Top Backpacking Destinations Ranking: 6.5/10
Destinations can be fantastic for various reasons; beautiful scenery, incredible activities and wonderful people amongst them. Many places are lucky enough to have many or all of these features, whilst others rely on having just one and doing it well. Chichicastenango falls into the latter category.
All its appeal is based around its biweekly market where the hustle and bustle of Guatemala’s best traders flock to the town and try and get the best deals possible. It is a hive of colour and activity and you’re exposed to all the sensations possible from beautiful spice smells to fluffy wools and soft furs. It’s easy to get overawed by it all but it pays to just take a second and take it all in before diving in head first and haggling your heart out. The stall owners are always out to get the most for their items, and they’re not conscientious about your needs! Fight to the bitter end on price and be prepared to walk away. Half the fun is in the exchanges with the locals anyway, I know I didn’t really want the whole alpaca poncho that I fought over for ten minutes but I had a great time doing it. And I would’ve got a great price in the end!
The town itself is high up in the mountains north of Guatemala City and many head there having been backpacking in Antigua and, whilst the town is very quaint and pretty on its own, it doesn’t really warrant a visit outside of market days on Thursday and Saturday. But when those days come around it gets outrageously busy and you need to book ahead to get a reasonable deal. Much of the backpacker accommodation in the area looks to cash in on late arrivals and don’t offer a great price or service. This is easily avoided by booking ahead and I highly recommend it to prevent disappointment.
Chichicastenango is exactly what it says on the tin; a bustling market town which is electrifying if visited on the right days. If you can hold yourself together then it’s possible to have an incredible time and soak up a world of culture in just a few hours. And you might just come away with a bargain too!
Add in your own tips in the comments below, I’d love to hear them, especially any good backpackers hostels that you can recommend in the area. And why not check out the other backpacking destinations in Central America?
If you’ve been convinced and are jumping on the plane right now then you can get the hard copy of the Guatemala Lonely Planet Guide to take with you here.