Chichicastenango is a small town in the Western Highlands of Guatemala (pop. about 23000). Located at an altitude of 2030m, it is surrounded by valleys and mountains. It is mostly renowned for its colourful markets, held on Thurdsays and Sundays, where it is said that some of the most beautiful traditionnal Mayal textiles are sold.
After 17km from the Los Encuentros junctions, you will go through endless switchbacks to reach Chichicastenango. Many buses and shuttles from Guatemala City, Antigua and Panajachel provide easy access to Los Encuentros and change the bus there toward Chichicastenango. There are steady flow of direct buses for market days. A number of travel agencies in Antigua offer day trip tours, leaving early in the morning, up to Chichicastenango for the Sunday market day while others may include an overnight stay leaving Antigua on Saturday.
The Festival of Santo Thomas is one of the largest celebrations in Guatemala. It is a combination of a city festival with traditional dances, a religious celebration by the Cofradia and the regular market.
It starts December 13th and goes to December 22nd with the biggest day December 21st. There are Toros and Castillos of fireworks in the main square in the evening, after dark. Firecrackers and mortars are set off in front of the Church of Santo Thomas all day long.
There are two religious processions per day, lead by the Cofradia carrying altars decorated with flowers and fruit collecting the saints from neighborhood chapels and taking them to the Church of Santo Thomas.
There's a small Inguat tourist information office beside Santo Tomás church on 8 Calle with good stock of leaflests about Chichicastenango.
Visit the market on Thursdays or Sundays where vendors sell everything from chickens to telephones. The market is also the best place to buy traditional Mayan fabrics. Vendors selling similar products (flowers, produce, livestock, clothing, etc.) set up near each other, creating an informal zone structure. Prices get generally cheaper as you get farther away from the center. Go early in the morning to avoid the influx of tour groups arriving by bus.