- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
Catedral de la Concepción
The Catedral de la Concepción is an architectural oddity on the Parque Central and is impossible to miss. The “train-wreck” design was a sincere try at a contemporary version of Spanish Imperial style, complete with castle details. It ended up looking something like a concrete power plant.
For those who are admirers of modern architecture, this building does not evoke the genius of Niemeyer sculptural beauty, but rather raises curiosity. So in the spirit of “This I gotta see!” the cathedral is on Avenida Antonio Guzmán at Padre Adolfo.
One of the great things about a trip to the cathedral is visiting the pastelito vendors that can be found out front. These meat-filled pastries are absolutely great for a quick snack and an excuse to take a break from sightseeing.
Holy Hill is along a road stemming from Autopista Duarte, about five kilometers north of La Vega. Up on the hill with a magnificent view of the Cibao Valley sits Iglesia Las Mercedes (9 a.m.–noon and 2–6 p.m. daily), a popular pilgrimage site that contains a hole into which Christopher Columbus is said to have placed a cross given to him by Queen Isabela. The cross that was placed there (and is now “missing”) is said to have been involved in a miracle during a Spanish versus Taíno battle.
The natives tried to burn the religious symbol, but when it wouldn’t catch fire, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared on it and scared off the Taínos. The Spanish rejoiced and the Dominicans now venerate the spot where the faithful believe it took place on pilgrimage days like September 24 (the patron saint day of Our Lady of the Mercies).
Going to Santo Cerro for the view is a nice side trip. Look for the níspero tree near the church. A plaque says it is a descendant of one planted in the late 1400s that was used to build the original wooden church that stood there. Around the church are many stores selling religious items and souvenirs.
La Vega Vieja
“Old La Vega,” a few kilometers northeast of present-day La Vega, was founded in 1494 by Christopher Columbus to act as a stronghold for all the gold he assumed he’d find in the region. The settlement gained prosperity, but it was not due to gold. It was the fertility of the valley and the sugarcane industry that began here. But the prosperity ended when, in 1562, a massive earthquake destroyed the town.
The ruins of La Vega Vieja (9 a.m.–noon and 2–5 p.m. daily, US$1) contain the overgrown remains of the fort, church, and some houses that stood where the original settlement had been, or what was left after the earthquake and a few hundred years.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition