Worth it or not? – Chichicastenango in Guatemala
In this serie ‘worth it or not’ I review some of my experiences with a certain place or sight. Which are the real highlights and which are kind of overrated?
Guatemala is colorful. After four months of traveling through Central America I wanted to bring some gifts for the people at home. I had missed some birthdays and I flew home on Christmas Eve. And where can you find better souvenirs than in such a colorful and authentic country like Guatemala? Many travelers advised me to do my shopping at the market of Chichicastenango, often referred to Chichi by the Guatemalans. In this small village you will find two times a week one of the largest markets in Central America. Vendors from all over the country and even from neighboring countries come here to sell their stuff. Earlier I’ve made a list of the likes and dislikes of Tayrona National Park in Colombia and Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica. This time the likes and dislikes of Chichicastenango in Guatemala!
– Colorful carpets, bags, home decoration, sculptures, wooden masks, purses: you’ll find it all here. You have to be in a very bad mood to not be cheerful at this market.
– It’s 95% percent sure you will find what you are looking for in Chichicastenango.
– You can get to learn a bit more about the Mayas in Guatemala. Especially in the early morning many locals visit the market, because in some parts you will also find many traditional clothes and household items. If you’re sitting on the steps of the St. Thomas church you will still not be bored half an hour later. St. Thomas church is a catholic church built on the rests of a Mayan temple. Because of this the church is also frequented visited by the Mayan community. There are also often religious rituals in front of the entrance. It’s amazing how these people can perform a ritual in such peace while the market is such a chaos.
– The market is only held on Thursdays and Sundays.
– The earlier you are on the market, the better you can negotiate the price. I slept in Chichicastenango so I could visit the market from 7 am. By the time I had done all my shopping a lot of people were walking through the streets of the small village. Also the prices of souvenirs suddenly went sky high. It’s a pro for bargaining to speak and understand a bit of Spanish.
– If you don’t want to stay in Chichicastenango and you don’t have your own transport you have to go by (tourist) buses. Unfortunately you often arrive at the market around 10 or 11 am and then it’s extremely busy. It will definitely affect your experience with Chichicastenango.
– There’s not that much to do in Chichicastenango. The cemetery with the colorful tombs and the rituals in front of the St. Thomas church are amazing. But overall the town is quite quiet. For the many sights you shouldn’t go to Chichicastenango.
I really enjoyed the market in Chichicastenango. I was there during the Festival of Santo Thomas, so that was even more fun. The whole village will put on their best clothes and everybody is celebrating on the streets. A great time to be in Chichicastenango (in December). My experience with the market was very positive, but if I had arrived a few hours later I was probably a lot more irritable. So I would recommend to go as early as you can. The best way to do this is to stay the night before in the village (so you will arrive already on Wednesday or Saturday). If you want to take the local bus from Antigua or Lake Atitlán you have to take one to Los Encuentos and then switch to Chichicastenango. It’s about an 3 hours ride. Downside of the popular market of Chichicastenango is that some things are a bit more expensive than on other markets. I think the prices were okay and if you can bargain it’s even better, but some travelers also said the prices were better on the markets in the villages around Lake Atitlán or in Antigua.