We arrived in Chicicastenango, two chicken buses and a collectivo later, the day before the markets. Chichi is an important trading town and its twice-weekly markets, on Thursday and Sunday, are a huge draw. They are some of the largest artisan markets in Guatemala, and most of what you can find in the tourist shops in any city or town can be found here, one step closer to the source, for much less.
The day before the markets is already busy, with stalls being constructed and springing up in the streets surrounding the central plaza. People have made their way there from the surrounding area to sell a huge range of food, clothing, and handicrafts. Bartering in the markets is key, and we generally aimed for 50-75% of the initial price we were quoted. Sometimes, we could hardly bring ourselves to haggle, as the value of the goods was at least what they were asking. This is one of the few times that we’d wished, momentarily, that we were on a shorter trip. It was impossible not to buy gifts for people and bits and pieces for ourselves. It would be easy, if you were on a two-week trip, to fill an entire suitcase with market goods from Chichi.
We wandered up and down the countless alleys and streets of markets, browsing the endless array of goods for sale, for hours. There is also no shortage of foods at the markets, from fried chicken and taco stalls around the outskirts, to what roughly equates a dining hall in the centre. Food for sale includes everything from meat (butchered carcasses hanging on hooks in the meat “department”), to fresh fruit and vegetables, to dried fish and chiles. Fresh flowers, beautiful woven goods, and carved wooden masks add to the splendour of the markets.
We didn’t spend too much time in Chichi itself while not exploring the markets, but it did have the feel of a truly Guatemalan town. Even on the busiest market day of the week, the number of tourists was quite small. More people seemed to arrive late morning, as nearby towns offer same-day shuttle services on market days. It was quite nice to have a room in town, wake up on the early side of things and jump into the markets straight away.