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Introducing Guatemala City

Guatemala’s capital city, the largest urban agglomeration in Central America, spreads across a flattened mountain range run through by deep ravines. Let’s just say that there are more beautiful places on earth.

Depending on who you talk to, Guate (as it’s known) is either big, dirty, dangerous and utterly forgettable or big, dirty, dangerous and fascinating. Either way, there’s no doubt that there’s an energy here unlike that found in the rest of Guatemala, and the extremes that categorize the whole country are in plain view.

It’s a place where dilapidated buses belch fumes next to Beamers and Hummers, where skyscrapers drop shadows on shantytowns and immigrants from the countryside and the rest of Central America eke out a meager existence, barely noticed by the country’s elite.

This is the real cultural capital of Guatemala – the writers, the thinkers, the artists mostly live and work here. All the best museum pieces go to the capital, and while nearly every city dweller dreams of getting away to Antigua or Monterrico for the weekend, this is where they spend most of their time, a fact reflected in the growing sophistication of the restaurant and bar scene.

Many travelers skip the city altogether, preferring to make Antigua their base. Still, you may want, or need, to get acquainted with the capital because this is the hub of the country, where all transportation lines meet and all services are available.