With a country that has as rich and fascinating a heritage as Guatemala’s, it’s no surprise that it has some great museums to visit. And as you would expect, our country’s museums are a celebration of the very best we have to offer.
From exhibits from Guatemala’s ancient Mayan past, to the stunning textiles and artistic treasures of the present, there is a huge amount to see. So, here is our guide to five unmissable Guatemalan museums.
1. Museo Popul Vuh, Guatemala City
This incredible museum in Guatemala’s capital is well worth a visit. It is particularly fascinating for anyone who has an interest in art – and in Mayan art in particular.
But a bit of background first. The Popul Vuh is an ancient text that tells the myths and legends of the K?iche? people. They are a Maya group who still live in the Highlands close to the capital.
The name means ‘Book of the People’ and it is an appropriate name for this wonderful museum too. It truly is a celebration of the Mayan people and their art. It tells the story of the Mayan people before the Spanish conquest and includes everything from a 15,000 year old obsidian projectile tip to beautiful funerary urns. An essential insight into the Mayan culture.
2. Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología, Guatemala City
The Popul Vuh museum is incredible. But if you still want to find out more about the Mayans and their culture then the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología (National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology) is essential.
It is home to our country’s biggest collection of Mayan objects, many of them from sites such as Tikal. Our advice is to take in both Popul Vuh and the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología if you’re planning to visit any of the sites themselves.
Both museums do a wonderful job of showing you more about how the ancient Mayans actually lived. From cooking pots to jewellery, this museum is a chance to see the objects that mattered to them most in their everyday lives.
3. Choco Museum, Antigua
Continuing on from the Mayan theme, this museum in Antigua is a celebration of one of their most important discoveries. Chocolate was incredibly important to the Mayans (and still is, to this day).
For many of us Guatemalans, chocolate is still thought of as ‘the food of the gods’ – a sacred gift from above. That love certainly shines through in this museum. It’s a place to completely indulge your love of chocolate, while finding out more about where it comes from.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the museum is the opportunity to learn about the process of chocolate manufacturing. You can make your own bar from cacao beans, learn more about the growing process and get some practical hands-on experience. An unmissable experience for chocoholics!
4. Museo Casa del Tejido Antigua
While you’re in Antigua, it is well worth visiting this beautiful museum too. It’s dedicated to woven textiles, another Mayan craft that is endlessly fascinating. This is also museum where the experience is very much hands-on.
You’ll have the chance to learn about the importance of these textiles in Mayan culture. But you’ll also be able to see the expert weavers in action, creating these incredible textiles while you watch.
Every design style comes from a different area, and learning about these variations is a great insight into the rich variety of Mayan culture. There is also a market where you can buy these colourful textiles too.
5. Centro Cultural La Azotea, Jocotenango
Our final choice is another museum that celebrates one of Guatemala’s greatest gifts to the world: coffee. This museum is just outside Antigua, in Jocotenango, and is part of a huge coffee plantation. There are actually three museums here – the complex also includes one dedicated to music and another to Mayan textiles.
But the Museo del Café is the real highlight. It’s the perfect place for coffee lovers to find out more about the history of their favourite drink. And it is also an opportunity to see how coffee is made at the plantation.
It’s easy to see why Guatemalan coffee is so well-renowned – there is a real sense of pride in the end product here, and this museum does a great job of bringing it to life. Take your time to explore the plantation itself – and enjoy a cup of some of the best coffee you’ll ever drink.
About Jürg Widmer Probst
Jürg Widmer is a busy blogger and resident of Guatemala who often shares all things about Guatemala, from the country’s hidden gems, article and culture to the best place for food and drink.