According to Spain’s “El Pais” newspaper, the Dominican Republic is more than just the sand, sea and sun found in Punta Cana, the country’s most important tourism destination.
The daily says that the Caribbean nation offers a host of attractions, such as adventurous mountain tourism, a rich cultural and religious heritage, and the continent’s first Colonial structures.
“El Pais,” the world’s leading Spanish language newspaper, describes what it considers to be the Dominican Republic’s “seven secrets” – outside Punta Cana – the country’s Basilica, the Altos de Chavon cultural center, the “Cuevas de las Maravillas” (Cave of Wonders), the “Las Damas” Street in the capital city’s Colonial Section, the Santo Domingo’s seaside boulevard, the city of Santiago, the mountain town of Jarabacoa and the “Los Haitises” National Park.
Beyond Punta Cana: The Dominican Republic’s Seven Secrets: Beyond Its Beaches
The Dominican Republic is much more than Punta Cana. With a surface area of more than 45,000 square kilometers, the Caribbean country is home to many destinations that are found outside this impressive destination.
A city situated in the country’s central mountain region, the perfect destination for extreme sports; a colonial section home to the first buildings built in the Americas, and a museum dedicated to Dominican culture. In total: seven wonderful destinations that have nothing to do with beaches.
The City of Higϋey: Beyond Punta Cana
A stroll through the streets of Higϋey, situated on the country’s eastern region, will provide visitors with a glimpse of Dominican life. The city is home to the Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia, the country’s most important and visited religious structure and one of the most important Catholic structures in the entire Caribbean. Although inaugurated in 1971, the construction of the Basilica had been an important goal since the 1940s.
It is a true representative of Dominican Neo-Expressionism, designed by the French architects A. Dunover de Segonazc and Pierre Dupré. Its steeple features more than 40 bells.
Getting there: The Coral Highway connects the city with the Punta Cana region. Distance from Punta Cana: 44 kilometers.
An Ancient Villa That Is Not That Old
Altos de Chavon is the third most visited attraction in La Romana province, says the travel website TripAdvisor. This Mediterranean-style villa was built according to an original design by Roberto Copa, Paramount Studios former set designer.
Walking through Altos de Chavon will make the visitors feel as if they were strolling through the cobblestone streets of an ancient city built of stones. However, the village was built during the 1970s on a hill overlooking the Chavon River. The cultural village is home to one of the country’s most important art schools.
It also features an archaeological museum and a huge Roman-style amphitheater, with capacity for five thousand.
Frank Sinatra and Carlos Santana performed opened the amphitheater back in 1982.
Getting there: The Coral Highway. Distance from Punta Cana: 79 kilometers.
“Cueva de las Maravillas” or Cave of Wonders
The caves feature some of the country’s best pre-Columbian art. During the 30-minute tour visitors will be able to marvel at the 427 cave drawings that the country’s original inhabitants, the Tainos, drew more than one thousand years ago.
Getting there: The Coral Highway, en route to the city of San Pedro de Macoris. Distance from Punta Cana: 118 kilometers.
Las Damas Street
Perhaps one of Santo Domingo’s most important attractions is its Colonial Section, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Visitors to the Colonial City, the first built in the Americas, can stroll through the famous “El Conde” Street which will take them straight to Columbus Square situated along the north wall of the first Cathedral built in the New World. Two other interesting stops: the “Alcazar” or residence of Diego Columbus, the Admiral’s brother, and the Spanish Square. Just steps away from the Square is “Las Damas” street, the first built in the hemisphere. The name – The Ladies, in English – was given because in the early afternoon the Spanish ladies would take their daily stroll through the narrow cobblestone street.
For the perfect Dominican lunch, the “Malecon” – or seaside boulevard – is the perfect stop. This impressive avenue is the perfect place to take in how Dominicans eat, dance, live.
Getting there: East Coast Highway to Santo Domingo: Distance from Punta Cana: 194 kilometers.
Santiago, the Country’s Second Largest City
Santiago is home to the country’s foremost monument to the 19th century Independence movement. Once inside the 70-meter tall tower, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the city and nearby countryside. The city is also home to the Leon Jimenes Cultural Center, dedicated to the study and celebration of Dominican culture and traditions.
Getting there: East Coast Highway to Santo Domingo and then to Duarte Highway, which connects the capital city with the country’s central region and the north coast. Distance from Punta Cana: 326 kilometers.
Adventure in the Central Mountain Range
Nature lovers can enjoy hiking, rafting and mountain biking in the city of Jarabacoa, a small town situated in the heart of the country’s Central Mountain Range. Jarabacoa is truly the ultimate destination for those who enjoy ecotourism and outdoor activities. The city boasts annual temperatures which range from 16 – 22 degrees (Celsius). The nearby countryside is dotted with flower-growing farms.
Getting there: East Coast Highway to Santo Domingo and then on to Duarte Highway. Distance from Punta Cana: 337 kilometers.
The Closest Destination to a Beach
The “Los Haitises” Natural Park is located in the country’s north, in the province of Samaná. It is a protected area that offers visitors a spectacular boat ride through ancient caves featuring Taino drawings and through mangrove-bordered canals.
Getting there: East Coast Highway to town of San Pedro de Macoris. From there, Mella Highway to the North Coast.
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