The Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala, is one of the most famous and vibrant markets in Central America. Situated in the highland town of Chichicastenango, this market is not only one of the largest but also one of the most historic.

The market’s roots can be traced back to pre-Columbian times when Chichicastenango was a significant center for trade and commerce for the K’iche’ Maya people. For hundreds of years people throughout the region flocked to the Chichicastenango Market to buy and sell their goods.

The traditional still continues to this day.  Twice a week the heart of Chichicastenango comes alive when the famous market takes place.  The market attracts both locals and tourists making visiting the Chichicastenango Market one of the top things to do in Guatemala.

Is Chichicastenango Market worth visiting?  In this article, I’ll go over everything you need to know about visiting the Chichicastenango Market, including how to get there, what to expect, what else to do nearby and any necessary tips that will ensure that you have the best possible visit.

Visiting the Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala

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Mayan person in the Chichicastenango Market
The Hectic Chichicastenango Market

About the Chichicastenango Market

Chichicastenango, often referred to as Chichi, is a vibrant indigenous town located about 3 hours northwest of the capital, Guatemala City.  Renowned for its bustling market, Chichicastenango is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking an authentic experience.

The town is primarily inhabited by the K’iche’ Maya people where their indigenous traditions are prominently showcased in the local customs, dress, and rituals. The town itself, with its cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, adds to the charm of the visit.

Most people visit the Chichicastenango Market on a day trip from Lake Atitlan or Antigua, but if you have time and money, its possible to stay in the tiny village which I’ll discuss in more detail later on in this post.

Since it is a popular day trip destination in Guatemala, you may be wondering if it lives up to the hype. After spending two days in Chichicastenango, I can conform that yes, the Chichicastenango Market is worth a visit.

The market is a kaleidoscope of colors, costumes, smokes, smells and chaos. It’s a sensory feast with the scent of incense lingering in the air and the sounds of indigenous languages spoken by vendors and shoppers.

The market is extremely hectic but that only adds to the charm. Surprisingly I didn’t see tons of tourists in the market for being such a talked about place in Guatemala.

A man carrying a basket of chickens in the Chichi Market

Chichicastenango Market Days & Hours

The Chichicastenango Market takes place every Thursday and Sunday, attracting both locals and tourists with its colorful array of goods, traditional crafts, and lively atmosphere. The market gets going around 8am and lasts til about 6pm but many vendors will start breaking down by 4pm.

I stayed at the Hotel Museo Mayan Inn which was steps away from the market. If you are visiting the Chichicastenango Market on a day trip you’ll arrive in Chichicastenango between 9 and 10am.

We were out exploring the market by 8am and it was already a chaotic symphony in the best possible way. Everyone was zipping past us and knew exactly where they were going. I was happy to get an early jump on exploring the market because we saw very few other tourists.

Man during incense at the Church of Santo Tomás
Church of Santo Tomás in Chichicastenango

What to Expect When Visiting the Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala

The market is a sensory delight, with vendors lining the narrow, cobblestone streets selling an eclectic mix of products. Traditional textiles steal the show, displaying intricate patterns and vibrant colors characteristic of Guatemalan craftsmanship. Handwoven fabrics, clothing, blankets, and accessories are abundant.

Beyond textiles, the market features stalls selling fresh produce, including a variety of fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs. You’ll also find handmade pottery, wooden masks, religious artifacts, and jewelry.

One of the market’s highlights is the ceremonial center in front of the Church of Santo Tomás. Local Maya priests perform ancient rituals and ceremonies. You can witness the burning of incense, the scattering of flower petals, and the chanting of prayers as part of these unique cultural practices.

Navigating through the bustling market, you not only have the opportunity to shop for authentic and handmade goods but also to immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of Guatemalan indigenous life. Plus, you can try traditional foods at local eateries and get a taste of the regional culinary offerings.

The Chichicastenango Market stands as a living testament to the cultural richness and diversity of Guatemala, making it a must see for those seeking an authentic and colorful experience.

Chichicastenango Market Tips

Chichi Tips
The Hectic Chichicastenango Market
Man inside the Chichi Market

Get Ready to Haggle

Haggling is a common and expected part of the shopping experience at the Chichicastenango Market. Since this market is so popular and on the tourist trail, you can expect prices to be a bit inflated. Like 30-60% above what vendors would accept.

Haggling always makes me feel so uncomfortable. This is probably the case with most people from Western nations but in Guatemala and many other countries, haggling is a cultural practice. Here are some tips to help you with your haggling skills.

Before you start haggling, it helps to have a general understanding of the reasonable prices for the items you’re interested in. Observing the prices at multiple stalls can give you a sense of the market value.

Start with a greeting and be polite and respectful. Politeness goes a long way in negotiations. Next, start with your counter-offer. Instead of immediately accepting the first price quoted, make an offer that is lower but still reasonable. This opens the door for negotiation.

Then you should always be willing to walk way. This can sometimes prompt the vendor to reconsider and offer a better deal.

Finally, enjoy the process. Remember that the goal is not just to secure a good deal but also to engage with the local culture and support the artisans and vendors. Just embrace the culture and view it as a part of the overall market experience.

Selling flowers at the Chichi Market

Which Day is Better?

Which day is better? I read a few blogs and they said that Thursday was the better day to visit Chichicastenango because it’s busier on the weekends.

I personally went on a Sunday and although yes, it was very busy, I also didn’t encounter many other tourists. I do believe that Sundays are busier with Guatemalans but me not knowing if they were from out of town or not thought that more people only added to the experience.

Wondering through the Chichicastenango Market
Flowers at the Chichicastenango Market

Be Aware of your Surroundings & Stay Alert

Since the market is so busy, personal space goes out the window and this gives thieves plenty of opportunity. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Consider using anti-theft backpacks or sling bags with features like lockable zippers and RFID protection. I wore my Aloha Crossbody bag and had no problems.

Only carry essential items, leaving unnecessary valuable such as extra credit cards, passport and drivers license in a secure location. Use a digital copy of your passport stored securely rather than carrying the original.

Bring Plenty of Quetzales

Quetzales is the currency in Guatemala and all the vendors will only accept cash. No credit cards. There are a few banks in town if you need to pull more money out.

A man reading the newspaper at the Chichicastenango Market
People inside the Chichicastenango Market

Ask Before you Take a Picture of Someone

No one likes when a stranger comes up to them only to stick a camera in their face. The Chichicastenango Market is a haven for photographers (that’s the main reason Joe and I came) but respecting the privacy and dignity of the people in the market is crucial when taking photographs.

Joe always asks for permission if he wants to photograph someone. Also learning the basic phrase goes a long way. In Spanish “Puedo tomar una foto?” is “May I take your photo?”.

Avoid intrusive shots and capture candid moments from a distance. Also respect a ‘No’, not everyone may comfortable having their picture taken.

Chichicastenango Market items for sale

What to Buy at the Chichi Market

The Chichi Market is a treasure trove of unique and handmade items. I personally didn’t buy anything as many of the items sold can be found in other parts of Guatemala and I did a fair amount of shopping in Antigua.

Here are some popular items you might consider buying when you’re here. Handwoven fabrics, traditional textiles and colorful clothing. Mayan masks, pottery and ceramics, jewelry, leather goods, traditional instruments, Mayan rugs & carpets, handmade toys, local artwork and ceremonial items.

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Travel from Panajechel not Antigua

As I mentioned earlier, most people visit the Chichicastenago Market on a day trip. I traveled from Antigua to Chichicastenago which took about 2 and a half hours via Uber. If you take the tourist shuttle from Antigua, you’ll leave at 7am and arrive in Chichicastenango at 11am-ish.

If you travel from Panajechel to Chichicastenango, the journey should take 2 hours or less. For day trip purposes, I recommend traveling from Panajechel not Antigua for less travel time. 6 hours + in a shuttle to get to the market and back is a bit much.

Where to stay in Chichicastenango
Where to stay in Chichicastenango

Where to Stay in Chichicastenango

There are not a lot of places to stay in Chichicastenango but if you do decide to spend a night or two in this tiny town I’d recommend staying at the Hotel Museo Mayan Inn. I stayed here for 2 nights and it was lovely. It is located steps away from the Chichicastenango Market and our room had a fireplace.

It was nice being able to take shade and reprieve from the sun after we cruised through the market for an hour or so. If you were to come to Chichicastenango on a day trip you’d have four or five hours to spend wandering around the market.

There are a few other hotels in Chichicasenango. The Hotel Chalet and the Casa Montana Hotel are located a few buildings down from the Mayan Inn and are walkable to the market.

I was very happy to have a place to go back to and not to be waiting around town for transportation. That leads me to my next topic.

How to Get to the Chichicastenango Market

Graveyard in Chichicastenango

Getting to Chichicastenango is pretty straightforward but tourist shuttles only run on market days (Thursdays and Sundays). This is why visiting the market on a day trip is so popular.

The only way to get to Chichicastenango on non-market days is via a private driver, chicken bus or uber. Let’s go over the different ways to get to Chichicastenango.

Go on a Guided Tour

A great way to visit the market is on a guided tour. A knowledgable guide can offer cultural insights and provide context about the history, traditions and significance of the market and surrounding area.

Plus, if you’re not fluent in Spanish, having a guide can assist you with the language barriers. Here are a few top rated Chichicastenango tours to check out.

Collectivos in Chichicastenango<br>

Tourist Shuttle/Shared Collectivo

Taking a shared tourist shuttle to the market is the easiest and most efficient option. All the tour operators in town offer shared collectivo’s from Lake Atitlan to Chichicastenango.

Pick up time from Panajachel is around 8 am and they will bring you back around 2 pm. From Antigua pickup time is 7 am. It should cost about 150Q or $20 give or take. You can book a shuttle online to save time and it won’t cost you much extra.

Private Driver

A private driver is a great option if you do not have to worry about your budget and want to be on your own time. A private driver from Panajechel to Chichicastenango will cost around $70. From Antigua I was quoted $120-$140, that’s why I opted for an uber (just remember a uber won’t be able to drive you back).

A private driver is nice because you don’t have to adhere to a bus schedule. And it’s Guatemala, you WILL be waiting around for your transportation. You can decide when to leave in the morning and when to come back.

If I were to do it over again this is the option that I would choose. Five hours roaming around in the market is a lot of time. We spent an hour walking through the market and felt satisfied. I will be a long day waiting around for transportation back to Panajechel or Antigua.

You can book a private driver here to be able to pay with credit card or  through your hotels reception or at any tourist office which will more than likely only accept cash.

the colorful chichi cemetery

Uber

We took an uber from Antigua to Chichicastenango and it took about two and a half hours and cost $100. Taking an uber was $20-30 cheaper than a private driver and we weren’t on “Guatemala” time.

We were able to leave Antigua when we wanted and since we stayed the weekend in Chichicastenango, we weren’t waiting on transportation to leave. If you were traveling from Panajechel to Chichicastenango the journey would probably cost you around $60.

Once you are in Chichicastenango you will not be able to catch an uber back. Chichicastenango is too small of a town for uber. We traveled to Panajechel after Chichicastenango and had to book a private driver on our way out as uber was non-existent.

A chicken bus in Guatemala

Chicken Bus

Taking the chicken bus to the Chichicastenango market is by far the cheapest option. To get from Panajechel to Chichicastenango requires 2 different chicken buses and a shuttle to the market.

I’m not sure the exact buses, stops and details that it takes to reach the market from Antigua but I’m sure it requires several buses. I would not recommend trying the chicken bus if you are not fluent in Spanish.

Other Things to do in Chichicastenango

Church of Santo Tomás
Steps of Santo Tomás

Iglesia de Santo Tomás

In addition to the market, Chichicastenango is home to Iglesia de Santo Tomás or the Church of Santo Tomás, a 16th-century church built atop a pre-Columbian temple platform.

The church is located in the market area. Inside the church, visitors can witness a unique blend of Catholic rituals and traditional Mayan ceremonies.

Chichicastenango Regional Museum

Inside the Iglesia de Santo Tomás is the Chichicastenango Regional Museum. Here you’ll find indigenous stories and artifacts.

Chichicastenango cemetery
Chichicastenango cemetery

Chichicastenango Cemetery

Perched on the hillside overlooking the town, the Chichicastenango cemetery is a mosaic of vibrant colors and unique burial traditions.  Gravestones adorned with intricate Mayan symbols and brightly painted crosses dot the landscape.

The cemetery is very beautiful and when we wandered around, we saw locals performing a ceremony. We didn’t wander too far as we didn’t want to be disrespectful but it was very beautiful.

Lookout on the way to Chichicastenago<br>

Mirador de Chichicastenango

On the way in or out of Chichicastenango stop at the Mirador de Chichicastenango for sweeping views of the valley and Chichi in the distance. This viewpoint is a breath of fresh air and a nice place to stop and stretch your legs.

Chichicastenango Market FAQ’s

Chichi FAQ's

Is the Chichicastenango Market Safe?

Chichicastenango is generally considered a safe destination for tourists, and the Chichicastenango Market is a popular and well-visited site. However, as with any travel destination, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take basic precautions to ensure your safety.

What Days is the Chichicastenango Market Open?

Chichicastenango Market Days are Thursdays and Sundays from 8am-6pm.

Where is the Chichicastenango Market Located?

The Chichicastenango Market is located in the town of Chichicastenango, which is in the highlands of Guatemala. Chichicastenango is situated in the Quiché Department, approximately 140 kilometers (87 miles) northwest of Guatemala City.

Birds inside the Mayan Hotel in Chichi
Birds inside the Mayan Hotel in Chichi

Other Guatemala Markets to Visit

  • Mercado de Antigua (Antigua Market)
  • Mercado Central (Central Market) – Guatemala City
  • Mercado de Atitlán (Atitlan Market)
  • Mercado de Totonicapán (Totonicapan Market)
  • Mercado de Cobán (Cobán Market)
  • Mercado de Quetzaltenango (Quetzaltenango Market)
  • Mercado de San Fransisco El Alto (San Fransisco El Alto Market)

I spent 7 weeks traveling all around Guatemala.  Check out the guides below for inspiration and help in planning your trip.

Guatemala Travel Tips

📍Plan your Trip:

🗺 How long to travel Guatemala? 1-3 Week Guatemala Itinerary

🛺 How to Get Around:

  • Guatego for shuttles throughout the country
  • Uber or tuk tuks for shorter distances

🛂 Visas: Up to 90 Days on arrival for most countries.

☔️ Best Time to Visit: Dry season which typically spans from late November to early April.

💰 Average Daily Budget: Expect to pay 50-60 USD’s a day for basic accommodations, sit down meals and entrance fees.

⛺️ Guatemala Accommodation Guides:

🪂 Highlights

🧳 What to Pack: What to Pack for Guatemala

🎥 Watch our Guatemala Series on YouTube

📧 Get on my Email list to see what I’m up to and all the best travel content!

More Guatemala Travel Guides ↓

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