Top destinations of the moment in Central America
  • Tour Ideas
Trip Types
  • Travel Style
  • Interests and Activities
  • Tour Ideas by Month
  • Continents and Regions
An update from Evaneos
San Francisco El Alto

San Francisco El Alto (Guatemala)

Practical information on San Francisco El Alto

  • Encounters with locals
  • Handicraft
  • Off the beaten track
5 / 5 - One review
How to get there
It's just 45 minute drive away from Quetzaltenango and 30 minutes from Totonicapán
When to go
Every Friday of the year
Minimum stay
Half a day

Reviews of San Francisco El Alto

Perrine J. Seasoned Traveller
27 written opinions

The village may look similar to all the others in the region, but the San Francisco el Alto weekly market certainly helps it to stand out. It's one of a kind!

My suggestion:
As it's not near any classic tourist sites, I don't think it's worth taking a detour to San Francisco el Alto on non-market days. But this weekly festivity is definitely worth a look!
My review

After spending more than a year in Guatemala, I can say without any hesitation that San Francisco el Alto is the most beautiful and most impressive market of the entire country.

Although this small village of around 60,000 inhabitants at the gates of the Altiplano does not look like much during the rest of the week, it's the main economic engine of the whole Totonicapán region. Every Friday at 4am, hundreds of thousands of traders come from neighbouring areas and flock to its streets with the hope of selling their crops. Since the time of colonisation, trade in San Francisco el Alto has just kept on growing to the point where it has become a true local tradition.

Located about fifteen kilometres from, and overlooking the city of, Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in the country, San Francisco el Alto is positioned very strategically. It's the commercial hub linking together the highland provinces with the Pan-American road which serves Huehuetenango, Quetzaltenango and Retalhuleu, further south. The goods sold there are as rich and diverse as those sold at neighbouring market in Chichicastenango, but what sets it apart has to be the origins of its visitors. Indeed, in contrast to "Chichi" which has long been developed for tourists, the San Francisco el Alto market is organised both by and for indigenous peoples. Stretching over several kilometers and occupying every corner, the stalls sell a variety of products ranging from household appliances to food, through to clothing, seeds, potteries and even animals. The upper village square is another favourite of mine because it brings together a real menagerie of goats, cows, pigs, ducks, dogs, rabbits, etc.

You probably already know that this little stop off the beaten path is unmissable for me while on holiday in Guatemala, provided I have the time to take a detour over there and can visit on a Friday.

A market scene in San Francisco el Alto
San Francisco el Alto Market