Top choice in Chichicastenango

Some villagers still walk for hours carrying their wares to reach Chichi's market, one of Guatemala's largest and a highlight of many people's trips to the country. It's a rich mix of the traditional and the tourist, where local women shopping for a new huipile rub shoulders with travelers looking for a textile souvenir. Sunday is the busier of the two market days, when Spanish school students and weekenders from Guatemala City descend en masse on Chichi.

At dawn on Thursday and Sunday vendors spread out their vegetables, chunks of chalk (ground to a powder and boiled with dried maize to soften it), handmade harnesses and other merchandise, and wait for customers. In the past vendors erected their stands of tree limbs and covered them with cotton sheeting each market day, but these days a sea of tin roofs remains a permanent fixture atop the plaza.

Tourist-oriented handicraft stalls selling masks, textiles, pottery and so on now occupy much of the plaza and the streets to the north. Things villagers need – food, soap, clothing, sewing notions, toys – cluster at the north end of the square and in the covered Centro Comercial Santo Tomás off the north side, whose upper deck offers irresistible photo opportunities of the fruit- and vegetable-selling business conducted below.