Santo Cerro ~ Dominican Republic
Iglesia Las Mercedes, Columbus Church
Santo Cerro Dominican Republic is about 25 kms (15.5 miles) south of Santiago (see waterfalls), just north of La Vega, and a popular day trip stop on tours from the beaches resorts in Puerto Plata or in Santo Domingo. Day tours usually include stops at a cigar factory and a pottery.
Dominican day trips information is available at hotels or travel agencies, or from your own tour operator. You can also hire a cab: Taxi cab rates are usually set for destination, rather than distance traveled, so agree on a fare before you get in to the cab. See also Dominican Republic information and Packing for DR holidays.
At Santo Cerro, Outside Iglesia Las Mercedes
The relic is no longer here, and is thought to be privately owned.
Iglesia Las Mercedes
Iglesia Las Mercedes, the church with the relic from Columbus' cross, is located here, roughly midway between the Dominican Republic north and south coasts, overlooking the Valle de Cibao.
The Virgin Mary is said to have made an appearance many years ago at Iglesia Las Mercedes.
Local Indians tried to burn the cross during a battle, but thanks to Her holy protection, it would not catch fire.
From the courtyard on the far side, on a clear day, you can see north many miles across the valley, to the ocean and Puerto Plata.
Inside the Church of Las Mercedes Santo Cerro
When this church was built in 1860, on the site of the original church, the builders left this 'Santo Hoyo' (Holy Hole) to mark where the cross had been planted in 1490.
At the time of my visit, there were several parish members inside.
Though there wasn't a service in progress, they did appear to be involved in something church-related, so we left after a quick look into the hole.
For more information, check a good travel guidebook; I took along the Lonely Planet Dominican Republic and Haiti, as I was continuing on to Haiti.
Valle de Cibao View from Church Courtyard
Thunderstorms (you can see the clouds building up) had been rolling through on a daily basis, but never lasted long.
From this perspective, you have some indication of how high the church is from the valley floor.
Santiago area Flower Farms on route to Santo Cerro DR
En route to Santo Cerro, we came through this region where there are many commercial flower growing operations producing cut flowers for export.
One U.S. airline operates daily direct cargo flights just for the flowers destined for the American market.