Free enamel pin when you buy any two Atlas Obscura products. Shop now.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

La Rotonda del Mar

A Lovecraftian altar of nightmarish bronze chairs sits ominously on a boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta. 

Puerto Vallarta’s bustling, seaside malecon (boardwalk) is a sunny tourist walk covered in palm trees and shops. But hiding out in the open, along this otherwise idyllic stretch of Mexican beachfront is a circle of surreal bronze statues that look like some hellish union of chair and nightmare.

Known by the innocuous moniker La Rotonda del Mar or The Rotunda By The Sea, the surprisingly sinister installation is the work of Guadalajaran sculptor, Alejandro Colunga. The eight bronze thrones, unveiled at the end of 1996, are positioned at irregular intervals around a stone circle, with the sea lapping right up to the edge. The tall, amorphous chairs are topped with impressionistic sea creatures like an octopus and a seahorse, that seem to be parts of the thrones themselves. Many of the seats are also supported by legs that end in claws or organic “feet,” making them seem like strange, eldritch monuments. They seem to have been designed with whimsy in mind, but the dark, Lovecraftian influences can’t help but shine through. 

The artist created the chairs to be interacted with and they invite visitors to sit in them, and most of them have patches where the bronze has been rubbed to a golden sheen from all the attention.

Even in the warm Mexican sun, The Rotunda By The Sea sits silently as though it’s waiting for the robed priests of an arcane secret order to take their places in the circle. Each sitting in their appointed throne, uttering a word of power that sounds like the cold of space, waking a sleeping Old God from beneath the waves, unleashing madness on the vacationers sipping their margs on the malecon. Cthulu fhtagn.