A chronology of key events:
1523-24 - Spanish adventurer Pedro de Alvarado defeats the indigenous Maya and turns Guatemala into a Spanish colony.
1821 - Guatemala becomes independent and joins the Mexican empire the following year.
1823 - Guatemala becomes part of the United Provinces of Central America, which also include Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
1839 - Guatemala becomes fully independent.
1844-65 - Guatemala ruled by conservative dictator Rafael Carrera.
1873-85 - Guatemala ruled by liberal President Justo Rufino Barrios, who modernises the country, develops the army and introduces coffee growing.
1931 - Jorge Ubico becomes president; his tenure is marked by repressive rule and then by an improvement in the country's finances.
1941 - Guatemala declares war on the Axis powers.Social-democratic reforms
1944 - Juan Jose Arevalo becomes president following the overthrow of Ubico and introduces social-democratic reforms, including setting up a social security system and redistributing land to landless peasants.
Efrain Rios Montt
His era saw some of the civil war's worst episodes
1951 - Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzman becomes president, continuing Arevalo's reforms.
1954 - Land reform stops with the accession to power of Colonel Carlos Castillo in a coup backed by the US and prompted by Arbenz's nationalisation of plantations of the United Fruit Company.
1960-1996 - Civil war pitting government against leftist rebels supported mainly by indigenous people.
1963 - Colonel Enrique Peralta becomes president following the assassination of Castillo.
1966 - Civilian rule restored; Cesar Mendez elected president.
1970 - Military-backed Carlos Arena elected president.Human rights violated
1970s - Military rulers embark on a programme to eliminate left-wingers, resulting in at least 50,000 deaths.
1976 - 27,000 people are killed and more than a million rendered homeless by earthquake.
Rigoberta Menchu, a campaigner for Mayan rights, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992
1980 January - Spanish embassy fire, a defining event in the civil war, in which 36 people die after police raid the embassy occupied by peasants.
1981 - Around 11,000 people are killed by death squads and soldiers in response to growing anti-government guerrilla activity.
1982 - General Efrain Rios Montt takes power in a military coup. He conducts a campaign of mass murder against indigenous Mayans, accusing them of harbouring insurgents. He faces trial over these crimes in 2013.
1983 - Montt ousted in coup led by General Mejia Victores, who declares an amnesty for guerrillas.
1985 - Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arevalo elected president and the Guatemalan Christian Democratic Party wins legislative elections under a new constitution.
Spanish embassy fire
A mourner remembers the fatal raid on the mission occupied by protesters
1989 - Attempt to overthrow Cerezo fails; civil war toll since 1980 reaches 100,000 dead and 40,000 missing.
1991 - Jorge Serrano Elias elected president. Diplomatic relations restored with Belize, from whom Guatemala had long-standing territorial claims.
1993 - Serrano forced to resign after his attempt to impose an authoritarian regime ignites a wave of protests; Ramiro de Leon Carpio elected president by the legislature.
1994 - Peace talks between the government and rebels of the Guatemalan Revolutionary National Unity begin; right-wing parties win a majority in legislative elections.
1995 - Rebels declare a ceasefire; UN and US criticise Guatemala for widespread human rights abuses.End of civil war
1996 - Alvaro Arzu elected president, conducts purge of senior military officers and signs peace agreement with rebels, ending 36 years of civil war.
Mystery collapse of thriving society
Maya civilisation prospered in Central America until around 900 AD
1998 - Bishop Juan Gerardi, a human rights campaigner, murdered.
1999 - UN-backed commission says security forces were behind 93% of all human rights atrocities committed during the civil war, which claimed 200,000 lives, and that senior officials had overseen 626 massacres in Maya villages.
2000 - Alfonso Portillo sworn in as president after winning elections in 1999.
2001 December - President Portillo pays $1.8 millon in compensation to the families of 226 men, women and children killed by soldiers and paramilitaries in the northern village of Las Dos Erres in 1982.Border talks
2002 September - Guatemala and Belize agree on draft settlement to their long-standing border dispute at talks brokered by Organization of American States (OAS). Both nations will hold referendums on draft settlement.
2003 November - Presidential elections go to second round. Former military leader Efrain Rios Montt trails in third place, accepts defeat.
2003 December - Conservative businessman Oscar Berger - a former mayor of Guatemala City - wins presidential election in second round.
Guatemala - along with Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras - agrees on free-trade agreement with US.
2004 May - Former military leader Efrain Rios Montt placed under house arrest.
2004 May/June - Major cuts to the army; bases are closed and 10,000 soldiers are retired.
2004 July - $3.5 million in damages paid to victims of civil war. Move follows state's formal admissions of guilt in several well-known human rights crimes.
2004 September - Deadly clashes as police try to evict around 600 squatters from private farm. Eleven people are killed.
2004 December - UN mission, set up to monitor post-civil war peace process, winds up. But UN says Guatemala still suffers from crime, social injustice, human rights violations.
2005 March - Government ratifies Central American free trade deal with US amid street protests in capital.Storm deaths
2005 October - Hundreds of people are killed as Tropical Storm Stan sweeps through, triggering landslides and floods.
2005 November - Guatemala's leading anti-drugs investigator is arrested in the US on charges of drug trafficking.
2006 July - A Spanish judge issues a warrant for the arrest of former military leader Efrain Rios Montt and other former officials over atrocities committed during the civil war.
2006 December - Government and the UN agree to create a commission - to be known as the CICIG - to identify and dismantle powerful clandestine armed groups.
2007 February - Three El Salvador politicians and their driver are murdered near Guatemala City. The trio were members of the Central American Parliament, based in the capital.
2007 May - Guatemala ratifies an international adoption treaty, committing it to ensure that babies are not bought or stolen.Murders
2007 July - Amnesty International urges the government to ratify the CICIG as a first step towards tackling the culture of impunity it says has contributed to Guatemala's soaring murder rate.
2007 August - International election monitors say they are worried about the high murder rate among political candidates and activists in the run-up to the 9 September polls.
2007 November - Alvaro Colom of centre-left National Unity of Hope Party wins presidential elections with nearly 53 percent of the vote.
2008 October - Ex-President Alfonso Portillo is extradited from Mexico to face corruption charges. A court later clears him. A court in 2012 said he could be extradited to the US to face money laundering charges.
2008 November - Fifteen bus passengers including a Dutch national are shot dead and then set on fire in eastern Guatemala in what police believe to be a drug-related incident.
2009 May - President Colom denies involvement in murder of a prominent lawyer who in a video made before to his death claimed Colom and others were out to kill him. A UN probe clears Mr Colom.Trials
2009 September - An ex-paramilitary officer, Felipe Cusanero, becomes the first person to be jailed for the forced disappearance of civilians in Guatemala's civil war.
Severe food shortages. President Colom declares "state of public calamity" to try to mobilise funding.
2009 December - Retired colonel becomes first army officer to be convicted of crimes committed during civil war.
2010 March - Country's police chief and anti-drugs czar are sacked over the theft of cocaine.
2010 May - State of emergency declared after Pacaya volcano erupts.
2010 October - US apologises for deliberately infecting hundreds of Guatemalans with gonorrhoea and syphilis as part of medical tests in the 1940s. President Colom describes the tests as a "crime against humanity".
2011 April - President Colom and his wife Sandra Torres divorce so that she can stand for election as president.
2011 August - Four former soldiers found guilty of a village massacre become the first to be convicted of rights abuses during the civil war.
2011 November - Former army general Otto Perez Molina of the right-wing Patriotic Party wins presidential elections, takes office in January.
2011 December - President Colom apologises to the relatives of the more than 200 victims of the 1982 massacre in the village of Dos Erres during the civil war.
Guatemala is seen as an important area for the transshipment, production and consumption of drugs
2012 March - President Perez Molina proposes decriminalising drugs as a way of combatting the illegal narcotics trade.
2012 July - Dozens are injured, including the ministers of the interior and education, in police clashes in Guatemala City with teacher trainers protesting against having to spend more time studying for the qualifications.
2012 November - Two major earthquakes, the strongest in decades, leave more than 50 people dead. They are also felt in neighbouring El Salvador and Mexico's southern Chiapas state.
2013 May - Ex-military leader Efrain Rios Montt is convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, only to have the ruling overturned by the constitutional court on a technicality. The trial is scheduled to resume in January 2015.
Former president Alfonso Portillo is flown to the United States, where he faces corruption charges.