San Francisco El Alto
Central America, Information, Photography, Travel

El Mercado San Francisco El Alto, Guatemala

San Francisco El Alto

Knowing that we were going to spend a fair amount of time living in Xela, we wanted to explore all that the neighboring cities had to offer as well. To do so, we got in contact with Adrenalina Tours. This company piqued our interest due to the fact that they solely work with local people for their tours as well as their focus on eco/sustainable tourism. And after spending a morning on one of their tours, we were glad we did.

Our first stop was San Francisco el Alto, where the largest open-air market in Central America calls home.

We began the ascent up the winding mountain roads with loaded chicken buses in our rearview mirror. On the short drive to San Francisco el Alto we got to know our awesome guide/driver, Giovanni. When we mentioned our blog, he seemed to get even more excited and we soon found ourselves pulled over on the side of the road enjoying a wonderful view of the city we just left. He patiently waited while Erica satisfied her photographic-cravings and then we set off again.

Arriving at the market, I almost immediately noticed something different here than at the other Central American markets we’d visited previously. I was the only white guy in sight. For such a massive market, I was blown away. This place didn’t become this huge from visitors, this was a place of business; hectic, loud, and hurried business.

Pigs at San Francisco El AltoWe flowed down the crowded aisles with thousands of other people navigating this bustling emporium. I heard quacking resonating from a woven basket but it wasn’t a duck inside. Well, maybe it was. I don’t know, I didn’t get to peek inside as I was almost run over by a speeding abuelita loaded with more than her body weight in goods. It didn’t take long for Erica and I to learn to yield or speed up, lest we get an elbow in the ribs.

Eventually, we wound our way to the top of a hill at the peak of the market. Here all the stalls that would have been selling tupperware, baskets of dried fish, or designer t-shirt tags were removed in order to make room for the masses of animals looking for respective buyers. Should you need cows, horses, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, and anything else your farm, this is the place to go. It took quite a bit of self control not to bring a pig back to our hostel.

The frantic business being conducted in this market reminded me of another crazy market: the New York Stock Exchange. After visiting San Francisco el Alto the term “stock market” seems much more appropriate.

We ended our morning visiting Salcajá, a tiny town which boasts the first church built in Central America and their special “Caldo de Frutas” brew (a red fruit liquor), and San Andreas Xecul; a small indigenous village with a beautiful yellow church and lovely view of highlands. This was the perfect way to relax after the wonderful chaos of the market.

Mirador, San Francisco, Xela, Guatemala


This complimentary tour was graciously provided to us by Adrenalina Tours. However, all views expressed in this post are my own.


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