Lonely Planet Writer

See inside Chichicastenango Cemetery, one of the most colourful resting places in the world

Standing at an altitude of 1965 meters high and flanked by vast, sloping valleys and extensive mountain peaks, Chichicastenango is a small town approximately 140 kilometres north-west of Guatemala City.

As well as being home to a marketplace that boasts world-famous textiles and other handcrafted items that attract thousands of people each week, the town boasts one of the most beautiful and colourful cemeteries in the world, with vibrant, richly painted gravestones standing around the property in a kaleidoscope of colour.

Many Masheños (citizens of Chichicastenango) hold pre-Christian beliefs, choosing to celebrate life and death the same ways that their Mayan ancestors did. Graves are often painted in the favourite colour of the deceased, while shamans can be seen burning incense, candles and in special cases, chickens, in offerings to the gods. Each 31 October marks Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) a special festival featuring parades, food, fireworks and parties celebrating the deceased. One major attractions nearby is the 400-year old church of Santo Tomás, where townspeople bring offerings of maize, flowers and bottles of liquor wrapped in corn husks. Images recently taken by Shaun Robertson show the vibrancy of the cemetery.

The vibrant, multicoloured  Chichicastenango Cemetery in Guatemala. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
The vibrant, multicoloured Chichicastenango Cemetery in Guatemala. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
The townspeople paint the graves in the favourite colours of the deceased. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
The townspeople paint the graves in the favourite colours of the deceased. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
The sun streams in above a vibrant red tombstone. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
The sun streams in above a vibrant red tombstone. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
Crosses painted in an array of different colours at Chichicastenango Cemetery. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
Crosses painted in an array of different colours at Chichicastenango Cemetery. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
An orange crypt at Chichicastenango Cemetery in Guatemala. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
An orange crypt at Chichicastenango Cemetery in Guatemala. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
A green crypt amongst colourful tombstones. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
A green crypt amongst colourful tombstones. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
A view of the colourful cemetery surrounded by trees. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
A view of the colourful cemetery surrounded by trees. Image by Shaun Robertson / thislifeintrips
A line of multi-coloured crypts in the cemetery.
A line of multi-coloured crypts in the cemetery.