Yolkobsens love a good market even when we don’t want or need another thing. It’s the experience of going to the rich and varied market days in Guatemala that never disappoint us. Mayan market days in Guatemala are rich in history and full of flavour, textures, colors and scents, many of which you will find nowhere else in the world. If only I could get Mr. Y to stop buying pork rinds and every fresh fish he sees.
For my part, I must own at least 25 handcrafted scarves in traditional Mayan weave, my weakness. They are like vases, no matter how many you have, you never quite have the right one. I am convinced that the market days in Guatemala will finally produce the magic scarf that goes with everything. But we must all deal with our obsessions.
To be honest each and every day across the towns and villages provide market days in Guatemala. Sadly, for the traveler, the markets promoted to tourists are not always the best or most authentic ones. Here we’ve provided a sampling of our favorites.
Chichicastenango, located about 140 km and 2-3 hours drive northwest of Guatemala City, is home to what is surely the most colorful native market in North and Central America, perhaps in all the Americas. Market days are Sundays and Thursdays, and draw not only the K’iche’ Maya of the surrounding region, but vendors from all over Guatemala, representing many of Guatemala’s linguistic groups such as Mam, Ixil, Kaqchikel and others, each hawking his or her products in a riotous cacophony of color, dialects and costumes, smoke, and smells. Though it’s hugely promoted as a tourist destination, it’s still worth taking in the market days in Guatemala via “Chichi.”
Vendors begin setting up portable booths in the main plaza and adjacent streets of Chichi the night before and set-up continues in the early daylight hours. Cohetes (homemade rockets) carrying aloft loud bombas (firecrackers) commence early in the morning and continue sporadically through the day, adding the smell of fireworks to the incense burned in copious quantities on the steps and in the nave of the 400-year old church of Santo Tomás.
Solola, holds market days on Friday. It’s market draws a crowd since Solola is the capital of the department of Solola, an area that includes 19 municipalities around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. The majority (approximately 90%) of the city’s inhabitants are Cakchiquel Indians who proudly retain their heritage. It is one of the few municipalities where both men and women routinely wear their traditional Mayan dress.
Women often carry their wares in the traditional Mayan market basket, balancing a few vegetables from their garden, tortillas, textiles or even a couple of chickens that they hope to sell at market. The common blue plastic pans are scales used to compare the weight of different products.
Panajachel (Pana) is a town in the southwestern Guatemalan Highlands, in the department of Sololá. It serves as the administrative centre for the surrounding municipality of the same name. The altitude is 1,597 metres (5,240 ft). The population is 11,142.
The town of Panajachel is located on the shore of Lake Atitlán, and has become a centre for the tourist trade in the area as it provides a base for visitors crossing the lake to visit other towns and villages. In Pana, every day is market day in Guatemala as the main road into Pana and lake is lined with hundreds of vendors selling mostly clothing. This is more of a tourist market which requires bartering for goods. Pana also has a fresh produce and meat market that offers the best in produce grown locally in the region.
Antigua Guatemala is no exception to the joy that Central American markets provide the visitor. The fraternity of market days in Guatemala have a fine member in good standing in the Antigua Guatemala market. Its filled with fresh produce and an assortment of delicious foods being prepared. Right on the edge of the ‘tourist’ part of town, the market attracts Antiguenyos as wells as people that live in nearby towns and tourists alike. It’s an unmissable experience to get in there immersed in the thick of it in order to load up on fruits, vegetables, spices and whatever else you require to make your favourite dish. Markets are also a great way to support the locals, instead of spending your dollars at the corporately-owned supermarket. You’ll often find eager shop owners down for a friendly chat to go along with your sack of exotic fruits.