Travel, but travel with responsibility

That´s why your next journey should lead you to GUATEMALA || Part 4 – Chichicastenango

There are plenty of reasons, why you should travel to wonderful ancient Guatemala! Some of them are:

  • fairytale landscapes like not from this world and gorgeous nature
  • strong Maya culture
  • tremendous ancient Maya temples in lush jungle
  • delicious dishes made of tortillas, beans, plantains, vegetables, eggs and tasty corn drinks
  • ancient colonial cities
  • active volcanoes
  • great handicrafts
  • and so much more…

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After you have read this articles, I´m sure you are really thinking about traveling through Guatemala :)

Places to visit:

  • Antigua
  • Lago Atitlan
  • Western highlands (Chichicastenango, Rabinal, Salamá,..)
  • Lanquin and Semuc Champey
  • El Remate, Flores
  • Tikal

Highlights:

  • Climbing volcanoes, e.g. Volcano Pacaya or Acatenango
  • Wandering trough lush jungle to a natural wonder in Semuc Champey
  • Visiting Maya ruins – the most impressive one is Tikal
  • Exploring the ancient (and most beautiful city in Central America) Antigua
  • Enjoying the tranquility and peace in El Remate by the Lago Petén Itzá
  • Get to know the vibrant Maya culture and visiting the biggest handicraft market in Chichicastenango
  • Driving along deadly roads in the western highlands
  • Relax and eat good food in the small colonial city Flores

Chichicastenango

After experiencing natural wonders in Semuc Champey, we wanted to head towards the vibrating center of old Guatemalan Maya culture – Chichicastenango. A city in the highlands of Guatemala at about 2000 m.a.s.l.

Chichicastenango was during the old kingdom of Quiché the religious and political center. After the Spaniards captured the town in the 16th century, they destroyed the old Maya temple and build on it the church Santo Tomás. But until now, the location of the temple is used by Maya Shamans, for rituals, worshipping and even sacrificing animals.

Also, the Maya book Popol Vuh was first found here by Pater Francisco Ximénez in 1702.

What you can do here:
– Visiting the colourful graveyard
– Get lost in the biggest handicraft market of Guatemala
– Have a look into the City Museum
– Feeling the vibrant culture of Chichicastenango; people with traditional clothes, Maya rituals everywhere, even in front of Churches
– Eating delicious food
– Gazing at colourful wall paintings
– go for trekking in nearby forests

Church with a flower market in front

Church Santo Tomás with a flower market in front

We took a local bus from Lanquin to Cobán, then from Cobán to Uspantán, via a windy and bumpy mountain road, from Uspantán to Santa Cruz del Quiché, and then the last step to Chichicastenango. This was really another adventure! Sometimes we drove so close to the edge, that I was sure, if just the wind blew a bit strong into the wrong direction, we would crash down.
I think in total we paid just around 10 $ for a one-day ride.

Maya Calendar in the City Museum

Maya Calendar in the City Museum

We found a nice family-run hostel “El Teléfono”, from where we had an excellent view to the graveyard of the town. But it was not a graveyard like anyone else. No, this one was very special!

Terrace of our hostel

Terrace of our hostel

View from the hostel to the graveyard

View from the hostel to the graveyard

Colourful graveyard

Colourful graveyard

The city gave me a very interesting and mystical impression. It´s not like other Guatemalan places, I saw before. All the people waring traditional clothes and speaking Maya languages, processions around the town, the big market with all it´s beautiful colourful things, Mayan worshipping in and around the town, just impressed me.

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Market of Chichicastenango

Market of Chichicastenango

Mayan Worshipping in front of the church

Mayan Worshipping in front of the church

People using traditional clothes

People using traditional clothes

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Procession

Procession

Murals tell the Mayan history and mythology, and the grief of the civil war. Therefore, they used symbology from the Popol Vuh.

Wall paintings

Murals

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Painting of the creattion of Popol Vuh

Painting of the creation of Popol Vuh

Entrance of the museum

Entrance of the museum

Murals

Murals in front of the city museum

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Even the city gate has some murals on it!

City gate

City gate

Procession

Procession

Typical small church

Typical small church

What I realized very often is, that churches are from inside just very simple and humble. Not like pompous churches in Europe.

Church from inside

Church from inside

One day, we were walking outside of town, in south direction, to Pascual Abaj, which is a sacrifice area on a hilltop in a pine forest. It´s a shrine to the Mayan earth god Huyup Tak’ah. When we were there, there were also some worshippers, holding a ceremony. But they didn´t mind, that we were there and watching them.

Pascual Abaj

Pascual Abaj

With our little friend

With our little friend

To get there from the central place (plaza), walk down 5a Av, then turn right into 9a Calle and continue downhill. At the end, turn left along a path and head up through a ceremonial mask workshop that is signposted here. Then you can follow the path uphill through the trees to get to the top of the hill.

On our way back, we came along a little art gallery. It looked interesting and we asked some workers there, if we could enter. We got in and saw many paintings, that were really beautiful and interesting, all of them telling some Maya stories.

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The jaguar is one of the most important animals in Mayan mythology

The jaguar is one of the most important animals in Mayan mythology

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Old Mayan and new christian cultures are merging

Old Mayan and new christian cultures are merging

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Art gallery

Art gallery

The next day, we decided to take a closer look at the graveyard, which we saw every day from the terrace of our hostel.

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It was interesting to wander around. The graveyard was huge and there were whole family tombs, as big as houses. Many graves were already hundred years or older, and in all imaginable colours. Some even had beautiful paintings. One tomb was a copy of a Maya temple. But the most of the tombs were damaged and neglected, which was also a very sad view.

Dogs were wandering around and sleeping on the tombs, and a lot of trash was lying on the ground. I had the impression, that this place was not really considered a holy and quiet place.

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Beautiful painting on a tomb

Beautiful painting on a tomb

Tombs with burning hall

Tombs with burning hall

All of these things make Chichicastenango so distinct and it´s definitely worth it, to visit this vibrant town, with all it´s history, living traditions, colourful streets and sometimes incomprehensible customs, full of contrasts.

Thanks for reading!

-Sarita

 

PS: If you like this post, I would be very happy if you share it via Facebook or other channels! Share buttons below :)

 

 

 

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