The weather in January is characterized by warm, dry days. The hottest temperatures are around 88°F on the Caribbean coast, but the rest of the country averages at around 80-85°F, with daytime lows of 70°F in Quetzaltenango in the mountains. At night, however, it can get down to freezing, especially in the Highlands, so plan ahead and make sure you bring warm clothes. It's the best time of year to visit Tikal when the temperatures and humidity are at their lowest, so you can wander through the ancient buildings to your heart's desire.
Crowds and Costs
The combination of great weather and holidays in North America and Europe means that January is one of the busiest months to visit Guatemala. This means accommodation and activities can fill up quite quickly, especially in the tourist hot-spots like Tikal National Park where there is only limited accommodation available in the park itself, so you will need to book well in advance.
However, in a country with as many amazing places to visit as Guatemala, it is also easy enough to escape the crowds by heading to lesser-visited places or timing your visit to places so you have more time, like doing a morning tour of Tikal and spending the afternoon visiting the off-the-beaten-track places in the huge city complex. Alternatively, you can embrace them and join the tens of thousands of pilgrims who flock from across Central America to one of the region's holiest sites in Escuintla, some of whom arrive by ox-drawn carts like their ancestors for hundreds of years before them.
Where to Go
With warm temperatures across the country and dry weather all-month long, January is the perfect time for exploring Guatemala's tropical lowlands and coastlines. While places like Antigua and Flores can be quite crowded, you can escape the crowds and enjoy picture-perfect views by staying in the eco-resorts in the hills surrounding Antigua—with some even providing shuttle buses several times a day to and from the city center—or in El Remate on the other side of Petén Itza Lake.
Despite being the busiest time of year, it's still very easy to find places to feel like you can get away from it all. On Lake Atitlán, you can choose to stay in smaller villages like Jabibalito, or—if you want something a bit more happening—check out the main towns like Panajachel, San Pedro, and San Marcos. If Semuc Champey is a bit too busy, then head to Cobán or even as far as Huehuetenango to explore the amazing natural wonders around there. Just make sure you book in advance. Do your research or speak to one of our resident Guatemala experts to make sure you choose the place that's right for you.
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What to Do
Head to Montericco on the Pacific coast to see baby sea turtles making their way to the ocean, and soak up some sun on the black sand beaches. Swing through Antigua to ring in the New Year, and check out the beautiful colonial architecture and amazing food and drinks on offer. Brave the hike up Acatenango to camp on the slopes of an active volcano and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience watching Fuego erupt against the darkness of the night sky, before heading to Lake Atitlán for some R&R. After that, head up to Tikal or swing by Rio Dulce to spend a few days relaxing on the river and exploring the national park with its hot spring waterfall.
If you're feeling adventurous and want to explore more off-grid destinations around the country, then head to Huehuetenango and the Western Highlands or the countryside around Cobán, where you can go tubing along rivers through caves lit by candlelight. Or, if you fancy yourself as a bit of an Indiana Jones or Lara Croft, you can also brave the 5-day trek from Flores to the ruins at El Mirador, one of the most amazing Mayan sites in the region. Despite its size and historic importance, this ancient trading city is only accessible via hike or helicopter, making it one of Guatemala's most unique and untouristed destinations.
New Year's Day (January 1st). The biggest New Year's celebrations take place in Antigua, where the sky is lit up by fireworks to ring in the new year.
Pilgrimage of Esquiplas (January 15th). The small town of Esquiplas is one of the holiest sites for Catholics in Central America. Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims flock to the Basilica to pay homage to the statue of the Black Christ, a 16th-century wooden statue that is said to have magical healing powers.
Traveling to Guatemala in January? Check Out These Great Itineraries
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Incredible Guatemala - 10 Days Explore the best of Guatemala's fascinating culture and incredible natural beauty on this 10-day trip that showcases the best parts of the country, including the spectacular Huehuetenango.