It’s a small town (60,000 inhabitants) in the central part of the Dominican Republic. It’s a place from which it is easy to get pretty much everywhere, you can take the gua-gua and in 2 hours you are in Puerto Plata, it is 2 hours to Santo Domingo, about 40 minutes to Santiago and about 3 hours to Samana. City itself has very little to offer unless you are there in February. It’s a month of Carnival, one of the oldest Dominican traditions. (Check our website for updates and photos in February.)
If you happen to visit La Vega any other time, there are basically two things you may want to see:
The Cathedral – it is situated next to the main park, impossible to miss. It’s a grey, concrete building, a mixture of Gothic and neo-industrial styles. Nothing impressing I am afraid.
- The ruins of the original city of Concepción de la Vega (now called La Vega Vieja) It was founded in 1495 by Bartolomeo Colombo at the Concepción fortress, which had been built by Christopher Columbus in 1494. When we arrived at the place we realized we were the only tourists. The entrance fee is 50 pesos. Even though the guide books say you can have a tour in different languages, the guide spoke only Spanish. He showed us the ruins of the Fransiscan monastery explaining where the library and bedrooms were. He also showed us the graves of the Taínos (pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles). He mentioned that there was a custom to bury them in a fetal position.
About a mile from this place, there are ruins of the fort, from which the Spaniards were shooting at the Indians. There also used to be a church and a prison, which were destroyed during the earthquake in 1564. More information and exhibits you can see in the museum (Museo Lourdes Caceres Mendoza).
In the distance, up on the hill you can find the ruins in Santo Cerro (Holy Hill), where a famous miracle is said to have occurred that helped Columbus and his men defeat the Taínos in the battle. Columbus picked that hill because it was easy to defend and it provided a clear view of the Cibao Valley. The legend says that Columbus had planted a wooden cross at which he and his army prayed for success for the battle. Unfortunately during the battle the Taínos were unable to destroy it. Apparently Virgin Mary appeared above the cross and protected it from being chopped or burnt down. Now at the Iglesia Las Mercedes there is only a hole in the ground.
The city of Concepción de la Vega was abandoned in 1564, after it was destroyed by an earthquake. In 1880, the church that presently stands at the top of Santo Cerro was built to replace the small hermitage.
La Vega Video