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Chichicastenango, a medium-sized town in the Quiché 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 – particularly the women – still wear their colorful traditional clothes. On the steps of the 400 year-old cathedral of Santo Tomás, native shamans bless the faithful with incense and incantations in Quiché. 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.


Other places nearby Chichicastenango: Santa Cruz La Laguna, San Juan Cotzal, San Juan Cotzal, Tecpán, Uspantán, San Marcos La Laguna, Santa Catarina Palopó, Panajachel, Sololá and Chimaltenango .

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
26 Sep 2006

Things to do in Chichicastenango

Chichicastenango Market

136196No visitor should come to Chichicastenango without stopping to witness the weekly market. The town becomes a different place on Sundays and Thursdays, when the usually-quiet highland settlement is ...
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Museo Rossbach

136197This archaeological and anthropological museum has three rooms exhibiting historical pieces from Chichi and the surrounding region dating to the pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern periods. There are ...
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Iglesia Santo Tomás

136198Dating from the mid-16th century, and rebuilt in the 18th century, this atmospheric church is a great introduction to the fascinating highland blend of Catholicism and Mayan spiritualism. It is ...
Historical Building
Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Pascual Abaj

136199A short walk south of the town center is the Maya ceremonial site of Pascual Abaj, a shrine which is still very much in use today. There are some small altars and a pre-Columbian idol, and if there ...
Historical Building
Chichicastenango, Guatemala
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