When on holiday in Guatemala, no vacation would be complete without visiting the incredible Market in Chichicastenango. Located just a few hours northwest of Guatemala City, Chichicastenango (also known as Santo Tomás Chichicastenango) is a beautiful small town situated at the mountain’s altitude of 1965m (6447ft). A day trip from Guatemala City, a visit to this town is a beautiful way to travel in Guatemala and experience traditional culture in a gorgeous mountain setting.
The town is a mixture of white stucco buildings and cobblestone streets that remain from colonial times, mingled with pre-Columbian Mayan ruins and traditions maintained by modern-day Mayans. The famous 400-year-old church of Santo Tomás built on top of a pre-Columbian temple’s ruins dating back to the Ancient Maya civilization. The steps to the temple are still revered today.
Among this unique blend of cultures and history, the inhabitants of Chichicastenango carry on some traditions that date back hundreds of years. One such tradition is the market that dates back to pre-Hispanic times, in an area that has traditionally been one of the most important commercial centers in the Mayan region. The market held every Thursday and Sunday, featuring vendors from all over the country and from each country’s linguistic groups. Widely believed to be the most colorful market in the Americas. It attracts people from all over Guatemala and tourists worldwide to experience the unique atmosphere and handmade products for sale.
Excellent addition to any Guatemala tour package, visitors to the market are amazed at the number and variety of beautiful items for sale. Locals visit the market to purchase fruits and vegetables whose size and quality rival the produce found in even the most high-end grocery stores. Chickens, eggs, and other meats are also sold, and once a year, there is a cattle market.
Besides local small farmers’ food and flowers, the market is famous for the exquisite handicrafts available for purchase. Elaborate wood-carved masks that are used in traditional dances have given this area a reputation for high-quality woodworking. Carved by hand and painted in a dizzying array of colors and designs, these masks make a beautiful souvenir or gift for someone back home.
Perhaps most popular are the intricately woven textiles on display at every turn. Traditional huipiles (traditional garments worn by Mayan women) are woven on handlooms into designs representing different Mayan groups and are created out of brightly colored cloth. In addition to traditional blouses, these incredible fabrics are woven into blankets, handbags, ponchos, and more, each with a design that’s unique to the group it represents.
After a visit to the market, don’t miss the opportunity to step inside the church of Santo Tomás. Each of the 18 steps leading up to the church represents a month in the Mayan calendar year and is an excellent example of how Mayan traditions and Spanish Catholic culture have mingled over the years in the town. On a historical note, the oldest known copy of the ancient Mayan religious text, the Popol Vuh, was discovered in the convent of this church, and the church is used as much by Catholic worshippers as it is by Mayans.
Martsam Travel, a Guatemala tour operator, can arrange private tours to Guatemala Chichicastenango on market days, including travel to and from Guatemala City. Enjoy the culture and history of Chichicastenango without any of the worries of arranging the details.