Best Outdoor Markets in North and South America

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One of the first places I’m eager to visit when Greg and I explore a new area is the local market. I love learning about the region’s produce and seeing the meat and fish cuts that are most popular. Typically it’s a great place to taste the local food and watch the interactions of the shoppers within the hustle and bustle atmosphere of the market. I asked some of my traveling friends to tell me about their favorites. Here are their descriptions of some of the best outdoor markets in North and South America.

Chichicastenango Market of Guatemala from Travel with the Smile

Chichicastenango, often called Chichi, is a small town in the mountains of Guatemala. Two times a week it turns into the busiest place in the country for the biggest Guatemalan market.

It is one of the best places for observing the Mayan culture, trying local food, buying colorful handicrafts or simply people watching.

Locals come here to buy and sell produce from their fields, poultry, pottery, wooden furniture, flowers and Mayan textiles. Ninety-nine percent of the region’s population is indigenous Mayan K’iche and most of the people only speak the Mayan language.

We’ve visited from San Pedro at Lake Atitlan which is only two hours away. It’s a very popular day trip from many parts of Guatemala and definitely worth a visit!

About Travel with the Smile:

Maya and Michal are adventure seekers and active travelers. After moving from Slovakia to Canada, they departed for a trip around the world collecting memories from authentic and off- the-beaten-path places.

best outdoor markets in North and South America

Primarily Mayan, the market in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, is one of the best outdoor markets in North and South America.

Otavalo Market of Ecuador from The Expat Experiment

The Saturday market in Otavalo, Ecuador, is South America’s largest indigenous market. Although the outdoor market occurs daily, on Saturdays it spreads out like a web of a giant spider from the center of Plaza de los Ponchos down all of the connecting streets.

The market atmosphere is warm and inviting and the vendors are welcoming. There is so much to see – up-tempo music, lots of prepared food stalls, fruit, vegetables and nut vendors. Otavalo is famous for its textiles but there are so many different types of goods including jewelry, leather, woven goods, carved knick-knacks, household goods, paintings, knitting, clothing … pretty much anything you can imagine.

Sharpen your haggling skills as negotiating prices is expected and with many vendors selling the same type of goods you can always find a great deal. The market is extremely busy on Saturdays and you should arrive early to avoid the late morning crowds. Do be aware and keep a hold of your belongings, as the large crowds also bring out the pickpockets.

About The Expat Experiment:

Rob and Tracey Tullis, along with their son, have been traveling the world full-time since 2014. Check out their blog and follow along with their adventures.

best outdoor markets of north and south america

The Otavalo Market is famous for its textiles, but offers a wide variety of food and merchandise in Ecuador.

BíoBio Market of Santiago, Chile from Nomadic Chica

BíoBio Market is one of the biggest markets in Santiago, Chile. Most vibrant during the weekends, it’s a whole neighborhood where you will find almost anything you can imagine. The market is organized across several streets and different markets can be found inside each building. It makes for the perfect Sunday outing.

From clothes to furniture, the market offers video games, cars accessories, bikes and even pets. You can find a whole range of ethnic food from around the world, from traditional Chilean to Mexican and Colombian. The BíoBio Market also has one of the best Thai restaurants in the city.

This market is definitely worth a visit to Chile’s capital. It’s the perfect activity to explore and discover the local culture.

About Nomadic Chica:

Gloria (@nomadicchica) is a Chilean travel blogger who quit her job as a physical therapist to live her dreams of travel. With 20 years of solo travel experience, she now travels the world sharing her luxury and adventure experiences through her blog.

best outdoor markets in north and south america

No trip to Santiago, Chili, would be complete without a visit to the BioBio Market.

Farmers’ Market of Zapote in San José, Costa Rica from Nomadbiba

The Farmers’ Market of Zapote in San José, Costa Rica, is considered one of the best in the country. The market takes place every Sunday, rain or shine, in a large open space. It quickly fills up with vendors offering their produce for sale and locals doing their weekly shopping.

This market is a great place to admire and sample the diversity of Costa Rica’s fruits and vegetables. Since I grew up in South America, I was not expecting to see too many things that were unfamiliar. But I saw some pretty exotic fruits. We bought some tasty avocados to prepare guacamole at the hostel and also sampled some delicious fresh fruit juices.

About Nomadbiba:

Bianca is a former nomad now based in the Netherlands. She likes to explore new places any time she gets a chance, on her own or with her family.

best outdoor markets in north and south america

If you find yourself in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Sunday, be sure to head over to the Zapote Market. It is one of the best outdoor markets in North and South America.

Tarabuco Market of Bolivia from Along Dusty Roads

Tarabuco, around an hour from Sucre, provides a wonderful opportunity for travelers looking to gain a unique snapshot of Bolivia’s ethnic distinctiveness. Held every Sunday, the market is perhaps the most important day of the week for locals, both crucial to their incomes and many of the day-to-day necessities. Given that many of these communities are from distinct indigenous groups, the streets are a fantastic melting pot of traditional dress styles – we didn’t visit anywhere else quite like it in Bolivia!

About Along Dusty Roads:

For Andrew and Emily, traveling and photography are two great passions. One rain-soaked and gin-fueled evening in East London, they decided to make life more interesting and took a chance on doing what they love.

best outdoor markets in north and south america

To truly get a sampling of the indigenous peoples of Bolivia, check out the Tarabuco Market. The traditional dress of both the vendors and shoppers make it one of the best outdoor markets in North and South America.

Jean-Talon Market of Montreal from Jenny is Free

From maple syrup to organic mushrooms, burritos to baklava, there’s so much to choose from at Montreal’s famed Jean-Talon Market. Opened and serving fresh, local produce for over 80 years, Jean-Talon Market is proud to be one of North America’s largest outdoor markets. Located in “Little Italy” in the east end of the city, the market is a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. It’s open year-round from dawn ’til dusk and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon, sampling fruits and vegetables brought in from farmers in the region. There are also specialty shops along the market where shoppers can buy a large variety of items, including spices, homemade pastas, artisanal cheeses and organic household products.

About Jenny is Free:

Jenny has been a solo female traveler for almost ten years, living in many Asian countries and working as an English teacher. Most recently she spent the summer in Latin America volunteering in hostels.

best outdoor markets in north and south america

Montreal is a city of surprises, including being home to the Jean-Talon Market … one of the best outdoor markets in North and South America.

Just thinking about the best outdoor markets in North and South America has me wanting to pack up and go exploring. How about you? Be sure to keep an eye out for our next editions – coming soon – which showcase the best outdoor markets in Europe, Asia and Africa.

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