casa santo domingo: museums, gardens and an amazing sculpture park

as perhaps the most frequently visited town by tourists, antigua has no shortage of hotels or places to indulge in meals and accomodations.  casa santo domingo is exactly one of those places.  as one of the oldest hotels of antigua, it is much more than simply a hotel.  the sprawling grounds are immaculate and are home to a luxury hotel, restaurant, spa, courtyard and numerous museums.  i use the term numerous because they are all small and intimate but each with a very different feel from each other.

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strolling through the grounds of casa santo domingo. the majority is open for free to the public
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claustro mayor y fuente fountain
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random flower. flowers everywhere.
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the historical mayan artifact exhibit
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church bells within the monastery

while all the above is open and free to the public, there is also an archaeological museum underground which they charge for.  in addition to all of this, they also have a cerro (lookout point) overlooking the valley and the hotel offers a free shuttle that runs every 20-30 minutes.  this is the ‘el tenedor de cerro’ and it is just outside the city limits of antigua, perched on a hill.  it is walkable but the incline up the hill is quite steep so you’re much better off taking the shuttle to get there.

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graffiti exhibits
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the entrance to el tendedor
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very abstract sculptures throughout the park

the drive up the hill gives you views of the town as well as sculptures and graffiti.  once at the top, there are many galleries and sculptures and complete freedom to roam the grounds.  a restaurant with the best view of the valley sits on the edge but we spent our time walking instead.  while antigua is quite small, it has a fairly busy feel to the city with the number of tuktuks and cars in the streets.  also, the honking of the horns coupled with the rattling car & tuktuk bodies against the cobblestone pavement means that there’s always ambient sound in the background.  el tenedor de cerro has none of that.  it was the most peaceful and serene portion of our time in antigua by a longshot.

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and some of efrain’s less abstract sculptures

what intrigued us about el tenedor was that it was home to unique sculptures and artwork and seemed to be the only so called ‘museum’ in the city that offered modern art.  what i didn’t know was that all the sculptures on display were from one artist, efrain ****.  in fact, the whole complex was put together as a tribute to efrain’s legacy.

efrain was not only a sculptor but also a painter, architect and engineer.  if that wasn’t enough, he was also an olympic athlete, competing in **events**.  he had built numerous buildings in guatemala and one of the displays was built by younger artists but according to a vision that efrain had created many decades ago.  the name of that one was ‘communications’

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the 7 panel ‘communications’ exhibit
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efrain has also been dubbed the ‘guatemalan picasso’

oh yeah, and birds!  there is a bird sanctuary on the grounds and some are even avilable for petting (and being walked on).  i don’t know a lot about birds but they’re pretty cute when they’re not pooping on you.

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roam free!
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remember those googly-eyed stickers from your childhood?

and here are some of the other sculptures from el tenedor de cerro:
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antigua has a lot to see on its own so make time for el tenedor if you can, even if you don’t eat at the restaurant.  i’m still in shock that such an amazing park is free.

practical info:
-there is a charge for parking so the cheapest way to access el tenedor is to wait at casa santo domingo for their free shuttle
-shuttles run every 15-20 minutes
-the casa santo domingo museum promenade is 40q and gets you access to the colonial museum, archeology museum, pre columbian art and modern glass museum, artist halls, sacatepequez arts and a pharmacy museum
-book hotel rooms here: casa santo domingo hotel rooms

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