Chichicastenango, or Chichi as it is known, is a traditional town of cobbled streets and charming old adobe houses, though these are now outnumbered by modern concrete structures. Twice a week the town is changed by their market – Sunday and Thursday’s – which attract many tourists, traders and Maya weavers from throughout the region.
In Chici, locals adhere to the ways of traditional weaving, the women wearing huipiles – a traditional local dress. The men’s costume of short trousers and jackets of black wool embroidered with silk is highly distinguished. For Sundays and fiestas, however, a handful of the elders still wear the traditional clothing and parade through the streets bearing spectacular silver processional crosses and antique incense-burners.
The world famous Saturday crafts market in Otavalo contains an array of textiles and crafts. Split into 3 different markets; food and spices, weavings and carvings, and buying and selling of animals. The men wear their hair long and plaited with calf length white trousers and blue ponchos. Women wear colourful embroidered blouses, shoulder wraps and colourful beads.
Although the Saturday market is the largest and most famous it operates every day of the week. As well as the numerous handicrafts shops where you can find beautifully woven textiles, woollen ponchos, blankets and wall hangings, you can also find Andean folk music instruments.
Pisac Market, Sacred Valley, Peru
Pisac is a picturesque town comprising of both the old and the new (from the colonial era). The town of Pisac though is better known for its outstanding market, where locals and gringos alike barter over goods. Despite its popularity the market retains much of its local charm, at least in the part where villagers from miles around gather to barter and sell their produce.
Hundreds of stalls crowd the central square where a small church sits though it also spills down the many side streets. Sellers come from many different villages and each wear the dress typical of their village. Dignitaries from the local villages usually lead processions after Mass, making it a wonderful place to sit and watch. Pisac is a good place to buy the local ceramics including a huge and varied collection of hand-painted multi-coloured beads. There are smaller markets in Pisac on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Saquisili Market, Avenue of Volcanos, Ecuador
South of Quito is the small rugged town of Saquisili, where each Thursday it is home to one of the most authentic and complete Indian markets in Ecuador, though it is also one of the largest and most genuine in South America. Hundreds of locals from the surrounding mountains arrive in the early hours of the morning, sometimes while it is still dark, to set up their stalls. The whole town is converted into a vibrant market where you can walk through the central plaza and shop for handicrafts of all kinds.
The market vendors sell everything from pigs and goats, pots and pans to colourful handicrafts, but it is best known for its animal market. Food stalls will sell a variety of local specialties, while the local butcher slaughters pigs, cattle and sheep to sell off literally piece by piece. Though as with all South American markets, it is a chance for the locals to socialize and to show off their best clothing.
San Telmo is a small barrio of Buenos Aires and its distinctive cobblestone streets are home to the weekly (Sundays) antiques market. The area of San Telmo has a wonderful feeling of the grandeur, with its crumbling colonial buildings. This is the place to not only shop, but also to eat, drink and watch life go by. There are hundreds of stalls surrounded by street performers and it is the perfect place to buy souvenir mate cups – the cups which they suck the local tea out of.
Even if you are not here on a weekend, San Telmo is still a lovely place to wander around and explore. The main street – Calle Defensa – is lined with many antique shops, though one of the real highlights is sitting in a café on Plaza Dorrego, enjoying a local coffee and watching one of the professional tango dancers strutting their stuff.