Chichicastenango Sunday Tourist Market

Chichicastenango Market & 7 More Things to Do

In Guatemala, Traditional Villages & Markets by Erik @ DIY Travel HQ6 Comments

There’s more to this traditional Maya town than the touristy Chichicastenango market. Find out the top 8 things to do in Chichi!

Things to Do in Chichicastenango

The Chichicastenango market is the biggest attraction in Chichi, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing to do.

Another key component to Chichicastenango, Guatemala is their combination of Christianity and traditional Maya culture. You can experience these beliefs in practice at Pascual Abaj, Santo Tomas Church, and El Calvario Chapel.

Chichicastenango Pascual Abaj Hilltop
We saw one group returning from their ceremonial offering at Pascual Abaj, but there is space for several more groups.

Beside the Chichicastenango market, other points of interest include:

  • Museo Arqueological Regional
  • Murals along the perimeter of the Main Plaza
  • Museo de Mascares Ceremoniales and Mask workshops
  • ChiChi Cemetery

Find more inspiration in one of the Guatemala guide books below! 

Chichicastenango Cemetery
The Maya really like to make death festive.

Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before any trip to Guatemala. We’ve been using World Nomads for over 10 years. It’s the best-value provider we’ve found but there are other important things to consider. Check out our post and find out which of our claims were successful or denied.

1. Chichicastenango Market

The Chichicastenango market days are Sunday and Thursday. Out of all the markets we here at DIY Travel HQ visited in Guatemala, the Chichi market is geared toward tourists the most.

The heart of the Chichicastenango market is located in and around the Main Plaza. Legions of shuttle vans take day trips from Panajachel, Antigua, and Guatemala City on these two market days, and depart just a few hours after arriving.

Chichicastenango Busy Sunday Market
The crowds continue to build with each shuttle, and only subsides after noon.

Plan on arriving the day before to get a better feel of Chichicastenango, and visit the less touristy attractions.

The two Chichi market days have become such a huge event that the entire plaza has been permanently covered, with food and produce vendors inside. This makes for a less than appealing town center, but helps reduce the setup and tear-down time.

Chichicastenango Central Market Food Stalls
They tuck the essential, but less sightly vendors behind a wall of flashy fabric and knick-knacks.

Expect to find all the regional handicrafts from Guatemala located in one place as locals from surrounding villages come to sell their products at market stalls. These include numerous woven clothes, trinkets, wool rugs, hammocks, masks, and other items.

Chichicastenango Central Market Vendors and Iglesia de Santo Tomas
These vendors are regulars, and have claimed the best spots long ago.

The Chichicastenango market begins to cater to locals the further from the center you get. Expect to find second-hand clothes, fruits, vegetables, livestock, and poultry for sale outside the Main Plaza.

Chichicastenango Animal Market
I wonder what the restrictions are on taking home a souvenir cow?

One of the more interesting aspects to the Chichicastenango market is watching the transition from non-market to market day. Vendors arrive the day before in preparation, and can be seen sleeping along the arcades.

Chichicastenango Guatemalas Sleeping in Arcade Surrounding Main Plaza
It looks like these guys have their spots picked out.

Before sunrise, they are already constructing their booths and hanging their clothes up.

2. Santo Tomas Church

There is a lot going on at the primary church of Chichicastenango, Santo Tomas Church. Lining the steps are a mix of tourists, vendors selling flowers used for offerings, and Maya faithful.

The spiritual include those burning copal incense in an elevated pit, a man swinging balsam incense censers, and a woman praying on pine needles in the shape of a cross.

Chichicastenango Iglesia de Santo Tomas
Burn, baby, burn! Surprisingly, we didn’t see any incense being sold at the market.

The interior of Santo Tomas Church was relatively empty when we visited, but candles were lit down the aisle and at the altar. Apparently, these are meant to remember the dead who were buried underneath the church.

Chichicastenango Iglesia de Santo Tomas Interior
This is a lot of candles for virtually no visitors.

3. El Calvario Chapel

El Calvario Chapel is the smaller of the two churches overlooking the Chichicastenango Main Plaza, but still serves the same function.

Men can be seen outside burning copal incense, swinging balsam incense censers, and families inside light candles and say incantations.

Chichicastenango El Calvario Church
Thankfully most of these churches are not wood with all the fire in and around them.

4. Pascual Abaj

Pascual Abaj is located down 9a Calle, with a few mask workshops along the way. Follow the road until you see a sign for Pascual Abaj on the left.

You can choose to pass through either the first or second property on the right. Continue on the switchback path until you reach the top of the hill.

Chichicastenango Entrance to Pascual Abaj
Follow this path between someone’s property, and up the hill.

Pascual Abaj translates as Sacrifice Stone, and is a shrine to a Maya earth-god. The focal point is the shrine to Huyup Tak’ah surrounded by stone crosses in a circle.

The flattened hilltop also has a dozen-odd sacrifice altars under a pavilion and in the open. If you are lucky, you will see religious Maya offering a chicken. More common gifts are flowers, alcohol, and incense.

Chichicastenango Pascual Abaj Shrine to Huyup Tak'ah
The Maya believe they must sacrifice objects to keep the earth fertile.

5. Museo Arqueological Regional (Q5)

Chichi’s archaeological museum is small and showcases clay and stone tools, weapons, and accessories. You can also see the entire collection by looking through the windows.

chichicastenango Museo Arqueologico Regional
You can see into every room by moving from window to window.

6. Chichicastenango Murals

Surrounding the Main Plaza is the Town Hall, and Museo Arqueological Regional. Both have murals on their exterior walls.

The more significant mural is at the Town Hall, which tells the story of the civil war with Mayan symbology.

Chichicastenango Mural
Get out of the rain or sun, and learn some history as you walk through this arcade surrounding the Main Plaza.

7. Museo de Mascaras Ceremoniales

The Museum of Ceremonial Masks at the base of Pascual Abaj has a small display on Maya masks.

There are also several mask stores on the way to Pascual Abaj, with one offering mask workshops. These tend to be open more than Museo de Mascaras Ceremoniales.

Chichicastenango Mask Workshop
Chichicastenango has some excellent masks to admire even if you are not interested in purchasing one.

The variety of masks is impressive no matter where you visit, and is one of the better items for sale in and around the Chichicastenango market.

8. ChiChi Cemetery

From Pascual Abaj or Posada el Telfono, you can see just how colorful the Chichi cemetery is. It may look best from afar, but it is still worth a peek as you explore Chichicastenango on foot.

The three distinct grave styles are mausoleums, stacked graves, and concrete caskets.

Chichicastenango Cemetery Graves
They have every conceivable option for graves, except in the ground!

Chichicastenango Hotels

Chichicastenango conveniently has two budget hotels next door to each other on 8a Calle. Compare both Hotel Mashito (Q80 / $10.90) and Posada el Telefono (Q70 / $9.54) before deciding.

We chose Posada el Telefono since we liked the upstairs courtyard, and we were able to pay Q60 / $8.20 as a two night discount.

Chichicastenango Budget Hotels
Chichicastenango budget hotels are conveniently located next to each other.

If you want to book ahead, there are a few Chichi hotels on Booking.com that start at $31. Even more options can be found on AirBnB, and first time users can get up to $55 off their first stay!

Chichicastenango Restaurants

Like most Guatemalan towns you can find tacos (3 for Q10 / $1.35) and fried chicken with fries (Q10 / $1.35) in Chichicastenango.

Better value are the set meals in the covered Central Market. Expect to get a plate consisting of meat with sauce, rice, salad, tortillas, and a drink for Q15 / $2.05.

Chichicastenango Fried Chicken Set Meal
Make sure you grab a bite in the covered market, even if it is just a better fried chicken dish.

A new dish we discovered at the Chichicastenango market was atol de elote (Q4 / $0.55), which can be described as corn soup. It is bland at first, but you can adjust the flavor to your liking. You add salt, lime, chili, and crackers (Q0.50 / $0.07) for flavoring.

Chichicastenango Guatemala Food Atol de Elote
It may not look appetizing and be bland until you add spices, but atol de elote will have you coming back for more.

The best place to drink is Cantina Aqui Me Quedo, where they have bulk deals. Come with a group just in case the locals are drunk and annoying.

Chichicastenango Cantina Aqui Me Quedo
Next round’s on…that guy!

Getting To/From Chichicastenango

We took a chicken bus from Quetzaltenango (Xela) Terminal Minerva (Q20 / $2.75), and got dropped off in Chichicastenango since there is no official station.

Quetzaltenango (Xela) Minerva Chicken Bus Terminal
Who would have guessed it would take so long to reach, and ultimately leave Minerva Terminal.

Departing Chichicastenango is a bit more challenging for this same reason. You can try to catch a bus passing through, but the market makes it difficult to know the new route.

Consider taking a shuttle to Los Encuentros (Q6 / $0.80) instead, and transferring to a chicken bus there.

You can head to Panajachel, Guatemala City, Antigua, Quetzaltenango (Xela), or KM 148 (Q5 / $0.70 but charged Q10 / $1.35) for San Pedro La Laguna (Q10 / $1.35 extra).

Los Encuentros Chicken Bus Stop
You can catch a chicken bus going practically anywhere from Los Encuentros.
Chichicastenango market is one of the top places to visit in Guatemala - but it offers more than just shopping. Find out what else there is to do at Chichicastenango #guatemala #chichi #chichicastenango

***The Final Word – Despite Chichicastenango being a very touristy market, there are a few attractions worth exploring the day before when it is quiet.***

Visited in August 2016
Updated January 2020

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means that we receive a small commission if you click on a link and purchase something that we’ve recommended, at no extra cost to you.

Comments

  1. Very interesting and very colorful cemeteries and murals on the buildings. They have their market days the same days as Columbus Flea Market does here.

  2. I’m a big fan of markets, in fact it’s one of the things that I look for in a place so I’d probably enjoy my time walking through the chichicastenango market.

    But wow that’s the cemetery? It looks pretty! I never thought I’d ever say that to a cemetery but all those colors made it a sight to behold.

    Looking through the photos I couldn’t help but notice that the places are clean. That’s quite impressive. I’ve always have a thing for clean destinations because where I came from, it’s something that people are not so good at maintaining.

    1. If you like markets, there is an interesting animal market every Friday at San Francisco El Alto, Guatemala. That one is crazy. Chichi is great for a more pleasant experience. Most places are clean in the morning, but get dirty as the day goes on from normal use. They just have street cleaners at the crack of dawn to tidy things up.

      A lot of the Guatemalan cemeteries are as colorful. Our personal favorite is in Quetzaltenango (Xela) since it is massive!

  3. I love exploring local markets at my travel destinations! I have been planning to visit Chichicastenango on my upcoming trip and it looks like a fascinating cultural experience.

    I can’t wait to explore this market and reading about your experiences there was great!

    1. If you have the time, consider staying at Chichicastenango the night before so you can beat the other tourists for wandering. I know you mentioned doing it as a day trip, but the other half of the town are the religious components that you may not have time for if on a tour or using public transportation.

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