Guatemala is a beautiful country; it's probably one of our favourites in Central America. The tourist police are helpful and can be trusted for once, the roads on the highway are good and the Guatemala people make it too (apart from the mechanics). We didn't feel unsafe here, but note the constant sites that require a police escort/guide. Carrying a machete is a good deterrence. We got no hassle anyway.
If we had more time? We'd probably have liked to do the epic hike to El Mirador, maybe visit some places along the coast and check the area around Quetzaltenan (Xela). In hindsight, we would've preferred 2 weeks here, but in 10 days, we have covered a lot of highlights. We both said we'd come back here. NB That we actually spent over 2 weeks here, but the last 5 days we haven't counted due to being stuck in a mechanics.
Guatemala is not a non-touristy destination; we have seen more gringos here than Mexico and Belize. It's cheap for learning Spanish, which will probably account for this. It's also a 'gap YAR' mecca (can be a tad annoying at times). Expect a younger tourist crowd here.
Spanish is spoken widely, but most of the tourist places will have English speaking guides/ex-pat workers. Knowing basic spanish will help here, especially negotiating in the numerous markets. Although, we only seem to be competent in speaking in spanish about car problems!
- Good road network and generally quite good roads to major places. See more here, on the not so brilliant patches.
The scenery - besides the obvious places, even the journeys between tourist attractions made for beautiful vistas eg along highway 13, through the Rio Dulce to Semuc mountains, the sugarcane fields of highway 2, etc.
The food - good, varied and cheap. They seem to have nailed other countries' cuisines too.
Guatemalan people - interesting just to watch, especially the indigenous people around Semuc Champey, Chichicastenango and Lago de Atitlan, with their unfamiliar customs and colourful clothing.
Tikal - goes without saying really.
Antiqua - it's full of tourists, but for good reason. One of our favourite colonial towns in Central America.
Livingston - if only for the food!
Lake Atitlan and surrounding towns. We especially liked Santa Catarina Palopo.
Semuc Champey - we just had such a good laugh and the views, pools and caves were cool too.
Climate - we may have been lucky/good time of the year, but temperatures were fairly consistent and a comfortable late 20s Celsius.
The walk up San Pedro Volcano..although the view was worth it.
Some of the sketchy roads off the highway, including the Rio Dulce to Semuc Champey and the San Pedro 'under construction' twisty road.
Gaut city. Absolutely waste of time going there and what can only be described as a hole.
Being stuck in shanty land because of Dougal's epic failure. Gwyn was pretty close to cracking.