144km (89 miles) NW of Guatemala City; 37km (23 miles) N of Panajachel
Santo Tomás de Chichicastenango is a small, highland city with perhaps the most impressive -- and certainly the most famous -- open-air market in all of Guatemala. Although the twice-weekly market and the city have adapted to the flood of tourists, they both maintain a sense of tradition and the indelible mark of Maya culture that stretches back for millennia. The city center is made of narrow cobblestone streets, and just outside the center, the landscape is one of deep ravines and sparsely populated hillsides. In fact, one local name for Chichicastenango is Tziguan Tinamit, which translates roughly as "surrounded by ravines." However, most people simply refer to it as Chichi.
The town's name derives from a local purple flower, the chichicaste. The locals often refer to themselves as Maxeños, with the "x" pronounced as a soft "sh" sound. The Ki'che Maya are the principal linguistic group found in Chichicastenango, although on market days, the town is filled with a cacophony of Mayan dialects, mixed with Spanish and the bargaining banter of Americans, Europeans, and other Central and South Americans.
North of Chichicastenango are several small towns and villages worth visiting, including Santa Cruz del Quiché, Nebaj, and the Ixil Triangle.