Chichicastenango is commonly known as Chi chi for Guatemalans. This is a great place for those looking for an authentic market experience in Guatemala. But what makes it so special? Well, Chichicastenango Market is the largest market in Central America and is known for the amount and variety of handcrafts it offers. The best days to visit this cute town in the highlands are Sunday & Thursday. I’m an ex-pat living in Guatemala for the past years and I recommend you visit this place at least once. But there are tons of things to do and places to visit in Chichicastenango, That’s I decided to write this post, I’m going to share with you the best activities and places to visit in Chichi, Guatemala. Also, you can find here a lot of useful information about this stunning city.
Another fun thing about it is that it surrounds the local church. A unique place where you get to see how religious syncretism is still very much alive in Guatemala. The atrium of this Catholic Church is witness to Mayan Style religious rituals. It is truly a special thing to see.
How It Became a Popular Touristic Destination
It all started in the 1930s when a traveler discovered this tiny town in the Guatemalan highlands filled. He loved it so much that he decided to open a small inn and started taking travelers to it from Guatemala City and Antigua. The market grew and is now one of the biggest markets in Central America, bringing even more tourists, the place now is pretty popular among locals and international travelers.
Places to Visit and Things to Do in Chichicastenango
This is a huge outdoor market. Here you will find good-quality weaving, pottery, fabrics, jewelry, clothes, and masks, to name just a few. You will also find lots of local produce & animals for sale. But be careful, it is so big that you might get lost.
Iglesia Santo Tomás
The town’s church was built in 1540 over a Mayan temple (the steps in front of it are from that old temple). If you come here you will be able to see some Catholic-Mayan rituals both inside and out. There are always people at prayer, swinging incense-laden censers and chanting. This is also where the Popol Vuh (the Mayan book of creation & their gods).
This is a small museum that has a collection of jade objects, ceremonial masks, obsidian spearheads, incense burners, necklaces, and figurines found among ruins. This is all that is left from the Mayan settlement that was once here.
This is a Mayan ceremonial site where modern Mayans still perform rituals. It is dedicated to the earth god. Ceremonies are performed by shamans and involve lots of incense, liquor, chanting, candles, flowers, and maybe even chickens.
Where is Chichicastenango located?
How to Get There?
Your best bet is to make a reservation at a shuttle company. There are daily shuttles leaving from places like Antigua Guatemala and Lake Atitlan. This is a combination of good price and safety.
Prices go from $15 to $70 depending on how luxurious the bus is and whether you want to take a collective one or a private one.
Traditional Guatemalan Chicken busses also go there and are way cheaper. But they aren’t as quick, safe, or comfortable. This is not an option I would recommend.
When to visit Chichicastenango Guatemala?
Its habitats still preserve their Mayan traditions. This is easily seen in December, from 14 to 21. It is when its traditional annual festival takes place. If you visit Chichi during these days, you will see traditional dances and the fascinating Palo volador ritual (men spin from ropes attached to a 20-meter pole).
Music, religious processions and dances are common to find on the streets during these days and it is all in honor of Santo Tomás el Apóstol.
Where to Stay?
If you travel to Guatemala, you probably will be staying in Guatemala City or Antigua, and traveling to Chichicastenango to visit the market. But since there are many things to do here, I highly recommend that you stay at least 2 days. Chichicastenango has many hotels and posadas for you to choose from, I’m going to list the best ones:
Centro Paz Mundo
For travelers with a bigger budget, it is a 4-star hotel, pet friendly, with all the amenities you need for a comfy stay. Big clean rooms with soft beds, free Wi-Fi in the bigger areas, and a restaurant that serves amazing food. Also, don’t forget as the hotel offers an airport shuttle.
More than a hotel, this is a museum too. Everything you find there is original from the glorious Mayan days. The staff is super friendly too. The rooms and bathrooms are big and clean, the restaurant serves delicious fresh food. Definitely, a must-try if you go to chichi with kids, also, there’s free Wi-Fi too! One of the strongest points of this historical hotel is the fact that the Market is only 50m away!
Historical Facts About Chichicastenango, Guatemala
- It was founded as a result of the conquest when people from different cities who were being burnt decided to flee.
- The original name of the town was Chuilá.
- The name Chichicastenango means “Land of Chichicaste”. Chichicaste is a sort of poison ivy that causes a nasty rash that lasts a few hours.
- This is where the Mayan equivalent of the Christian bible was found. The book is called Popol Vuh and it narrates the origin of humankind.
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