Chichicastenango’s Cemetery

Chichicastengo’s colorful cemetery is well worth a visit if you’re in town for the famous market day.

Colorful Chichicastengo cemetery
Colorful Chichicastengo cemetery
Last Updated:

If you’re headed into the Guatemalan highlands town of Chichicastenango, chances are you’re going for the famous market day. While you’re there, it’s worth dropping by the town’s cemetery just down the hill a little.

The town is not very big, so the cemetery isn’t either, but it sure is colorful. Its brightly painted tombs and crosses stand out vividly on the hillside. The effect is quite different from something like stark white of the cemetery in Granada, Nicaragua.

Like local churches such as Iglesia de Santo Tomas, next to the market, the cemetery is mixed-use, serving both Catholic and indigenous K’iche’ Maya religious communities.

If you come across smoke wafting through the cemetery, that’s likely a local shaman performing traditional K’iche’ Maya ceremonies using bonfires and censers with smoldering incense and copal resin.

Photos of Chichicastenango’s Cemetery

Brightly colored graves at Chichicastengo cemetery
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Traditional Maya ceremony with incense and copal resin smoke in Chichicastengo
Local shaman perform a traditional K’iche’ Maya ceremony using censers with smoldering incense and copal resin. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Chichicastengo cemetery colorful gravesites
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Buildings at Chichicastengo cemetery
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Fire and smoke at Maya ceremony
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Chichicastengo cemetery crosses
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Maya ceremony in Chichicastengo's Cemetery
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Traditional Maya ceremony in Chichicastengo's cemetery
You can tell from the smoke stains on the structure to the right that such ceremonies are frequent. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Chichicastengo cemetery graves
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mayan religious ceremony in Chichicastengo
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Smoke and fire as part of a K'iche' Maya ceremony at the cemetery in Chichicastengo, Guatemala
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
The colorful headstones at Chichicastengo cemetery
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Maya shaman with censer
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com

Where Is It?

It’s just down the hill from the market area. It’s close to the bustle of the market, but still somewhat isolated. As a commonsense personal safety precaution, it’s worth going with a local or guide, especially if you’re traveling solo.

Where to Next?



Travel Advice for Guatemala

You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Guatemala (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.

The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information for Guatemala . You can find the British Government's here and the Australian Government's here.

Health & Vaccinations

The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Guatemala here.

by David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my gear reviews and tips here. More »