Friday, 1 February 2019

Day Trip to Chichicastenango

Greetings! In January, I visited Guatemala in Central America. My itinerary took me to Antigua, Chichicastenango market, Lake Atitlan, Santiago village, and Guatemala City.

I had a wonderful stay in Antigua, one of Guatemala's former capitals and a UNESCO World Heritage site. You might like to see my post on Antigua here. From Antigua, I booked a shuttle van service to visit the most fascinating and colourful open-air market in the country, located in Chichicastenango. 

The driving distance from Antigua to Chichicastenango is 93 km (58 miles). The drive took about two hours along winding mountain roads, with lush green scenery showing coffee plantations and farmland. The coffee harvest time runs from November to January. I saw fields of melons, carrots, and fruit stands selling a wide variety of fruit along the way.

The market in Chichicastenango is on Thursdays and Sundays, with hundreds of vendors from the surrounding countryside gather here to sell handicrafts, textiles, candles, food, livestock, flowers, and pottery. Visitors come here for the vibrant colours and unique items.

HANDICRAFTS:

Popular items include hand-made baskets and Guatemala's worry dolls. The story of the worry doll is a local Mayan legend. The origin of the Muñeca quitapena refers to a Mayan princess named Ixmucane. The princess received a special gift from the sun god that allowed her to solve any problem a human could worry about. The worry doll represents the princess and her wisdom.

According to legend, Guatemalan children tell their worries to the Worry Dolls, placing them under their pillow when they go to bed at night. By morning the dolls have gifted them with the wisdom and knowledge to eliminate their worries.

Hand-woven baskets, Chichicastenango

Hand-made worry dolls and soft toys

TEXTILES:

Colourful table runners, napkins, clothing, and hammocks are common at the market. Each of the embroidered designs for women's tops identifies the village origin.

Mayan textiles

Table runners

Napkins

Hammocks

FOOD: 

Thanks to the rich volcano soil, Guatemala produces a wide variety of vegetables and fruit for their own consumption and for exports to other countries such as Canada. The carrots and avocados are huge and inexpensive. You can get six or seven big avocados for US$1 at the market.

Fruit vendor and buyers

Vegetable and fruit section at the market

Making corn tortillas

POTTERY:

Nativity scenes made of clay as well as clay pots and plates are popular.

Clay pottery, Guatemala

Clay pottery, Guatemala

WOODEN MASKS & FIGURES:

Wooden masks of human and animal faces are sold everywhere. Jaguar is an important animal element in Guatemala's culture. In Mayan mythology, the jaguar was seen as the ruler of the Underworld, and as such, a symbol of the night sun and darkness.

Wooden jaguars

Wood animal masks

Wood face masks

Due to the size of the market, it can be overwhelming at first. Take time to browse and be prepared to haggle. If you find it overwhelming, take a break at one of the coffee shops that has upper floors or walk up the steps of Church of St. Thomas to get a good view of the market and to observe the interactions. By early afternoon, the market quiets down quite a bit, making it easier to shop and get a bargain as vendors want to carry less stuff home.

Open air market in Chichicastenango

Open air market in Chichicastenango

CHURCH OF ST. THOMAS:

After browsing at the market, I headed to the Church of Saint Thomas (Iglesia de Santo Tomas). This historic church built in 1540 often plays host to Mayan rituals. Right on the steps of the church, captivating religious ceremonies take place with flowers and burning incense.

Church of St Thomas, Chichicastenango

CEMETERY:

From the steps of the Church of Saint Thomas, to the left, walk downhill to the town cemetery. It's the most colourful cemetery that I've seen in my travels.

Cemetery in Chichicastenango

OVERNIGHT IN PANAJACHEL:

Leaving Chichicastenango, I continued my shuttle van service to Panajachel, a small hamlet on the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlan. This cozy town is known as a central hub for travelers as they make their way to the picturesque villages that dot the lake shore. If you click to enlarge the photo below, you can see a few boats crossing Lake Atitlan, and the white pier.

View of Panajachel

My hotel room in Panajachel has a wonderful view of Lake Atitlan and the three surrounding volcanoes (San Pedro, Atitlan and Toliman volcanoes). The natural beauty of the area is simply breathtaking.

Lake Atitlan at sunset

My adventure in Guatemala has been fabulous so far. I look forward to viewing Lake Atitlan at sunrise and exploring one of the villages the next day.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments. 

44 comments:

  1. Hi, Natalie - I love the vivid colours of the food, textiles and crafts in your photos. I especially liked reading about the legend of the Worry Doll. I sometimes need one of those for underneath my pillow! :)

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    1. Hi Donna - I love the bold colours, too. The Worry Dolls come in different sizes, some are tiny. If sometimes you need one of those for underneath your pillow, I hope it's a tiny one, like a tiny worry :)

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  2. I'm glad you got to experience Chichicastenango in all its glory. The colors and impressions are amazing. Your photos came out really well and bright in these grey circumstances, especially the market ones. Did you buy anything?

    I had no idea about the "worry dolls", or I would have bought one of those! Sitting on the steps of the Church of St. Thomas was enjoyable as well, to watch the scene. Great memories. Thanks for bringing them back, Natalie. BTW, we camped on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Panajachel, in 2006. I agree, the view is hard to beat. :-)

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    1. Glad to bring back some good memories of Guatemala for you, Liesbet. It must be so nice to camp on the shores of Lake Atitlan. Although very tempted, I didn't buy anything at the market in Chichicastenango. These days, I try to reduce my physical belongings, as opposed to accumulate more. The number of my digital images has been growing though :)

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  3. Oh, Natalie, this has to be my favorite tourist post you've shared. What lovely, bright, colorful treasures are sold at the market. I have seen worry dolls before, and used to make them with my students in a counseling group I sponsored after school. My babies had such difficult lives. I wanted to give them something t help them feel hopeful. But I had never heard the legend before. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I think the worry dolls and the legend are such a gentle way to ease children's worries, and maybe even adults' worries, too. Making the dolls is art therapy in itself. Thank you, Leslie, for sharing your experience.

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  4. Hi Natalie, what gorgeous handmade items. I would certainly break the bank buying some of those. So colourful and useful too! What a wonderful idea the 'Worry Dolls' are? Thank you for taking me on another fabulous journey of this beautiful world we live in. Have a great week! xx

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    1. Hi Sue - The handicrafts in Guatemala were not expensive so you could certainly buy many unique items. I love the Mayan vibrant colours. Thank you for stopping by. Have a beautiful week!

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    2. Hi Natalie, I would certainly buy these handicrafts as they are vibrant and we can all do with vibrant colours in our life can't we? Thank you for linking up at #MLSTL and have a great week! xx

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    3. Thank you, Sue, for hosting.

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  5. The colours and images of Guatamela are so vibrant! Thanks for sharing more of your travels,

    SSG xxx

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  6. As always great pics & a great travel guide. I have a worry doll that I put under my pillow when I find it - not just for kids lol. I've also been practicing saying Chichicastenango lol. Have a great week.

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    1. We're all kids at heart so the worry dolls are for all of us :) Thanks, Jo, for stopping by. Have a beautiful week!

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  7. The colors of those textiles and pottery is fabulous. Did I miss it?? What did you bring home? I hope you found some fabulous souvenirs??
    XOXO
    Jodie
    www.jtouchofstyle.com
    #seniorsalon

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    1. I love Guatemala's colourful handicrafts and textiles, Jodie. I could buy a lot of items and change my home decor! However, I didn't buy anything at this market as I was only half way through my trip and knew I'd see more.

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  8. Beautiful photos of your trip to Guatemala! thanks for sharing. The woven goods look amazing. I love to visit open air markets whenever I get the chance.

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    1. I love the woven goods in Guatemala, Laurie, and their colours are so vibrant. This market in Chichicastenango is huge. If you go on your own, it takes a couple of hours to browse, never mind to haggle and buy. For a tip, there are local people who take take you around to buy what you want.

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  9. As a weaver I was struck by the textiles. I was aware of the work of the women in Guatemala, Honduras and Peru but when I see it I get goosebumps! It is usually done with backstrap looms which are very difficult to use. But their work is amazing. Thank you for the chance to see them again.

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    1. Thank you, Gael, for your visit and insight into the weaving techniques. The women in Guatemala keep the Mayan culture alive through their amazing handicraft work and costumes.

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  10. I love the colours, even the cemetery is colourful! Great photos. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Darlene, for your comment. The colours are so vibrant and uplifting. I love them, too.

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  11. Fabulous views, and I love the little Nativity folks :) :) Thanks so much for taking me along for the ride, Natalie.

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    1. Thank you, Jo, for stopping by and for sharing your walks. I greatly appreciate it.

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  12. Looks amazing! I visited Lake Peten (and swam at it under the stars) a couple of years ago, we had a wonderful couple of days in Guatemala, unfortunately never made it to Atitlan, it's on the list... #globalblogging

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    1. Your swim at Lake Peten under the stars sounds wonderful. Thank you, Isabel, for your comment. I greatly appreciate it.

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  13. Oh your photos are wonderful Natalie and certainly showcase the colourful South America materials. Sounds like the vegetables are similar to Turkey's which were cheap, large in size and more importantly very tasty and fresh. Begs the question why can't we as supposedly more developed countries create the same quality in our big supermarkets!!!

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    1. Thank you, Suzanne, for your comment. The local vegetables and fruit are very fresh and tasty. Their tomatoes are amazing. We import fruit from Guatemala to Canada but the travel distance is big so we can't get them as fresh as at the source.

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  14. By the way, the Worry Dolls were sold for years in the Trade Aid shops in New Zealand. I must go and check out the shop again and see if they are still available. Brilliant gift for kids or big kids :-)

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    1. The Worry Dolls are colourful and lightweight. They'd make nice gifts for kids and big kids :)

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  15. So many places in the world that I've never heard of Natalie - and this was one of them (loved the town's name though) I did recognize some of the handicrafts though - I guess they're national as well as local.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLST and I've shared on my SM :)

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    1. Thanks, Leanne, for hosting and sharing. The lesser known places are great to visit as there is no crowd, and the local people are not yet tired of tourists :) The town's name is long, isn't it? Some people shorten it to Chichi.

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  16. What a wonderful place and beautiful photos. That is an amazing place. #MLSTL

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    1. Thank you, Patrick, for your kind comment. Much appreciated.

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  17. I would be so tempted by those arts and crafts. I first heard of a worry doll back in 2007.I think I gave one to some members of my family...I cannot say they worked though.

    Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week's optional prompt for 6/51 is My Worst Purchase. Denyse.

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    1. The arts and crafts at the market were attractive, Denyse. I was very tempted but didn't buy anything there. Thank you for hosting LTW. Have a great day!

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  18. Your post makes me want to jump on a plane. I love to shop in the local markets of the places we visit and pictures show lots ot things I think I need.

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    1. The colourful handicrafts and textiles are unique and inexpensive so one can buy some really nice items at this market or those in the villages by Lake Atitlan. Thanks, Victoria, for stopping by.

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  19. I'm sure I left a comment here earlier in the week Natalie, but can't see it. apparently I have been going to span a lot lately for some unknown reason! I really enjoyed this visit with all the vibrant colours and learning about the worry dolls, I also love the name!

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    1. Thank you, Debbie, for your comment. It's annoying when we send a comment and it doesn't appear. It happened to me before. I checked my spam folder and your previous comment didn't go there. I enjoyed my time in Guatemala and found the Mayan culture and vibrant colours captivating.

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  20. Thanks for another great update Natalie. I like the worry dolls and the fresh produce looks wonderful! I love the carrots and avocados in Mexico. I imagine they are similar in Guatemala. That alone, makes me want to go there. :-)

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    1. Hi Christie - Avocados, tomatoes, onions, limes, and fresh herbs are abundant in Guatemala. They make delicious salsas and tomato sauce that go well with fresh corn tortillas, too :)

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  21. Beautiful and distinctive handcrafts, Natalie. I am glad to see they are still making all of these in the traditional manner.

    Thank you for taking part in the Travel Tuesday meme.

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    1. Thank you, Nicholas, for your comment. I was glad to see the traditional handicrafts in Guatemala and love their vibrant colours.

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