Many of the larger Mayan towns have market days one or two times a week. If you are in Antigua Guatemala, don’t miss the huge market, La Bodegona, which is near the bus terminal just off the Alameda Santa Lucia. Bursting with colour, Mayan chocolate and flowers and food of all descriptions, this is a bustling and authentic marketplace that attracts local Guatemalans and tourists alike.
The market at Solola, about a 15-minute drive from Panajachel is a wonder too. It’s a crowded and authentic market, with very few souvenirs. It’s packed with serious-minded shoppers, most of them Maya and hardly a gringo in sight. It’s worth going just for the trip from Panajachel via El Pickup (yes it’s a pick up truck). It takes you for a breathtaking ride with a view of Lake Atitlan as the truck ascends and you hang onto the steel poles inserted into the truck for just that purpose. Cost of a one-way ride is 3Q (about 40 cents).
Of all the markets located in Antigua Guatemala’s environs, Chichicastenango is the most popular and for good reason. It’s about a 3 hour bus ride from Antigua Guatemala with market days on Thursdays and Sundays.
Affectionately known as Chichi, this Maya town is famous for its market. It’s teeming with local produce and, be warned, a lot of Guatemalan souvenirs everywhere. Some items are authentic and handmade while others are mass produced by machine. Haggling is encouraged and expected so don’t go for the first price offered. Even if you don’t feel like shopping, the experience of entering this sprawling patchwork coloured market is a treat. It’s not just for tourists, but rather a regional market where much real commerce and staple shopping is done by people who live there and nearby.
The main market plaza is right beside Santo Tomas church, a 400-year-old building, built on the platform of an ancient Maya temple. Often you can see the devoted going on their hands and knees up the stairs of the church while bearing swaying cans of incense.
It’s easy to arrange a bus trip to Chichi when you get to Antigua Guatemala and prices are around the $30 range.