Destinations in Guatemala:

Chichicastenango

Chichicastenango, lovingly called Chichi by visitors and Guatemalans alike, has become one of the most famous and most visited destinations in Guatemala. Located in the Western Highlands in the department of El Quiche at 1965 m (5,400 ft) above sea level, Chichi is about 140 km (90 miles) from Guatemala City and can be reached by car in about 2-3 hours.

Most of the way is along the Pan-American Highway, until the road to Chichicastenango forks off at Los Encuentros. From there, a winding mountain road, complete with hairpin curves, leads to Chichi, which is surrounded by mountains and pine-clad hills.

The Market

Chichi has been one of the largest trading centers in the Mayan world since pre-Hispanic times. Vendors and buyers from the entire Quiche region and beyond come together in Chichi, making the market one of the largest outdoor markets in Latin America.

The market comes to life twice a week, on Thursday and Sunday, with Sunday being the busier of the two market days. The market occupies the central plaza and the side streets within several blocks around it.

The market in Chichicastenango is most famous for textiles, leather goods and wood carvings, but in fact a much wider range of merchandise can be found:

  • hand-woven and hand-embroidered clothes, huipils (women's blouses), cortes (traditional Mayan wrap-around skirts), table clothes, place sets and wool blankets
  • leather goods, particularly shoes, boots, belts and hats
  • wood and stone carvings, most notably wooden ceremonial masks used in traditional Mayan dances
  • pottery
  • jewelry, particularly silver
  • incense and candles
  • medicinal plants, herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, meat and live animals
  • household items and tools, from machetes to power drills
  • personal-hygiene items
  • knick-knacks and souvenirs

Vendors begin to set up their stalls the night before market day and the activity continues until the early morning hours. The market is busiest in the morning and begins to wind down around noon; by early afternoon, the market is mostly over and Chichi begins to quiet down as buyers and vendors leave town.

The Churches of Santo Tomas and El Calvario

Chichicastenango has two churches, which face each other across the central plaza and are thus located at opposite ends of the market area. Santo Tomas is the older and larger one, while El Calvario is more like a chapel.

The church of Santo Tomas is more than 400 years old and reflects the mixture of Catholic and indigenous Mayan beliefs that is prevalent throughout the Mayan world. While Santo Tomas is officially a Catholic church, it is also used by Mayan shamans who burn candles and incense and perform their rituals either on the steps to the church or inside.

The Santo Tomas church was built on an older structure, probably a Mayan ceremonial platform. 18 steps lead up to the church's main entrance, one for each month of the Mayan calendar year. On market days, many vendors of candles and flowers can be found on the steps.

Tours including a visit to Chichicastenango:

Tours from Antigua Guatemala to Lake Atitlan & Chichicastenango (2 days & 1 night)
Visit the most beautiful lake in the world and the largest outdoor market in Central America.
Guatemala by Land and River (10 days)
Spend four days sailing the Rio Dulce on our sailboat Las Sirenas, then continue to Tikal, Chichicastenango, Lake Atitlan and Antigua.
Maya Guatemala (14 days)
The grand tour of Guatemala! Visit Antigua, Chichicastenango, Lake Atitlan, Tikal, Copan (Honduras), Livingston, Coban, and climb the Pacaya Volcano.
Maya Guatemala and Sailing Rio Dulce (14 days)
Spend four days on our sailboat Las Sirenas sailing the Rio Dulce and Lake Izabal, then visit Tikal, Antigua, Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlan.
More tour packages ...