Chichicastenango, a medium-sized town in the QuichĂ© region about two to three hours away from Guatemala City, is home to one of the most important and extensive artisan markets in the world, and certainly the largest in Central America. The visitor can bargain for a wide array of hand-carved wooden masks, finely woven tapestries, pottery, paintings and more. There is even a section of the market still used by the locals to buy and sell fruit, vegetables, meat, and other daily needs. Market days are Sundays and Thursdays, although a visitor is likely to find someone willing to sell on any day of the week.
There is more to Chichicastenango than the market, however. The area has long been a stronghold of indigenous culture. The locals still speak regional dialects that differ little from what they spoke before the arrival of the Spanish, and many of them â€“ particularly the women â€“ still wear their colorful traditional clothes. On the steps of the 400 year-old cathedral of Santo TomĂˇs, native shamans bless the faithful with incense and incantations in QuichĂ©. Not far away from the center of town, a stone idol that somehow managed to escape the Spanish destruction of native statues draws many visitors. The cemetery, with its large mausoleums, is also worth a visit.
Because of its relative proximity to Guatemala City, Antigua, and Panajachel, Chichicastenango has less facilities for the traveler than it might. Most visitors come for a day trip and return to one of these other, more comfortable towns. There are, however, a growing number of restaurants, hotels, and even Spanish schools for the visitor who wishes to get to know Chichicastenango a little bit better.