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Chichicastenango: Visiting An Indigenous Market

Chichicastenango, Quiche Department, Guatemala

Learn from the ways of living preserved over time and be captivated by the clothes and handcraft local market. Chichicastenango represents Guatemala at its best, a magical and a spiritual place where traditions and culture emerge from every corner.

98.5% of the population is indigenous Mayan K’iche, from which 92% speaks the K’iche language and 71% is bilingual, speaking both K’iche and Spanish. Chichicastenango is the place to witness syncretism in Guatemala, the attemp to combine indigenous beliefs and Catholic faith. In fact, the Popol vuh, a mayan religious book narrating humanity’s origin, was found here.

Santo Tomas Church

How To Get There

  • By car. Take the CA-1 road west of Guatemala City until Los Encuentros. From there, go towards Santa Cruz del Quiche, Chichicastenango is at 17km.
  • Shuttle bus companies connect the main “tourist” landmarks in Guatemala; such as Antigua, Semuc Champey, Quetzaltenango or Santiago Atitlán. You can book this transportation on tourist agencies (on the main streets and squares) and even from your accomodation. Without any doubt, the fastest and easiest way to move around.
  • By public transport (known as “chicken buses”). I recommend them if you are interested in a closer contact with the local culture. It is a bit slower than the shuttle bus, but way cheaper. From Guatemala City go to El Trebol intersection, at Zona 8. Even if you don’t speak spanish, it’s really easy to find the bus. Look for the man shouting, Chichi Chichi! It should cost around 30 Q (4 USD).

TIP! “Chicken buses” are a good way to save money and experience the local culture.

Indigenous cemetery

What To See

  • Santo Tomas Church. Dating from 1540, the main white facade contrasts with the flowers basket on the main stairs. The Indigenous kneel down on the central aisle and pray to clean their soul. Do not see it as a tourist attraction, but as a way to learn to respect different ways to live spirituality and religious traditions.
  • Central Market. Every Thursday and Sunday. Vendors sell everything, from chickens to telephones. Moreover, look for huipiles (hand-kintted typical clothing), sandals, bracelets, necklaces and even wooden masks and sculptures.
  • Calvario Church. Small white church located on the Main Square. Indigenous ceremonies take place here as well.
  • Indigenous cemetery. The colorful tombs remind us that death is not seen as sad moment but only as one of the stages we go through. Visit it on the 1st and 2nd of November to attend the Day of the Dead celebrations.
  • Pascual Abaj (Sacrifice Stone). A Maya shrine on the top of a hill, ten minutes from the Main Square. Liquor, incense, food, cigarettes and flowers are given as an offering in thanks for the earth’s fertility.