From pre-Hispanic times until the present, Chichicastenango Guatemala has remained a solid fixture among major trading routes and trading centers in the Mayan region. Just a 2-3 hour drive northwest from the capital of Guatemala City, this mountain village, also known as Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, is renowned for its market and its traditional Maya Indian culture. With a stucco-white finish on most of the town's structures, you might find yourself thinking of the islands of Greece, but this place is worlds away from anything you are likely to find outside Latin America. At 6,447 feet, the municipal seat of the Chichicastenango municipality is found among the crests of mountains, and especially on Thursdays and Sundays, the whole place is alive with hand-crafted goods, rich food smells and an array of dialects wafting among the lively sounds.
Both a beautiful place for tourists and a meaningful land for natives, Chichicastenango has had its praises sung, and it even figures into one of North America's most popular plays. In 1937, Xavier Cugat wrote a song about Chichicastenango, appropriately titled, "Chichicastenango". Subsequently, Edmundo Ros would record a song titled "In Chi-Chi Castenango", and Lennie Gallant would follow suit with his rendition of "In the Land of The Maya". In the play, "Bye Bye Birdie", a character named Rosie makes repeated references to her relatives in Chichicastenango. Such praises for a small town in the mountains of south-central Guatemala. Come here, and you'll know why its found its way into the hearts of many a visitor.
Day tours to Chichicastenango are relatively cheap,
and on Thursdays and Sundays, when Chichicastenango shopping is at its best, you can often find a day tour from other
cities such as Guatemala City, Antigua and Panajachel. Chichicastenango
shopping is so popular on Thursdays and Sundays, that
not only does it draw in the Quiché Maya people
from the surrounding area, but also vendors who come from
all parts of Guatemala. Different linguistic groups
like the Kaqchikel, Ixil and Mam come together to hawk
their wares, contributing to the somewhat chaotic atmosphere
of shifting costumes, smells and colors. These vendors
begin setting up their booths the evening before market
day, with hopes to secure a spot among the main plaza.
When that fills, vendors move on to adjacent streets and
set-up often continues into the early morning. Among
the things you can purchase while Chichicastenango shopping
are hand-made crafts, flowers, grindstones, machetes,
wooden boxes, medicinal plants and traditional incense.
Textiles consistently make the grade in Guatemala, and
they are among the highest quality you will find.
Women's blouses are particularly in demand at the
Chichicastenango Guatemala market, and the carved masks
for sale have helped to make the city a famous woodcarving
center. Comedores, or small eateries, can be found
at the market's center, should one get hungry.
Chichicastenango Guatemala is also known for its 400-year old Santo Tomas church, which can be found in close proximity to the market. A glorious white-washed edifice, the church continues to serve shamans who perform rituals there. Often employing the use of incense and candles, an occasional chicken is even sometimes offered up to the gods. The Santo Tomas church was built atop a Pre-Columbian Mayan platform, of which the steps remain venerated. The 18 steps found leading up to the church each represent a month on the Mayan calender. Also worthy of a visit in Chichicastenango is the colorful cemetery.
Visitors to Chichicastenango will find a few nice options for a Chichicastenango hotel, with affordable rates to boot. All in all, most of the owners of the Chichicastenango hotel options know a competent amount of English, and all strive to provide guests with an optimal experience. Quite often, the hotels found in Chichicastenango offer charming settings, some with fountains, courtyards and flowers adorning the grounds. While you are not going to find high-end luxury, your basic needs will be met, and visiting Chichicastenango Guatemala is all about the experience. One of the premier options for a Chichicastenango hotel is found at the Hotel Santo Tomás Hotel. Located about 3 blocks from the main market plaza, this two story former monastery is often considered the nicest hotel in town. The owner is remarkably attentive, as is her staff, and the hotel's collection of art and antiques could almost classify it as a museum. Plants adorn the grounds at this hotel and exotic birds can be found in the beautiful courtyard. With a swimming pool, complimentary breakfast and undeniable all-over appeal, you will find that staying here for under $100 a night is quite a bargain.