The former capital of Guatemala was founded in 1543 and is one of the finest cities in Central America. This pretty town oozes colonial charm in a delightful setting, in the shadow of three volcanoes and surrounded by coffee plantations and fine haciendas. Antigua boasts a number of fine properties which have been converted into comfortable boutique posadas. Markets are a vital part of everyday life in Guatemala and local people walk from miles around to attend the weekly markets to buy food, textiles, clothing, livestock and many other goods. These markets are a riot of colour and noise and are a sight not to be missed on any trip to Guatemala.
The largest and the best-known market in Guatemala is the one at Chichicastenango on Thursdays and Sundays. This huge market which seems lost in time draws villages and tourists alike to buy and sell brightly woven textiles, ceramics and masks, just as it has done for centuries. Just as fascinating is the local food market where fresh meat and produce are bought and sold by local people - it is worth the early start to see this part of the market! Try some local foods in the stalls set up nearby.
Right at the heart of the main square and in amongst the vividly coloured textiles and handicrafts is the fascinating church - Iglesia Santo Tomas, Here, local Mayan customs sit comfortably side by side with Catholic tradition as the local Mayan Quiche people have retained their ancient culture and language, even after the arrival of the Catholic Spanish conquistadores.
Chichi, as the town is known, is a small town and accommodation is very simple here. It is worth spending one overnight here before market day to see the locals bargaining hard and before the crowds arrive mid-morning. However, if you prefer more luxurious accommodation, Chichi market can also be visited en route between Antigua and Lake Atitlan or as a day trip from either region.