Chichicastenango, Lake Atitlán - Stein Travel

    • 16+ years

    • 12-15 years

    • 2-11 years

    • 0-23 months

Welcome to Chichicastenango

Chichi, as it is called, is renowned mainly for its Sunday and Thursday markets, Sunday being the busiest. A quaint traditional hill village with cobbled streets and red tiled roofs, it has been one of the largest centres of Mayan trade since pre-Hispanic times and thousands of people gather in a spectacle of colour and festivity every week. The market attracts tourists, commercial traders and Mayan weavers from all over the highland area. It is also an important centre of culture and religion, and the locals have combined traditional Mayan religious rites with Catholicism. This is particularly evident around the Church of St Thomas where traders spread their goods on the steps, burn incense, offer food to the Mayan earth god, and pray to the Virgin Mary. Like its market, Chichi is famous for its outstanding handicrafts rich in colour, design and workmanship. Tourist-orientated stalls blend into the frenzied trading of local necessities like fruit and vegetables, balls of wax, lumps of chalk, macaroni, sewing items, soap, baskets and spices.

The official language is Spanish but English is understood in hotels and tourist destinations. Many indigenous languages are also spoken.

The official currency is the Quetzal (GTQ) divided into 100 centavos. In 2001 the US Dollar became the second official currency alongside the Quetzal and both are accepted. Travellers cheques and major credit cards are accepted, though some more than others. It is recommended to take travellers cheques in US dollars. Cash exchange is easier, but more risky. Visitors are not advised to exchange money at the informal booths on the street. There are ATMs in the towns and cities, which accept American Express and Visa. MasterCard and Diners Club have a more limited acceptance.

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