This is a fantastic alternative to the market at Chichicastenango. Chichi's market is getting a bit over-touristed and the market at San Francisco is much less frequented by tourists. Plus, you can go to the top of the church and look down upon the bustling marketplace, or into the distance to see the amazing volcanic peaks of Guatemala. This market is on Friday as opposed to Chichi's market, which is on Sunday.
On market day in San Francisco El Alto the livestock fair continues into the afternoon- long after trading has come to a halt elsewhere. Large crowds congregate and it is very interesting to watch how deals are negotiated.
What to buy: Pigs are a major wealth multiplier in the villages. The return on investment far exceeds most other economic activities for the small farmer who may not own any land at all- and the profits will allow two pigs... then three. It is very important to get the pig's head down on the ground so the jaw can be opened and the tongue pulled out- the buyer needs to know if the glands are swollen at the root of the tongue. A diseased animal will be confiscated without compensation by the authorities.
What to pay: This adds zest to the market. The cash earned by the married couple has not been easily earned. The worst fear is that the animal will not survive, reproduce or be sickly. A lot is riding on the selection and the sellers can be very shrewd indeed.
San Francisco El Alto has it's own website (in Spanish). It mentions a canyon on the River Samala.
QUOTE: San Francisco el Alto, conocido como “Las altura de la Patria”, ofrece un panorama sin igual con el cañón del río Samalá, llamado BELEJEPTZI, que en etimología quiché significa “Nueve Sillas”. Este lugar es visitado por turistas nacionales y extranjeros. En dicho lugar existen nueve quemaderos de incienso utilizados por los “zajorines”, los cuales se encuentran a unos 200 mtrs. De la entrada principal (Km. 190) de San Francisco El Alto sobre la carretera Interamericana.
Ask around for directions to "el rio"