7 Guatemalan museums you shouldn’t miss
Guatemala is famous for its spectacular scenery, sprawling jungles and Mayan ruins, but Guatemalan museums are also a fascinating and fun way to discover more about the country.
From the relics of a dictatorial past to museums for children, chocolate lovers and rum aficionados, Guatemala has something to divert and entertain just about everybody.
The Palacio Nacional has a dark history, having been built during the reign of dictator Jorge Ubico, but these days it is an architecturally distinguished museum that is well worth a visit.
Keep an eye out for the massive chandeliers in the Sala de Recepcion and Sala de Banquets, and also take a moment to appreciate the peace sculpture in the palace’s Patio de la Paz. Unveiled in 1997 to commemorate the peace agreement which ended the Civil War, it depicts two hands holding a real rose, which is changed in a ceremony each day at 11am.
Known locally as The Big Guacamole because of its green-tinged concrete facing, the palace features enormous murals of scenes from Guatemala’s history
Museo de los Niños is aimed at children
Travelling with children can be a joy and a challenge, so a museum dedicated to entertaining them is always welcome. The Museo de los Niños is dedicated to hands-on displays and activities to divert and engage younger people.
Its earthquake simulator and jigsaw map of Guatemala are popular features, and the museum is even located directly opposite the La Aurora Zoo, which makes this a double dose of fun for the family.
Tikal’s museums are a great attraction
Tikal is an accessible complex of Mayan ruins in the northern Peten department, and it is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Guatemala. While the ruins themselves are impressive, Tikal also includes two museums and the CCIT research centre.
The Sylvanus G. Morley Museum features some incredible artefacts, while the Museo Litico is dedicated to displaying the inscribed stone slabs known as stelae.
The Japanese-funded CCIT research centre identifies and restores pieces which archaeologists unearthed at the site. You can watch the restorers working and see a superb gallery displaying the different materials used by Mayan craftspeople.
Guatemalan museums for chocolate lovers
Chocolate is one of Guatemala’s greatest contributions to international culture, and in Antigua you can visit the Choco Museum to discover chocolate’s origins and how it has evolved into the treat we know today.
You will get the chance to sample plenty of chocolate, and of course the museum shop offers you the chance to take a tasty little bit of Guatemala home with you.
If you are intrigued as much by the history of chocolate as the taste, then check out the Popol Vuh museum in Guatemala City. Its collection of Mayan artefacts includes carved depictions of cacao gods, as well as cacao drinking vessels and grinders.
Museo del Libro Antigua
If you love books then pay a visit to the Museo del Libro Antigua, which has displays of some of the most important works of early Guatemalan printing.
It includes a 1620 first edition of Don Quixote de la Mancha, as well as replicas of the country’s first printing press.
The museum is on Poniente, just opposite Parque Central, and is housed in an unmissable, two-storey 18th Century building complete with fluted columns and elegant arches.
A museum for rum lovers: Museo Casa Botran
Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela City, is a lovely little city in the western highlands, and is full of surprises. One of its most intriguing attractions is the Museo Casa Botran, which is dedicated to the history of rum.
You must make a reservation ahead of time, but that’s worth it for the chance to see how this famous drink is made and even try some samples.
While you’re in Quetzaltenango you can also visit the quirky Railway Museum of Los Altos, which commemorates the ambitious rail project to connect the city to the Pacific Coast. A storm effectively destroyed the line in 1933 but museum keeps its memory alive.
Most visitors to Guatemala will be expecting to see history dating back to Mayan times, one of the capital’s loveliest little museums is Casa MIMA, which is contained within a 19th-century house.
This museum in central Guatemala City takes you back in time to the 1870s, and you can see rooms set up just as they would have been in a home of the era, with original furniture, decorations and clothing from the period.
Guatemala celebrates its rich, diverse history with some really wonderful museums. Even if you are focused on exploring the great outdoors, Guatemalan museums provide a thoughtful insight into the powerful forces which have shaped the country and its people.