Why you should (and shouldn’t) visit Chichicastenango

One thing I will say before I go any further is if you are going to visit Chichicastenango purely for the shopping, don’t bother. You can get the same things all over Guatemala for far cheaper and with less chaos. I didn’t actually buy anything there, I went looking for some nice sandals and a unique piece of jewelry. Both of which I bought in Panajachel when I got back from Chichi as it was nicer and I got a better deal.

Here are some reasons you should 100% visit Chichicastenango

  • It’s the biggest market in Central America
  • It’s crazy and part of the Guatemalan experience
  • The journey there is a lot of fun if you choose chicken bus
  • The colours
  • You can take some pretty incredible photographs

When to go

The market is on every Thursday or Sunday. Go early to beat the crowds. I arrived there at 9:30 am with was perfect.

How to get there

You can find out how to get there from San Pedro or Panajachel by reading my post here.

When you arrive

Breakfast

When you are there head in a straight line down through the market from your drop off point. When you almost get to the end turn in (right) and you will see an undercover part of the market where there is a lot of food. Grab yourself a Guatemalan breakfast and some cafe (coffee). Don’t expect any milk or a skinny latte on the menu…you’re in Guatemala. The coffee comes black and sweet with a few bits floating in the bottom.

Explore

Once you are fed and watered wander around the market and look at the incredible colours of the textiles and crafts available.

I’m British, in general bartering isn’t our thing, but here it’s a way of life. As a general rule whatever they ask half it and then take it from there.

If animal cruelty makes you upset I would seriously give it a miss. I saw quite a lot of animals ties up in cages etc and it wasn’t nice. They have a very different view culturally towards animals in many countries so it’s good to be aware so you can avoid it.

How long do you need?

I spent about 2 hours there and I was ready to go home. I was so glad I came on the public bus and not the tour bus as I would have had to wait for hours there. It’s pretty full on and its hard to find a place you can go and chill out for a while.

A note about photography:

While I was there I witnessed but groups, of mostly older white North Americans, barging around putting cameras in people’s faces. They were quite clearly there on some kind of photo trip and had little to no intention of actually buying anything. It was pretty insensitive. Please remember while running around wielding your camera that these are people going about their work. Ther are not exhibits there for you to photograph. Yes take photographs but be discreet and sensitive. If you are photographing someone it’s always nice to get consent something or buy something from them.

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