For those of you who are ceaselessly in pursuit of the perfect view around Antigua Guatemala, you should definitely take the trip to the Santo Domingo del Cerro. This is the sister site of the celebrated hotel located in the rehabilitated and re-purposed ruins of the lower town’s Santo Domingo Church.
The lower church and monastery were completed in the mid 17th century when Antigua Guatemala was the capital of Spanish holdings in this slice of the New World. It was then walloped by earthquakes, abandoned by the good Dominican padres and left to squatters for centuries. About 340 years, later, the eclectic hotel complex that we see today was started.
Early in the 21 century, the Santo Domingo hotel on the hill was established and the view is truly sensational. Yolkobsens recently got on the free shuttle, which goes most days every 15 minutes from the lower hotel location, to make the upward trip for two reasons: the view and the art.
We were warned as we will caution you: eat before you go because the food at the highland restaurant, El Tenedore del Cerro, is expensive and really not very good. Enough said. But by all means have a cocktail there as you devour the view of volcanoes and Antigua Guatemala itself. It’s fun trying to identify the city landmarks from a distance, and the birds-eye-view gives tourists and regular inhabitants alike a different perspective on how the town is organized along its Spanish colonial grids.
After taking in the scenery over a cocktail, Yolkobsens recommend a thorough investigation of the grounds. You will be rewarded by the art installations that make up the permanent outdoor offerings. Some startle, some provoke, some amuse, and some are downright weird, but it’s all part of the experience. There’s even a tropical bird house the size of a suburban back split to stimulate the senses and arouse feelings of kinship with our feathered buddies. Okay, it’s just a really neat and unexpected bird house.
Among the more outstanding pieces of art are the mosaics by Guatemala’s Efrain Recinos, whose ironic works are displayed here to great effect. The tiled works, dominated by azure blue tones, look innocent at first sight, especially his deceptively doll-like creation, La Guatemalita. Closer inspection reveals a darker vision that seems to transition between late 19th century to present day to a spacey future. Almost all of the murals invoke an embrace or dread of technology, including cars.
Not to be missed is the La Guatemalita sculpture perched on a real Volkswagen relic, which is hoisted at a 60 degree angle on an embankment. La Guatemalita sits on its hood bearing a torch of freedom the way she might hold up a mascara wand. Hard to ignore and intriguing to examine.
Our camera bursting with shots and our imaginations firing away after exploring the outdoor art, both natural and contrived, we happily descended in the wagon that took us back down the hill from the Santo Domingo del Cerro and back to Antigua Guatemala.