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The twice-weekly market of Chichicastenango is known far and wide as the country’s biggest and busiest. Thursday and Sunday mornings this Highlands town becomes a hive of activity as traders from surrounding K’iche’ Maya communities descend to trade their wares, as they have for centuries. While a large section of the market caters to the camera-toting tourists who arrive by the busload, visitors who make the effort can find quality weavings and pottery amidst the myriad stalls. Not only is "Chichi" a center of intense commerce, it’s also a holy place where Maya rituals are vividly enacted at nominally Christian sites. The steps in front of ...

The twice-weekly market of Chichicastenango is known far and wide as the country’s biggest and busiest. Thursday and Sunday mornings this Highlands town becomes a hive of activity as traders from surrounding K’iche’ Maya communities descend to trade their wares, as they have for centuries. While a large section of the market caters to the camera-toting tourists who arrive by the busload, visitors who make the effort can find quality weavings and pottery amidst the myriad stalls. Not only is "Chichi" a center of intense commerce, it’s also a holy place where Maya rituals are vividly enacted at nominally Christian sites. The steps in front of the principal church, Santo Tomás, are a stage for censer-swinging shamans and flower vendors wearing finely embroidered huipiles (blouses), while within, Maya ceremonies are kept alive by members of the local cofradía (brotherhood) clad in traditional vestments. Other ceremonial centers are secluded in the surrounding hills where prayers are chanted and offerings burned to ensure the earth’s fertility. Long a must-visit destination, Chichi has plenty of accommodation options but be sure to book ahead on eves of market days.

Daniel C. Schechter
About the Expert

Daniel C. Schechter has contributed chapters to more than a dozen Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Mexico, Caribbean Islands, Andalucia, Guatemala, and Pacific Northwest guides.

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Daniel C. Schechter for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Chichicastenango is a large indigenous town, lying on the crests of mountaintops at an altitude of 1,965 m (6,447 ft). It is located about 140 km (87 mi) northwest of Guatemala City.
  • Language: Spanish & Amerindian languages
  • Currency: Guatemala Quetzal
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    October-March (outside the rainy season), mid-December for festival of Santo Tomás, the town's patron saint