Inside Casa Na Bolom: The House Museum of Lacandon Culture

by | Last updated Jan 27, 2021 | Mexico | 0 comments

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There are dozens of hidden gems here in San Cristobal, and one of our favorite discoveries so far is none other than the Casa Na Bolom Museum. Na Bolom, meaning “House of the Jaguar” is a historic house museum once owned by Danish archaeologist Frans Blom and Swiss photographer Gertrude Duby Blom.

If you don’t know who those two are – don’t worry – after your visit to Casa Na Bolom, you will walk away knowing all about them and their timeless contributions of what we know today about the Mayas thanks to their 100+ Mayan ruins excavations and collection of artifacts across the entire Yucatan Peninsula.

Moreover, you’ll get to see up-close their stunning photography of the Lacandon culture, now-vintage personal belongings, documentations, and hand-drawn accurate maps of the entire Chiapas rain forest and Lacandon jungle, which belonged to the indigenous Lacandon people.

Na Bolom is more than just a museum. It also houses inside its orange and yellow walls a charming hotel with 16 guestrooms, and just across the cobbled street, you can find a jungly garden restaurant and a small shop where you can purchase fairtrade textiles and souvenirs.

Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of your visit to Casa Na Bolom in Chiapas, Mexico!

Ultimate Guide to Casa Na Bolom Museum in San Cristobal de Las Casas

Casa Na Bolom entrance with sign

How to Get There

Casa Na Bolom is located in the picturesque Barrio del Cerrillo neighborhood in San Cristobal, just off Calle Comitan (GPS address: Av. Vicente Guerrero 33).

Getting there is fairly easy and takes only 10-15 minutes walking if you start at the Santo Domingo Church and follow Calle Comitan all the way to Na Bolom.

Tip: If you’re coming by car, you can park on the street for free in front of Na Bolom or nearby along Calle Comitan.

Na Bolom Prices

As I touched upon above, Na Bolom has a museum, hotel, restaurant, and even a research center, that at once upon a time, was the largest collection of documents and literature about the Mayas.

If you wish to visit the museum, hotel, or restaurant, here are the costs and admission prices as of January 2021:

Museum

man sitting in chair inside the na bolom museum

  • $60 MXN/person, $70 MXN with a guided tour
  • $30 MXN for students, teachers, and seniors
  • Free for residents of San Cristobal
  • Open from 9 AM – 7 PM

Despite current travel restrictions, all the amenities and rooms remain open for visiting but you’re required to wear a mask and sanitize upon entry.

Note: The Jardin del Jaguar is where you will purchase tickets for the museum and where you can shop for textiles and clothes that support the indigenous artisans in the Chiapas Highlands.

Hotel Na Bolom

na bolom courtyard and hotel with painted mural and plants

It costs around $27-40+ USD per night to stay at the Na Bolom Hotel. If you’re looking for a place to stay in San Cristobal, I would highly recommend booking a night here.

The hotel portion of the museum is tucked away in a colorful courtyard where it’s quiet. You won’t be bothered at all by museum visitors. Of course, since the house is fairly old, don’t expect a standard chain-hotel room. Hotel Na Bolom is truly charming and the rooms typically come with a fireplace (some rooms have extra beds for families).

We’ve read that the breakfast is amazing, prepared fresh from the house’s vintage kitchen, and just steps from the rooms are Na Bolom’s lush gardens out the back. And of course, there’s free wifi! The thing that guests love most about staying here is the dedication and attention from the lovely staff.

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Jardin del Jaguar Restaurant

the entrance of jardin del jaguar (na bolom restaurant)

traditiona textiles in na bolom shop made by indigenous communities in chiapas mexico

Whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the garden restaurant belonging to Na Bolom is a perfect spot to eat. The menu is affordable and features Mexican breakfast and waffles coletos. Choose from sugary/salty waffles or a typical dish like chilaquiles or molletes. Expect to pay around $30-50 for drinks and $60-120 for food.

Also inside the garden restaurant area stands a cabin with signage indicating that it’s a spa – perhaps you can get massages here, but I’m not sure.

In the corner of the garden is a 20-some-ft wooden traditional canoe crafted from a single tree that no doubt belongs to the Lancandon people. It was likely one of the many relics donated to the museum.

Brief History of Casa Museo Na Bolom

The Na Bolom Cultural Museum was originally built in 1891 to be a seminary. The neo-classical style building was later bought by Frans Blom and Gertrude “Trudi” Duby Blom who restored it and used it as their home base from which they explored the greater Maya area of Mexico.

After Trudi’s death in 1993, the house was turned into the museum and research center of the Maya that you see today.

According to the museum visitation notes, Frans Blom and Trudi Duby were one of the first to make contact with the Lacandon Indians, who had fled deep into the Lacandon jungle after the Spanish arrived centuries earlier.

Over the course of their life exploring the Chiapas rain forest and studying the ancient Maya way, both Frans and Trudi became closely connected to the Lacandones.

You can see their life’s work on beautiful display inside the museum in glass cabinets with notes recounting Lacandon and indigenous lore in addition to a diverse collection of Maya artifacts with exhibition rooms showcasing local folk art and their preserved personal belongings.

What to See Inside Na Bolom Museum

the Lacandon Room inside Museo Na Bolo with photographs and artifactsInside the Lacandon Room

If you visit the Na Bolom Museum fully, you will spend at least 2 hours+ in awe of all the photographs and archaeological treasures. When you walk in, the neoclassical mansion instantly opens up to reveal its beautiful central courtyard, filled with plants and color. Your visit or tour will begin on your right. From there, you will enter into the following rooms of the house museum:

Lacandon Room – Filled with artifacts from Frans & Trudy’s time with the Lacandones, including ceremonial materials, tunics, photographs, musical instruments, tools, bows and arrows, bags, and pots.

Explorer’s Room – This room honors Frans Bolom. You can learn all about this famous archaeologist and cartographer who arrived in Mexico in 1919. The important research he did on the Maya culture can be seen – and felt – in this room.

Moxviquil Room – Frans’ work continues into this room, where you can see the archaeological artifacts from his excavations of the Moxviquil Mayan ruins in the Jovel Valley outside of San Cristobal all the way to Palenque. He worked on over 100+ Mayan ruins sites across Mexico, even reaching Chichen Itza, Coba, and the Tulum Ruins.

The Chapel – The Chapel was built for the purpose of the seminary, which never came to fruition. But instead of removing it, Frans and Trudi filled it with religious and colonial artwork.

the chapel inside association casa na bolomThe Chapel

Trudi’s Room – It was in here, in December 1993 that Trudi took her last breaths. The museum, after her death, rearranged the room but preserved all of her belongings, including her jewelry, bedding, and closet. It’s one of my favorite rooms in the house because it’s in here that you really begin to understand how resilient and strong-willed this adventurous female activist was.

Library – Don’t miss out on the library, which houses thousands of books and literature covering the Mayas across southern Mexico and northern Central America. You can almost imagine Frans and Trudi, and their Lacandon guests, sitting in this room around the fireplace.

Garden – If you keep walking past both the open courtyards, there is a back doorway you can walk through to reach the garden outside. You will spot it by the colorful mural on the back wall.

Outside, on your right, you will see the greenhouse and garden where the museum sources the organic ingredients for the restaurant, and a plastic recycling and compost center.

greenhouse in the garden of Na Bolom house museumThe greenhouse

jungly Na Bolom Garden with stone pathwayThe jungly Na Bolom garden

Keep left, and you will begin on a path that leads into a forest of pine trees filled with jungly flora, medicinal plants, benches, lamp posts, and a few guesthouses that were used by the Lacandones when they would visit.

It’s in this area where you’ll find the photo and map archives that houses almost all 25,000+ of Trudi’s photographs including diaries and documents that you are only allowed access to if you request entry for research purposes.

At the back of the forest, you will find a small hut with a thatched roof – that’s a replica of a traditional Tzotzil house found around the indigenous village of San Juan Chamula located 15 minutes outside of San Cristobal.

Na Bolom Tours

Should you visit Na Bolom on your own or with a guided tour?

I think visiting by yourself is just fine, especially if you download and read the museum notes to accompany your visit (they’re really detailed).

However, I’d love to hear what the tour guides have to say about Frans and Trudi and the extra stories they may tell or share.

If you are in San Cristobal only for a day, a tour might be better for you. In any case, an on-site tour doesn’t cost that much extra ($70 pesos) than a single visit without one ($60 pesos).

Additionally, you can reserve tickets and a tour online here.

Final Thoughts

No trip to San Cristobal is complete without swinging by here. You can’t miss out on a visit to Casa Na Bolom! It is one of the most impressive house museums I have been to. Also, learning about the Lacandon people and culture was truly eye-opening and wonderful.

On a side note, I am always in pure awe of people like Frans and Gertrude Duby Blom, who were the true adventurers and global citizens of their day.

I can only imagine what it must’ve been like to integrate into the indigenous Lancandon culture in the virgin jungle of Chiapas back in the early-mid 20th century when maps of the states and communities were quite literally accurately mapped out by hand.

If only we had more people in the world who advocated for indigenous and environmental rights and preservation, as Frans and Trudi so fervently did, I think we wouldn’t be seeing such rapid deforestation and loss of ancient cultures as we see today.

Anyway, if you have any questions about visiting Na Bolom Museum or staying at the Hotel Na Bolom, do let me know in the comments below!

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Hi, I’m Bri! I’ve been slow traveling around the world in search of new adventures since 2013. I have lived in 8 countries on 4 continents including Nepal, Mexico, Colombia, and parts of Europe! I created this blog to inspire others to live a life of adventure, seek out meaningful experiences, and to travel slowly and mindfully. Join me on this journey and let’s tick off our bucket lists! Read my story here.

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