Museo Lacustre in Panajachel
Nine significant Maya archeological sites are scattered around Lake Atitlan, and two museums there exhibit artifacts from them. These sites and hundreds of others remain undeveloped, so you will find few organized tours to any of them other than Cerro de Oro or Chuitinamit.
Ruins of the most visible Mayan site, a fortress city called Chiutunamit, can sometimes be seen on the boat ride into Santiago. It was settled by Putun Itza Maya; they were driven out by the Tzutujil, who developed the structures and altars.
Mayan Artifacts on Display
Many of the artifacts found at these sites—especially from the underwater city of Samabaj, are on display at the Museo Lacustre, situated in a five-room building on the grounds of the Posada de Don Rodrigo, near the lake on Santander Avenue.
The first two exhibitions focus on the history of the lake, both anthropologically and geologically. Each village or town is covered, from the arrival of the ancestors of the three Maya tribes at the lake up through present-day times. All the displays are explained in English and Spanish.
The Birth of Lake Atitlan
A scale model of the volcanoes and mountains surrounding the lake presents a 3-D, topological view of the area. The theory of the lake’s geological formation is presented.
Other rooms are lined with over 100 ceramic pieces. These range from jugs and bowls used in day to day life, to ceremonial incense burners four feet tall and embellished with mysterious images. One of the most unusual pieces is a stone yoke that was used in the sacred ball game in San Pedro.
Each piece is attributed to the village in which it was discovered. If you live at the lake, you will immediately feel a connection with the Maya of the past.
If you live here and want to know more about your home, Museo Lacustre is a good start. Tourists with an interest in the ancient Maya will also find it intriguing.
Museo T'zunun Ya' in San Pedro la Laguna also has an exhibit of artfacts found at the lake, as well as other displays about Mayan culture.
Museo Lacustre is on Santander Avenue, just before Sunset Cafe. It is open seven days a week from 8 AM-6 PM. Admission: Q35; Q20 for students.