Without Chichicastenango's big market and attendant tourism, Santa Cruz – or just El Quiché – presents a less self-conscious slice of regional life and is refreshingly free of competition for tourist lucre. Just 19km north of Chichi, Santa Cruz is the capital of Quiché department, drawing a diverse populace on business and administrative affairs. The main market days are Thursday and Sunday, boosting the bustle considerably. Travelers who come here usually do so to visit K'umarcaaj, the ruins of the old K'iche' Maya capital, or to change buses en route further north.
The most exciting time to be here is mid-August during the Fiestas Elenas, a week of festivities and a proud display of indigenous traditions. It all leads up to the Convite Femenino, when El Quiché's women don masks and dance up a storm to marimba accompaniment.