What is Chichicastenango market?

Chichicastenango (or Chichi for short) is a town in the highlands of Guatemala. Surrounded by valleys and small Pueblos (towns), Chichi comes alive every Thursday and Sunday to host Guatemala’s largest outdoor market.

The market is configured around a 400-year-old church, Santo Tomás which was built atop a Pre-Columbian temple platform. The steps originally led to a temple of the pre-Hispanic Maya civilization and K’iche’.

Maya priests still use the church for their rituals, burning incense and candles.

Fun fact: K’iche’ is one of the largest Mayan linguistic groups. Read more about K’iche’ here.

What can you buy at Chichicastenango Market?

Watch the video here ↓

At the market you’ll find all kinds of handicrafts, food, flowers, pottery, medicinal plants, candles, copal (traditional incense) like that burning in front of the church as well as pigs and chickens all for sale.

Chichi is well known for its handicrafts, mainly textiles such as women’s blouses or huipils (pronounced wee-peels). Here you can buy new and vintage huipils. You even buy huipils that have been recycled into quilts (spoiler alert we couldn’t resist and bought one despite only going to “look”).

Interesting facts

We expected to see plenty of textiles and were grateful for it – they are so colourful and beautiful but what we didn’t expect was the abundance of masks. We visited a mask maker in Chichicastenango. A lot of the masks are used by dancers in traditional dances, such as the ‘Dance of the Conquest’, during the Santo Tomás festival in December.

The ‘Dance of the Conquest’ is a traditional folkloric dance from Guatemala. During the dance participants adorned by elaborate costumes and masks reenact the invasion led by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado and his confrontation with Tecun Uman, ruler of K’iche’ kingdom of Q’umarkaj. 

The festival is a blending of K’iche’ Mayan and Christian traditions. The entire K’iche’ tribe is long since Christian, yet Mayan ceremonies and many of its ancient rites and beliefs persist in daily life.

Pretty cool right?! We love making these unexpected discoveries and learning as much as we can everywhere we go.  If you’re the same make sure you stop into a mask manufacturer if you visit Chichi to see these beautiful costumes, masks and hear their story.

Getting to Chichicastenango Market

Getting to Chichicastenango Market from Lake Atitlan is easy. We took a tourist shuttle from San Pedro La Laguna, it cost the equivalent of $20USD hours and took 1.5hours.

You can also take the shuttle from Panajachel.

Or for the brave, the slightly longer, cheaper way to do it is to take a chicken bus from Panajachel. We took the shuttle for convenience but if you want to do as the locals do and make it more of an adventure we found this guide here really informative.

Have you been to Chichi market? Tell us what you loved most! 

Author

Zahn is a travel junkie born and raised on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand. Zahn spent two years in South Korea where she met Addison in 2018. She has visited 17 countries and is on a mission to literally work her way around the rest.

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