Every Thursday and Sunday, the city of Chichicastenango, is one large and colorful event. That are the days for one of the most famous markets in Central America: the Chichicastenango market in Guatemala. Of course this Guatemala 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 this article I’m telling you more about the colorful Chichi market in Guatemala.
The Guatemala market life of Chichicastenango
There is so much going on at the Chichicastenango market in Guatemala. In the early morning the central square and the surrounding side streets become a large market maze, because of the many stalls. Local people are dressed up in traditional colorful costumes and carry children on their backs. Different carts full of goods push themselves through the crowds, while conversations and negotiations between buyers and sellers take place. Processions with music in which saints are worshiped are being held and everyone is trying to find their way through the crowd. But the atmosphere is lovely. And it’s all beautiful to observe!
Souvenir alert: This market is a true souvenir heaven! You’ll find all type of beautiful traditional bags, scarfs, jewelry, purses and blankets, famous for its many colors and patterns. It’s difficult to leave without buying anything!
Iglesia Santo Tomás | A unique church at the Chichicastenango market in Guatemala
The highlight of this market in Guatemala, 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. On the stairs in front of the church different flowers and candles are being sold, while shamans and indigenous people sing and wave incense during their prayers.
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 sacrifices are displayed along the edge of the aisle. It’s pretty amazing to observe!
Entrance and picture protocol: Keep in mind that taking pictures in the church is absolutely not done. Also when you are a foreigner, it is seen as disrespectful by the locals to enter the church via the stairs. You are supposed to enter through the side entrance!
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.
The Fruit and vegetable market of Chichicastenango Guatemala
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
If you are tired of the market crowds, visit Pascual Abaj. Just outside the Chichi market you’ll find a Mayan altar on a hill, dedicated to Pascual Abaj, an important god in this area of Guatemala. People make sacrifices and shamans hold their ceremonies here. You can make a nice walk up the hill or ask a taxi to bring you there.
Restaurants around the Chichi Market
From the nice balcony in Los Cofrades, you have a super view of the Chichi market. It is also a good place for a simple meal or drink.
How to visit the Chichicastenango market in Guatemala?
Chichicastenango is located in the south of the department of Quiché, 109 km from Antigua, about a 2.5-hour drive away. Panajachel, the largest city on the Lake Atitlan, is about 1.5 hours away (40 km). The well-known market has been taking place every Thursday and Sunday for years. It is recommended to visit the market in the morning.
The market starts early in the morning and continues into the afternoon. Most buses will drop you around the corner of the Hotel Santo Tomas. From here it’s an easy walk toward the central square.
Tips for your visit
- 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 Lake Atitlan or the other way around.
- Book a day trip to the Chichi market through a travel company.
More about Guatemala
Are you planning to visit the Chichi market during your travels in Guatemala? Do you want to read more about beautiful Guatemala? In this article you’ll find the 20 best things to do in Guatemala, including off the beaten path destinations, best time to travel, travel itineraries and information about safety. Have a look in the Guatemala archive for a cityguide for Antigua and travel guides about Lake Atitlan, Lanquin, the Acatenango volcano hike, a boat trip on the Rio Dulce to Caribbean Livingston and a Guatemala hotel guide. Interested in archaeology? In this article I’m taking you to the Maya ruins of Tikal and Quiriguá, a smaller and less visited Maya site with beautiful Maya stelae.