The San Ignacio Market in the Cayo District of Belize is a colorful and vibrant outdoor space right on the banks of the Macal River. Full of vendors at stalls selling everything from papaya to natural herbal medicines, there is a little something for everyone. Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are the biggest and most interesting days to visit the market—the place to see and be seen if you’re a local. Although the market is open 7 days a week, your best bet for getting the most out of this unique cultural experience is a Saturday morning visit.
So, what are you likely to see and what are our top picks for a morning at the market? Read on for 5 Cool Things to Do at the San Ignacio Market:
1. EAT SOME PANADES
Similar to what you may know as Empanadas, Belizean Panades (pronounced “puh-NAH-duhs”) are one of the tastiest and most common types of fast food to be found in the country. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. Belizean panades are made by folding corn massa (dough) over a stuffing, which most commonly consists of meat, fish, or refried beans. Or try some of the other delectable Belizean-style fast food fare–rice’n’beans, meat pies, coconut tarts, and garnaches, just to name a few.
2. CHECK OUT HAND CARVINGS ETCHED IN SLATE
Using techniques passed on through the generations, locals artisans retrieve this beautiful black stone from “the bush” and spend painstaking hours carving intricate details by hand depicting Mayan symbols, Belizean cultural icons, and wildlife. You can also find loads of other unique handmade cultural items, like clothing, handbags, beaded jewelry, and wood carvings, from Belize and nearby Guatemala at the market.
3. BURN SOME COPAL
Copal, the traditional Mayan incense made from the cured sap of the fragrant copal tree, is just one of many traditional Mayan items you’ll find for sale at the market. Get yourself a small block and try it out in a handmade clay incense burner.
4. FIND A NATURAL CURE FROM THE RAINFOREST
Traditional cures using homeopathic remedies from the jungle have been in use in the tropics for thousands of years and continue to be widely used and accepted in Belize. From treatments for skin rashes to diabetes, you’re bound to find something to cure whatever ails you.
5. TRY SOMETHING FRESH
Ever eaten a soursop? How about a sapodilla fruit, star fruit, coco yam, or custard apple? Market is the perfect place to try a new tropical fruit or veggie. Get wild and crazy and take a big bite of life!