At the eastern end of a fertile valley, 18km from the Cumbre junction, lies the small tranquil town of SAN JERÓNIMO. In the Conquest’s early days, Dominican priests built a church and convent here and planted vineyards, eventually producing a wine lauded as the finest in Central America. In 1845, after the religious orders were abolished, an Englishman replaced the vines with sugarcane and began distilling an aguardiente that became equally famous. These days the area still produces sugar, though the cultivation of flowers for export and fish farming are more important.
Presiding over the central plaza, the village’s seventeenth-century Baroque church contains a monumental gilded altar, brought from France, which was crafted from sheets of eighteen-carat gold.