Every Thursday and Sunday, the city of Chichicastenango, known as Chichi, is one large and colorful event. That are the days for the most famous market of Guatemala: the market of Chichicastenango. Of course this market is a tourist hotspot. However, the market hasn’t lost its local character. Countless local people come from far to buy and sell their goods and visit a special church! It’s a real experience and great way to observe local life in Guatemala. In this article I’m telling and showing you more about this colorful place.
The market life of Chichicastenango
In the early morning the central square and the surrounding side streets become a large market maze, because of the many stalls. Market life is a wonderful way to obeserve local life. There is so much going on at the Chichicastenango market in Guatemala. Local people are dressed up in traditional colorful costumes and are carrying children on their backs. Different carts full of goods are pushing themselves through the crowds. Conversations and negotiations between buyers and sellers are taking place. Processions with music in which saints are worshiped are being held and fascinating to observe. Everyone is trying to find their way through the crowd but the atmosphere stays pleaseant. The market starts early and continues into the afternoon.
Iglesia Santo Tomás | Chichicastenango a Guatemalan market
The highlight for me is the small white church, hidden between the many stalls, on the Plaza Central. The Santo Tomás church is the example of how the Catholic religion has mingled with indigenous Andes beliefs and traditions. Inside the church you will find Catholic figures but also indigenous saints. Candles and incenses are burned everywhere throughout the church. People do their sacrifices, with pure alcohol, flowers, and cigarettes in order to worship their (natural) gods. All the sacrifices are displayed along the edge of the aisle. Keep in mind that taking pictures in the church is absolutely not done. That’s maybe a pity but it’s important to respect the local people in this.
On the stairs in front of the church different flowers and candles are being sold. Shamans and indigenous people sing and wave incense during their prayers at the top of the stairs, just before the entrance. Bear in mind that as a foreigner it is disrespectful to enter the church via the stairs. You are supposed to enter through the side entrance.
Interesting fact: It is said that the Popol Vuh, the holy book of the Maya, was found in the monastery next to the church, in the early 18th century.
Fruit and vegetable market | Chichicastenango a Guatemalan market
The large market hall is located on the north side of the square. This is the place to stock up on fruit and vegetables. On the second floor you can observe the market from the balcony. A lovely place to enjoy everything what’s going on.
Mayan altar – Pascual Abaj | Chichicastenango a Guatemalan market
If you are tired of the market crowds, visit Pascual Abaj. Just outside the center is a Mayan altar on a hill dedicated to this god. People make sacrifices and shamans hold their ceremonies. It’s fascinating to observe these rituals. You can make a nice walk up the hill or ask a taxi to bring you there.
Something to eat or drink? |
From the nice balcony in Los Cofrades, you have a super view of the market. It is also a good place for a simple meal or drink.
How to visit the Guatemalan market of Chichicastenango?
Chichicastenango is located in the south of the department of Quiché, 109 km from Antigua, about a 2.5-hour drive away. And 40 km from Panajachel, the largest city on the Lago de Atitlán, about 1.5 hours away. The well-known market has been taking place every Thursday and Sunday for years. It is wise to visit the market in the morning. There are different options for visiting the market:
- Stay the night before the market in Chichicastenango so that you can set off early the next day.
- Visit the market if you are passing through Antigua to Lago Atitlán or the other way around.
- Book a day trip to the market through a travel company.
Are you planning to visit Antigua? Read more in “What to do in Antigua”
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This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)