chichicastenango, checking out guatemalan’s biggest market
October 29, 2016
we had four nights booked in panajachel, lake atitlan and while there are plenty of things to do around the lake, taking a daytrip to chichicastenango is one of the most popular ones. chichicastenango is a town about an hour and a half away by shuttle and hosts the country’s largest markets twice a week on thursday and sundays.
one of the things we love to do while traveling is to visit markets in every country and see how the locals shop. this gives us a look at what street food, produce, crafts look like. my personal favourite is finding wet markets as they’re always memorable for the colours (and smells!). off we went to chichi we went.
what i loved about chichicastenango is that the locals clearly outnumbered the tourists. any direction you turned, you could see guatemalans buying groceries, clothing, work supplies and just about anything else you could think of.
having said that, any tourists clearly stood out from the pack and you can bet that the hawkers were working hard to pawn off their wares. so the flipside of chichi is that the salespeople can be relentless. many wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and there’s only so much of that you can deal with before it starts to get annoying. we ended up having to take a timeout to escape the crowds. we found an empty balcony that overlooked one of the busy intersections of the market and people watched from there. what we ended up seeing was a lesson in hustling. while hundreds of people passed through this intersection, not a single one purchased anything at the surrounding booths. the only man making sales was this gentleman who was on his knees with a box. he would wait for the right opportunity and make eye contact with every kid who passed which would invariably lead to a sale even when the parents would be pulling their children away.
so much colour to be seen throughout the stall-lined streets. the market sprawls for blocks and not a single area of space is wasted as vendors of all sizes fit in wherever they can. while walking through these streets can be a little disorienting due to the fact that many stalls are the same, if you make your way over to the church, you can see all the flower vendors congretating there. buckets and baskets of fresh flowers offer up contrasting colours from the craft vendors.
i had read that there was a sizable wet market here but we never managed to find it. the closest we got was one strip of stalls that sold chickens and a few fish. the fish were definitely in short supply here. many of the chickens were in the shade under the tables presumably waiting for the next paying customer.
the largest produce market was in an assuming gymnasium. walking through a dark corridor led us into a gym with natural lighting which was jam packed from wall to wall with vegetables and spices. we picked up a whole bag of rambutans for the road but we only got to eat a couple after giving many away to some begging children.
while there are plenty of places to eat throughout the market, if you’d like to sit down somewhere and be able to see your food in some decent light, there’s a hotel next to the gas station with a large courtyard stocked with parrots
we ended up eating in the depths of the market and had a few locals help us order our breakfast as our spanish hasn’t yet progressed towards ‘useful’ levels.
and a few more random shots from our day:
practical info: -market days are on sunday and thursday -bargain and bargain hard. there are so many booths selling identical items that you can always walk to the next if you’re not happy with the pricing