Last weekend I took a trip to Chichicastenango (No, I can’t pronounce it either; let’s agree to call it Chichi), where there is a famous market. Well famous in Guatemala at least.
The market runs on Sundays and Thursdays. It is, allegedly, the biggest street market in central America, although I’m not sure how they measure these things. It didn’t seem particularly big in terms of the area it covered, although there were a lot of stalls and it soon got very, very, very busy.
I got a shuttle bus from San Pedro on lake Atitlan, which cost me £6.50/US$8.50) there and back and it took just over three hours to get there. Shuttle buses go every market day both from the towns on lake Atitlan and also from Antigua and Guatemala City. We left San Pedro at 7AM.
It isn’t a particularly comfortable journey, the road is bumpy pretty much the whole way, but worth it when you finally get there and see all the colours in the market.
Chichicastenango is situated in a mountainous region and stands just short of 2,000 metres high. It is a traditional town where the local people are mostly Mayan K’iche. On market day the town is dusty and clogged with traffic. People travel from miles around to shop or to sell their wares. It is not unusual for vendors to walk 2-3 hours carrying their merchandise to sell at Chichi.
The market has the usual range of colourful artisan products and textiles aimed at tourists, plus local products, fruit and vegetables and even a flea market section where you can get pretty much anything.
Prices at Chichi were not especially cheap; you can often buy the same things more cheaply back at lake Atitlan. You can haggle with them of course, but I wasn’t that bothered; I didn’t really go there to shop anyway. I was more interested in simply enjoying a day out and soaking up some of the local atmosphere.
Santo Tomas church, which sits right in the middle of the market, is also worth a visit. The church has both a Catholic priest sent there from Guatemala City and also a Shamen to perform Mayan rituals. Somehow the two belief systems live side by side.