There are many routes to Chichicastenango to see the market from San Pedro and Lake Atitlan , involving buses, colectivos, shuttles, or even the ferry (lancha). We took this route and worked out the cheapest route for backpackers, alongside what turned out to probably be the easiest way to go as well. In addition to this method, we thought we would document all ways of making your way to Chichi so that you could make your own choice on the day!
Here is how to make your way to Chichicastenango from Lake Atitlan, and more specifically from San Pedro:
1. San Pedro -> Los Encuentros -> Chichicastenango
This is probably the easiest way of getting to Chichi, and is indeed the way that we went. From San Pedro, there is a chicken bus that will take you all the way to Los Encuentros, at which point you will change for transport in a colectivo that will take you all the way to Chichi.
The bus in San Pedro leaves from in front of the Catholic church, with buses starting at around 6:30amin the morning (and continuing during the day until the early afternoon). We recommend taking the early bus so that you arrive at Chichi market at opening time (8:30-9). The bus will wind through the hills giving you amazing views of the recently risen sun and the lake, so sit on the right to take full advantage!
Upon reaching Los Encuentros, you should get off the bus (wait until you hear them yelling it out or ask the bus driver to let you know when you will arrive – “Puedes contar me cuando llegamos a Los Encuentros”).
When you get off the bus, cross the road towards the parked cars and vans and look for colectivo vans that have “Chichicastenango / Los Encuentros” in the window. These will take you the remaining 45 minutes to town and the market.
The total cost of this journey was around $5 or $6US.
2. San Pedro -> Panajachel -> Solola -> Los Encuentros -> Chichicastenango
This route is a little bit convoluted, requiring many changes in order to reach your destination. However, you may need to go through Panajachel or you may be starting your journey here so it is included so that people know you can go this way!
Firstly, you must take the lancha or ferry across from San Pedro to Panajachel, which begin going at about 6am and cost 25GTQ. It is best to take an early morning lancha before the wind picks up, as journey times will then increase and it will be a bumpy ride.
Once in Pana, get a local to point you in the right direction to where the chicken buses go, in order to get one up to the top of the hills to Solola. After, you will need to take another chicken bus to Los Encuentros, and then the same colectivo as mentioned in the first method which will take you all the way to Chichi.
3. San Pedro -> Kilometre 148 -> Los Encuentros -> Chichicastenango
A similar route to the one first described, the only difference being that you will need to make one additional change at Kilometre 148. This is a stop right before buses turn to go onto the main highway, which is helpful to you if you are taking a bus that is not going to Los Encuentros, but rather to somewhere like Quetzaltenango (Xela). If you let the driver know, they will let you off here.
Once you arrive at Km 148, simply wait on the road (on the San Pedro side of the highway, you want to go to the right) for a bus heading in that direction (for example to Guatemala City) and it will take 10-15 minutes to reach Los Encuentros.
Again, from Los Encuentros, cross the road and make your way to the colectivos that will take you to Chichi.
4. San Pedro -> Chichicastenango (shuttle or private taxi)
You can organise shuttle tours at many places in town that will take you directly to Chichicastenango and then will return you after you have finished shopping. You can also find tours that will provide a guide for the market and the area itself.
If you are going to take this more expensive option, make sure you shop around as different tour agencies in San Pedro (and there are many) will give you vastly different prices.
Getting Back From Chichicastenango:
To get back, simply take the same route that you took to get there. If you are going back to San Pedro, the last bus back that goes direct is at around 2pm. If you are going to look for it make sure you state that you are going to “San Pedro la Laguna” or you may end up at a different San Pedro (seriously).
The easier option is to get on any bus going to Quetzaltenango (Xela) and get dropped off at Kilometre 148, where buses come more frequently that are going to San Pedro.
If going back to Panajachel, take the route via Solola on a chicken bus.
If going back by shuttle- enjoy the ride!
So that is it, the many routes and ways to get to Chichi market. We hope you enjoy the market and its surrounding beauty (including the churches and graveyard which are must sees), and make sure you barter hard because they raise their prices specifically for the tourist market.
Have fun, and get lost in the vast market that makes up Chichi!