The best shopping experiences in Guatemala
Guatemalans love to shop, and whether you are in a small local market town or one of the country’s big cities, you will never be short of opportunities to spend your money. Whether you want to pick up some beautiful local textiles, colourful Mayan clothing, jewellery or leather goods, the choice is endless. Our tip is never to rush in – and be prepared to haggle so that you only end up paying what you think something is really worth. And finally, of course, have fun! Here is our pick of just some of our favourite shopping experiences in the country.
The Mercado Central, Guatemala City.
It is a good rule of thumb that if you want to get a taste of what really makes a city and its people tick, head to the central market. Mercado Central in Guatemala City is a great example of this. It’s big, brash, vibrant and absolutely packed to the rafters with all kinds of wonderful things to buy. Whether you are in the market for some high quality local leather goods, beautiful woollen blankets, or just some great local food from the stalls on the lower level, it’s the place to go. Just be ready to haggle, as in any market in Guatemala – and make sure you get yourself a good deal.
Mercado de Artesanias La Aurora, Guatemala City
While the Mercado Central is one of those wonderful markets that seems to have a bit of everything – from food to handicrafts – the Mercado de Artesanias La Aurora in Guatemala City is a little more specialised. The market is home to an eclectic collection of local craftspeople who sell a remarkable range of Guatemalan clothing, jewellery and souvenirs. For a Guatemalan market it is also actually quite a relaxed experience and can be a great place just to wander and wile away a few hours browsing the stalls. While you are there (and once you have worked up a bit of a hunger with all that haggling), we’d also recommend the excellent Don Emiliano restaurant nearby, who do excellent tacos.
Street food in Panajachel, Lake Atitlan
While we’re on the subject of food, we also wanted to mention the wonderful street stalls in Panajachel near to Lake Atitlan. There are plenty of local handicraft stalls along the colourful Calle Santander, but it is the quality of the street food vendors that really stood out for us. As with all of these kind of experiences it pays to shop around a bit and see where the locals are going, but whichever stall you end up at we highly recommend the pupusas. These are delicious a handmade tortilla that is stuffed with cheese, beans, pork or chorizo. Mouthwateringly good.
The silver shops of Coban
Coban has become increasingly popular as a centre for silver making, and attracts plenty of visitors every year who come to see the work of local artists. We recommend taking some time to browse the many silver shops, but we also suggest you stop for a cup of coffee too. Coban has a cool and humid climate, perfect for coffee growing, and the local brew is among some of the best you’ll ever taste. As well as the silver crafts and the coffee, you will also find plenty of other traditional Mayan handicrafts on sale in Coban, and it is well worth spending some quality time exploring the town.
Chichicastenango Market, Chichicastenango
No list of Guatemalan shopping experiences would be complete without a mention of the fantastic Chichicastenango Market. This one really is something special and is famous throughout much of Central America thanks to the quality and range of the goods it sells. Chichicastenango is a small Mayan town in the western highlands of Guatemala, and is fascinating place to visit in itself. But the local market is a big draw for many, with its beautiful handicrafts, Mayan clothing and textiles and delicious local produce. Not to be missed.
Finally, just a few general tips on haggling. It is a big part of shopping culture in Guatemala, and many vendors, especially market traders, will expect you to bargain with them. Halve the price they quote you, smile, and enjoy the process – and you might just walk away with a great deal.