Seasonal Planning for Guatemala Travel
Guatemala has a relatively warm and tropical climate, with daytime temperatures usually ranging between 70°F and 90°F all year round. March and April are the hottest months, with the rainy season from May to October breaking the often overbearing humidity with afternoon showers and occasional thunderstorms.
The north and the east of the country receive the most precipitation during rainy season, which means it isn’t the best time to visit Tikal or the coast—unless you fancy getting caught in a tropical downpour—but it’s a perfect time to visit places like Antigua, Lake Atitlán, and Quetzaltenango in the Central and Western Highlands.
By contrast, the drier winter months are the perfect time to head to the tropical north and the beaches. The Highlands are warm and sunny during the day but can get quite cold at night, especially up in the mountains and at altitude—where it's not uncommon for overnight temperatures to drop below freezing—so you'll definitely want to make sure you pack warm clothes.
Spring and fall also have some of the best festivals, like Semana Santa (Holy Week), which is celebrated in the week leading up to Easter, and Día de Los Muertos at the beginning of November. There is also the Mayan New Year when towns and cities across the country celebrate their ancestral heritage with rituals, singing, dancing, and feasting. As per the ancient Maya calendar, the Mayan New Year takes place every 260 days. Speak to our local experts about planning your trip to coincide with next year's festivities.
- Good weather across the entire country, perfect for hiking and visiting Tikal
- This is peak season—book in advance, especially during December holidays
- Pack for sunny days, cool nights, and bring an umbrella in case of rain
With warm, dry days, and bright blue cloudless skies, lush green countryside and wildflowers in bloom after months of tropical rainfall, winter is the ideal season to visit Guatemala— although this also means it's the most popular. The peak season starts with the Dia de Los Muertos celebrations, with many other festivals celebrated across Guatemala in the winter, including the fascinating Fiesta de Santo Tomás in Chichicastenango in mid-December. Plan ahead, especially during busy periods like Christmas and New Year.
Although the weather in the north can be a little more unpredictable, with occasional downpours in November and December, winter is still the perfect time to visit Tikal. The warm days (around 75-80°F) and cooler nights (63-66°F) are optimal for exploring the ancient Mayan city and wandering through the cobbled streets of Flores. It is also a great time to visit Rio Dulce and Guatemala's Caribbean coastline, where temperatures are usually around 70-80°F. If you can, time your visit with the Garinagu Festival at the end of November. If you fancy some R&R on black sand beaches, surfing, and seeing baby sea turtles make their way to the ocean for the first time, then the Pacific beaches are beautiful at this time of year.
The cooler winter months are also a great time to go hiking and check out the Western and Central Highlands where the weather can be a bit cooler, with daytime temperatures dropping down to around a balmy 70°F. However, it does get very chilly in higher elevation cities like Quetzaltenango and Huehuetenango and in the mountains where overnight temperatures regularly dip below freezing. Still, with near-perfect visibility most days meaning you'll get the best views of the year, it's the perfect time to go hiking in the mountains or summit Acatenango. Just make sure you come fully kitted out with warm clothes.
Consider this active 8-day adventure, which includes camping on Guatemala's third-tallest volcano, kayaking on Lake Atitlan, and mountain biking around farms, villages, and colonial ruins.
Sea Turtle Hatchling Release, Monterrico- September to January: Between September and January, Tortugario Monterrico release over 5,000 sea turtle hatchlings back to the ocean as part of their sea turtle conservation program. You can volunteer, donate, take part, or just watch.
Dia de Los Muertos (All Saint's Day) - November 1st: In Guatemala, the Day of the Dead is celebrated in several different ways. Across the country, people visit their graves of their ancestors and decorate the tombs with flowers, candles, and offerings. They also paint the cemeteries in bright, vibrant colors and picnic in the graveyards. In the town of Santiago Sacatepéquez, people head to the cemetery to fly giant colorful kites to honor the dead, and in the town of Todos Santos in the highlands, they have a drunken horse race and street fairs to celebrate.
Garinagu Festival, Livingston - End of November: A week-long party celebrating the traditions and culture of the Garifuna people, who also come from Belize and Honduras for the festival. Expect colorful street parties and parades, religious ceremonies, feasts, and traditional dancing.
La Quema del Diablo (The Burning of the Devil) - December 7th: Guatemalan holiday festivities start with giant bonfires on every street, where people burn piñatas shaped like the devil as part of a symbolic ritual to cleanse the soul in preparation for the new year.
Fiesta de Santo Tomás, Chichicastenango - December 13th to 21st: This week-long festival blends together ancient Mayan K’ich’e and Christian traditions. The main event on the 21st December is the Palo Voladores (Pole Fliers), where masked dancers climb a giant pole, attach a rope to their feet, and launch themselves from the top in a coordinated dance.
Navidad (Christmas) - December 16th to 25th: The posadas take place every night from the 16th to the 24th, leading up to the main event on Christmas Eve, when families celebrate with a Christmas feast followed by a mass at 11 pm. At midnight, everyone comes out onto the streets for a mass firework display, before heading home to open gifts. After the late-night celebrations, Christmas itself is a pretty chill affair.
New Year's - December 31st & January 1st: The biggest New Year's celebrations in Guatemala take place in Antigua, with music, street markets, and masked locals performing traditional dances, including the La Quema de Toritos y Alas (The Burning of the Bull and Wings), where someone dressed as a bull chases people around the square while fireworks explode.
Pilgrimage of Esquiplas - January 15th: One of the holiest sites for Catholics in Central America, every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims head to Esquiplas to pay homage to the statue of the Black Christ, a 16th-century Basalm statue that is said to have magical healing powers.
Coffee Harvest Celebration, Frajianes - February 2nd to 4th: An hour and a half south of Guatemala City, the 2-day Coffee Harvest Celebration in Frajianes includes parades and street processions, religious ceremonies, food stalls, music, dancing, and, of course, coffee.
- Ideal for visiting beaches, the Central Lowlands, and Quetzaltenango
- This is the hottest time of year, making it less desirable for hiking
- During Semana Santa, hotels and transport book up months in advance
- May marks the beginning of the rainy season—pack accordingly
Spring is the hottest time of the year in Guatemala, with temperatures in March and April regularly around 90-95°F, especially in Petén and on the Pacific and Caribbean coast. It is also usually dry but humid, especially in the tropical lowlands. If you don't feel like braving the heat and visiting the temples of Tikal and heading to the beach, then this is the perfect time to visit Antigua, Lake Atitlán, and Semuc Champey in the Central and Western Highlands, where the temperature is closer to 70-80 degrees.
The spring months are also pretty hazy, which means it isn't the best time to go trekking. If you do climb Acatenango or head up to the mountains then be prepared for limited visibility rather than the picture-perfect vistas in the dry season. Bear in mind, it still gets pretty chilly up in the highlands, especially at night.
The rainy season usually starts at the end of April/beginning of May, with bright sunny mornings followed by afternoon downpours and occasional tropical storms. While these provide a much-needed break from the humidity, they can make travel quite difficult, especially to more remote places.
One of the main reasons to visit Guatemala in Spring is to experience the spectacle that is Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Starting off on Palm Sunday, this week-long festival has been celebrated across the country in the week leading up to Easter Sunday for nearly 500 years. While there are celebrations in every town and city, the majority of visitors flock to Antigua, where the streets are filled with colorful yet solemn parades and processions with lavish floats, and the cobbled streets are covered with alfombras, intricate carpets, made from colored sawdust, pine needles, and fresh flowers.
For a less touristy Semana Santa, we recommend visiting Quetzaltenango, or Santiago Atitlán on Lake Atitlán, where Catholic customs meet Pre-Hispanic deities and Mayan traditions in a religious syncretism known as La Costumbre. Here, Holy Week festivities are celebrated with their patron saint, Maximón, who is only ever taken out of the house during this sacred time, when he is moved to a different household in the community. If you do go by to see Maximón, don't forget to bring cigarettes, alcohol, and/or money, as an offering to the wooden deity and his minders.
Ash Wednesday and Lent (46 days before Easter Sunday): Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Celebrated across Guatemala, the biggest festivities take place in Antigua, where all the churches have vigils and processions. During the 40-day period leading up to Semana Santa and Easter, Lent is celebrated with vigils, parades, and masses in all the churches, starting off on Sundays before increasing and size and frequency in the lead-up to one of the biggest celebrations in the Catholic calendar.
Semana Santa (Holy Week) - Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday: Parades and processions across the country. The biggest festivities are found in Antigua and Quetzaltenango, with colorful carpets laid across the streets and traditional parades every day of the week. Head to Santiago Atitlán to pay homage to Saint Maximón, who is paraded around the streets before being taken to his new home.
Día del Trabajo (Worker's Day) - May 1st: A national holiday, there are parades and parties across the country in honor of International Worker's Day, with the biggest celebrations taking place in Guatemala City.
- Characterized by rainy afternoons and hot, humid mornings
- Busy during July and August coinciding with peak travel times
- Wettest in Petén and Monterrico—if you plan to go to Tikal, prepare for rain
- June has better prices and fewer crowds, but weather can close roads
While Guatemala's rainy season starts in May and lasts until October, the summer months are pretty warm and sunny, with occasional afternoon downpours and the odd tropical storm. The tropical low-lying areas like Petén and the Pacific and Caribbean are wetter than the Highlands and can occasionally be subject to hurricanes moving in from the coast if the conditions are correct, which makes summer a good time to stay inland and visit Antigua, Lake Atitlán, and Rio Dulce, or head to Cobán for the National Indigenous Festival of Guatemala.
While the humidity and the rain may put you off visiting Tikal in the summer months, if you time it right and head to the temples in the morning you might also miss the rains entirely, but don't count on blue skies and good visibility for photographs. The rain can also cause mudslides and wash away roads, making traveling around the country more difficult, especially to the more off-grid destinations like Huehuetenango, so bear this in mind when you're planning your itinerary.
June is usually quiet, but July and August can be quite busy in Guatemala due to the summer holidays in Europe and North America. If you're planning on doing a language course or heading to tourist hotspots like Antigua, then you will want to plan ahead and book your accommodation and activities in advance. It can also still get quite cold up in the mountains, so if you do decide to climb the volcanoes or go trekking make sure you're prepared for all eventualities, with waterproofs and warm clothes essential.
Turtle Nesting Season, Pacific Coast - June: In June every year, sea turtles making their way to the Pacific Coast to nest. The best way to see them is to join one of the night-time tours led by the sea turtle conservation groups around Monterrico.
La Fiesta Nacional Indígena de Guatemala, Cobán - Last 2 weeks of July/early August: A two-week-long festival in Cobán celebrates Mayan culture and showcases the best traditions that have existed for thousands of years with street fairs, parades, music, and dancing.
Festival of the Virgin of the Assumption, Guatemala City - August 15th: People across the country celebrate this important religious day, but nowhere more so than Guatemala City, where the residents honor their patron saint with religious parades, street food, and parties.
Fiestas Elenas, Santa Cruz Del Quiché - August 16th to 20th: This festival in Santa Cruz Del Quiché celebrates Guatemalan indigenous traditions, with music, dancing, and local foods.
Fall (September to October)
- Warm, wet, and quiet. Pack an umbrella and a jacket.
- Rain starts to ease up in mid-October, making it a great time to go trekking
- Climb Acatenango Volcano for the best views
- Try to make it in September for Independence Day celebrations
Fall is the wettest time of year in Guatemala and also one of the quietest times of year to visit, which means fewer tourists and off-season prices. While you can expect afternoon downpours until around mid-October in most of the country, in Tikal and the north the rainy season usually lasts until November. However, it doesn't usually rain all day every day so there are still plenty of opportunities to sightsee and enjoy the lush countryside, especially around Rio Dulce and in the Highlands. While it's still quite rainy, the fall months are also a great time to head to Monterrico and the Pacific coast, where conservation charities release baby sea turtles back into the ocean at sunset.
It's always worth bearing in mind though that the rain can affect transport links around the country, especially in the mountains and more remote areas or places where the roads leave a lot to be desired. It is also hurricane season on the Caribbean coastline, and if the conditions are right then they can also hit the western side of the country and move in from the Pacific, so it's worth paying close attention to any warnings and checking the weather. From mid-October onwards, the weather clears up, making it a good time to go trekking and climb Acatenango, however it is cold at night, so make sure you bring a rain jacket in case you get caught in any last-minute storms and plenty of warm weather gear for when you're at altitude.
If you do end up visiting Guatemala in fall, try to time your visit to coincide with Independence Day on September 15th. The country-wide celebrations start the night before with athletes carrying torches and running late-night marathons across the country. There are also street parties, parades with floats and processions with marching bands, food and market stalls, a huge fireworks display, and a jovial carnival-like atmosphere.
Día de la Independencia de Guatemala (Guatemalan Independence Day) - September 15th: Celebrated across the country with dancing, music, parades, food, and fireworks. The main event is a torch-lit marathon from Guatemala City to Panajachel, known as the Antorcha de la Independencia.
Día de la Revolución (Revolution Day) - October 20th: Across the country, people take to the streets to commemorate the overthrow of dictator Jorge Ubico y Castaneda, remember the hundreds of thousands of people who "disappeared" during the Civil War, and to voice their right to freedom of speech. Culminates with music and fireworks.
Sea Turtle Hatchling Release - September to January: Visit Monterrico and the Pacific coastline to see baby sea turtles making their way to the ocean for the first time.
When's the Best Time to Visit Guatemala?
Winter is the ideal time to visit, with the best weather and jam-packed cultural event calendars, but these are also some of the busiest months in Guatemala. Spring is hot and humid, with Semana Santa taking center stage.
July and August are also quite busy, but May, June, September, and October are a little quieter, so if you can handle an afternoon downpour and the odd tropical storm, then you'll be rewarded with lower prices and have some of the country's most amazing tourist destinations all to yourself.
Ready to start planning your trip? Get inspired with our Guatemala tours and itineraries.