Guatemala (/ˌɡwɑːtəˈmɑːlə/ (About this sound listen) GWAH-tə-MAH-lə; Spanish: [gwateˈmala]), officially the Republic of Guatemala (Spanish: República de Guatemala), is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, Honduras to the east and El Salvador to the southeast. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated state in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.

The territory of modern Guatemala once formed the core of the Maya civilization, which extended across Mesoamerica. Most of the country was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century, becoming part of the viceroyalty of New Spain. Guatemala attained independence in 1821 as part of the Federal Republic of Central America, which dissolved in 1841.

From the mid to late 19th century, Guatemala experienced chronic instability and civil strife. Beginning in the early 20th century, it was ruled by a series of dictators backed by the United Fruit Company and the United States government. In 1944, authoritarian leader Jorge Ubico was overthrown by a pro-democratic military coup, initiating a decade-long revolution that led to sweeping social and economic reforms. A U.S.-backed military coup in 1954 ended the revolution and installed a dictatorship.

From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala endured a bloody civil war fought between the US-backed government and leftist rebels, including genocidal massacres of the Maya population perpetrated by the military. Since a United Nations-negotiated peace accord, Guatemala has witnessed both economic growth and successful democratic elections, though it continues to struggle with high rates of poverty, crime, drug trade, and instability. As of 2014, Guatemala ranks 31st of 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries in terms of the Human Development Index.

Guatemala’s abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems includes a large number of endemic species and contributes to Mesoamerica’s designation as a biodiversity hotspot.

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Semuc Champey is a natural monument in the department of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, near the Q’eqchi’ Maya town of Lanquín. It consists of a natural 300 m limestone bridge, under which passes the Cahabón River

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Lake Atitlán is a body of water in a massive volcanic crater in Guatemala’s southwestern highlands. Ringed by steep, verdant hills, it’s known for its Mayan villages and volcanoes with striking pointed cones. The busy town of Panajachel, where vendors sell traditional textiles, is a popular gateway to the lake. On a former coffee plantation, the Atitlán nature reserve offers trails and a butterfly garden

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Tikal is an ancient Mayan citadel in the rainforests of northern Guatemala. Possibly dating to the 1st century A.D., Tikal flourished between 200 and 850 A.D. and was later abandoned. Its iconic ruins of temples and palaces include the giant, ceremonial Lost World (Mundo Perdido) Pyramid and the Temple of the Grand Jaguar. At 70 meters, Temple IV is the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas.

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