Chichicastenango (also known simply as Chichi) is a beautiful, small, indigenous town that is primarily populated by the descendants of the original Mayan K’iche culture. It is an absolute must-see on any first visit to Guatemala. Located on about a 3-hour drive from Guatemala City, or a 2-hour drive from Antigua – this gorgeous and colorful place can be easily accessed by a frequent, daily shuttle or a regular bus going in that direction.
So why, would you ask, is this particular city such a magnet and a bucket-list item for most of the visitors to Guatemala? Well, there are a couple of reasons. Let’s start with the main one:
The Market (Mercado)
Every Thursday and Sunday, the town of Chichicastenango comes to life with a giant burst of activity that transforms into a large and amazing market, which is so popular that it became famous across the entire country. Locals from different parts of Guatemala travel to this vibrant market to buy and sometimes even sell their own merchandise, as early as the night before, to be the first one in.
Original, handmade handicrafts, pottery, souvenirs, indigenous food, clothes, shoes, bags, flowers, even live animals, such as ducks and chickens are sold in here. The market stretches for blocks on end, and it might even seem that it takes over the entire town.
Quick tip – do not take the first price quoted as something set in stone. Yep, you heard that right – you are expected to bargain, in a nice and a respectful manner, which is really fun once you try that.
The Cemetery (Cementerio Municipal)
The second largest attraction of this beautiful town is the… vibrant cemetery (entrance is on 1 Avenida, between 7 and 8 Calle) located just outside its borders, on a 5-minute walk. This bright necropolis has been a tourist-magnet for decades, since it is not so often that one will find a cemetery so cheery and colorful as this one.
St. Thomas Church (Iglesia de Santo Tomás)
There are two main cathedrals in Chichicastenango, and one of them is the Roman Catholic St. Thomas Church, located right in the heart of the town. Just like with the majority of other Central American cathedrals, this one was built on top of an original, indigenous temple, which was destroyed by the Spaniards as a result.
The eighteen steps leading up to the base of the cathedral represent the eighteen month of the Mayan Calendar, and are usually occupied by the flower sellers during the days of the market.
Regional Museum (Museo Regional)
This small but compact museum is located right across the St. Thomas Church, on 8a Calle and 5 Avenida (open 8am-4pm, small entrance fee). It holds a number of interesting artifacts such as ancient pottery, stones, paintings, and ceramics some even dating back to the 13th century.
El Calvario Cathedral (Capilla del Calvario)
Located right opposite and facing the St. Thomas Church is the second main cathedral of Chichicastenango – El Calvario Church. It is hard not to notice the striking similarities between the two cathedrals – they are both white, located on top of stairs, with a semi-circular arch opening in the main entrance area. Take a peak inside this one and you might spot a glass-encased statue of Christ, which is often used during numerous religious processions in town.
Gucumatz Arch (El Arco de Gucumatz)
Located right on the main avenue (5 Avenida) that splits the town in half, there is a beautiful, colorful arch with indigenous murals, that is worth a quick sight. In addition, you can enjoy some nice views from the top, that you can access by a staircase located on both sides of the arch.
Hotel Santo Tomas
If, for any reason, you’d like to spend a night in Chichi-town, and don’t mind splurging on accommodation – then this is the place for you. If not, stop by this hotel to meet some amazing parrots and enjoy a beautiful, open courtyard garden, and maybe even a lovely lunch or dinner at the second-floor restaurant overlooking this charming place.
Bonus: Best View in Town, On the Market Days
No matter how many hours you spend in Chichicastenango, you will probably get hungry at some point. Now, you can try some take-out food from anywhere in the market, or you can stop by this awesome restaurant on a second floor. Named Restaurante Los Cofrades, it offers decent food and some unparalleled views over the market, from its narrow and cozy balcony.
- Address: located on the corner of 6a Calle and 4a Avenida
Map of Chichicastenango’s Top Sights: