.

However if you cannot travel in November, worry not. Unless you get to Guatemala during a hurricane, it is always a good time to visit this incredibly diverse country, with a profound cultural heritage and whimsical landscapes.

Whenever you decide to visit, you won’t be disappointed, especially if you come with an open heart and a curious mind.

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