Information about Guatemala:

Climate of Guatemala

Guatemala is located in tropical Central America around 14 degrees northern latitude and one would expect the country to have a solidly tropical climate. That is not the case, however.

Large parts of Guatemala are very mountainous and climate depends much more on altitude than on latitude. While there are in fact areas with a tropical climate, there are others where nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing.

Climate Zones

Guatemala can be divided into three comate zones that have very distinct characteristics:

The tropical climate zone encompasses areas between sea level and roughly 1,000 m (3,300 ft) of altitude. The climate of the lowlands is indeed tropical, i.e. hot and humid day and night, year round. Daytime temperatures can go as high as 40° C (100° F) and nighttime temperatures rarely drop below 20° C (70° F).

The entire coastal plain on the Pacific coast with popular destinations like Monterrico, Puerto San Jose and Retalhuleu is part of the tropical climate zone, as well as eastern Guatemala, Rio Dulce, and the northern department of El Peten, where Tikal and Flores are located.

The temperate zone extends from approximately 1,000 m (3,300 ft) to 2,000 m (6,600 ft) above sea level. Daytime temperatures rarely exceed 30° C (85° F) and nights are pleasantly cool.

Guatemala City and many of Guatemala's most popular tourist destinations, like Antigua Guatemala, Lake Atitlan, Coban and Semuc Champey, are in the temperate zone.

Areas above 2,000 m (6,600 ft) are in the cool zone. Daytime temperatures are only slightly lower than in the temperate zone, but the nights are fairly cold and temperatures drop below freezing occasionally.

Quetzaltenango in the northwestern highlands is the only major city in this climate zone.

Dry Season and Rainy Season

In the tropics temperatures are fairly uniform year round and seasonal changes are not nearly as pronounced as farther north or south of the equator. Instead of temperature, precipitation defines the seasons, and there are only two of them: the dry season, which locals often call summer, and the rainy season, which is often called winter.

The rainy season begins around mid-May and lasts until October or November, interrupted by a short dry period of about two weeks in late July or early August.

"Rainy season" does not mean, however, that it rains all day long. On a typical day, there is sunshine in the morning before the clouds begin to appear in the afternoon and it rains for an hour or two. The rain is often followed by a few more hours of sunshine and during the night more rain is likely.

It does happen occasionally that it rains all day long, but that is actually quite rare. On the other hand, it also happens that it does not rain at all for two or three days.

Just like the rainy season is not all rain, the dry season is not entirely dry. A typical month during the dry season has about three of four rainy days, particularly at the beginning of the dry season. Towards the end of the dry season, in March, April and early May, rain showers are few and far between and you may well spend several weeks in Guatemala without seeing a single drop of rain.

Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

Central America borders two tropical oceans — the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east — and tropical storms and hurricanes are not unheard of in Guatemala.

Unlike the islands in the Caribbean and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, however, Guatemala is rarely hit directly. Tropical storms and hurricanes passing by off the coast can bring heavy rain, but those incidents rarely last longer than two or three days.

What is the Best Time to Visit Guatemala?

Travelers often ask what is the best time to visit Guatemala, but in fact there is no "best" time. The weather is agreeable year round, temperature variation is small compared to other parts of the world, and the rainy season imposes very few restrictions on the tours and activities you can do.

Some remote rural areas are hard to reach during the rainy season, but those places are not usually visited by tourists anyway. On the other hand, many events and festivities take place during the rainy season and some activities, like white-water rafting, are more attractive during the rainy season than during the dry season.

Whenever you come, you will have a great time in Guatemala!