By : Victoria
Chichicastenango: The Market
Located in the country’s highlands, the small town of Chichicastenango is known for its colourful market held twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays. In fact, locals claim it as the biggest market in the Americas (and it wouldn’t surprise me if it had the longest name in the Americas as well!)
The local population is mostly K’iche Maya, hence the town’s name “Chichi”. “Tenango” can roughly be translated as “the place of”. Chichicastenango is home to some 45,000 people but that number swells on market days when vendors (and their families) and visitors arrive in their hundreds, if not thousands.
The market can be roughly divided in two; the section selling artisanal wares aimed predominantly at tourists and the locals’ market. If you have time, it’s well worth wandering (or rather shuffling as there are so many people!) through both.
The locals’ market has sections dedicated to fruit and vegetables, another reserved for fish and yet another area where live cattle, chickens and turkeys are sold. Eggs, flowers and spices are for sale as is limestone to make tortillas. Simply put, this section of the market sells pretty much everything.
The more touristy side of the market is where you’ll find stalls selling textiles, embroidery, handicrafts, wood carvings, colourful masks, pottery, jewellery, bags and more. We were particularly drawn to the stalls selling row upon row of colourful woollen yarn. If I only knew what to do with it, I would have definitely bought some!
Other Sights in Chichicastenango
The heart of the town is the church of Santo Tomas (Iglesia de Santo Tomas), a 400-year-old church built atop a Pre-Columbian temple. Maya tradition is very much alive in Chichi and although built as a Catholic church, Mayan rituals dominate. Mayan priests burn incense and candles and throw alcohol on the altars and whisper prayers into the flames. Each of the 18 steps leading up to the church represent one month in the Maya calendar (the calendar has 18 months each with 20 days).
How to get to Chichicastenango
As the quetzal flies, Chichicastenango is not far from Antigua or Guatemala City but the windy mountain roads mean that it takes a few hours to get there. Your best bet, particularly if travelling with kids, is to book a tourist shuttle. Your other option is to join the locals on a colourful chicken bus, which will be less comfortable but definitely more interesting!
From Antigua it takes around 3 hours. From Lake Atitlan it takes approximately 1-2 hours depending on traffic.
Where to Stay in Chichicastenango
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