The Interior of the Dominican republic
Even the most diehard beach fan will eventually tire of sun and sand. And when you do, cool mountainous interior of the Dominican republic is the place to come. Here you’ll find the popular mountain retreats of Jarabacoa and Constanz (places where you might actually want a sweater). Plus roaring rivers, soaring misty mountains and the only white-water rafting in the Caribbean.
Below, on the plains, in the Valle del Cibao, is where merengue spontaneously erupted onto the musical landscape. And where you’ll find some of the best Carnival celebrations in the country.
Jarabacoa (500m) is the Cabarete of the interior – a tourist town, and the center of a booming adventure-tour trade. Here you can go white-water rafting, visit waterfalls on horseback, and still party till the sun comes up, if you’ve a mind to do so. Even higher up is the less visited settlement of Constanza (1200m), a town unique in the Caribbean. Where else can you sit at dusk, huddled up in a sweater, watching the mist descend down into the valley as the sun sets behind the mountains?
Economic life in the interior revolves around Santiago, the DR’s second-largest city. It is the capital of a vast tobacco- and sugarcane-growing region. No wonder, then, that the majority of the country’s cigars – among the world’s best – are processed and manufactured here. The Valle del Cibao, in which Santiago sits, is justly famous for its Carnival celebrations, the top bash in the country. Little La Vega frequently outdoes big city Santiago for both the scale and lavishness of the party – in particular, the ornate, handmade masks worn by participants.
Santiago (623 000 pop)
The second largest of the three city-states from which the DR was formed is located in the interior of the Dominican republic. Santiago is often overlooked and even put down by travelers as a destination. This is largely unfair. It is a pleasant, livable city, with good restaurants and bars, a pleasant park. Plus one of the country’s six beísbol (baseball) teams, and best of all, few tourists, making this a good place to get to know the Dominican way of life.
The city is the capital of a large tobacco- and sugarcane-growing region. The plantations send their raw material to Santiago, where the majority of the country’s rum and cigars are produced – Santiago is a must for cigar aficionados. All buses from Santo Domingo to the north coast pass through Santiago.
History of Santiago
Santiago was founded in 1495 by Christopher Columbus’ elder brother, Bartholomew. However, the earthquake of 1562 caused so much damage to the city that it was rebuilt on its present site beside the Río Yaque del Norte. It was attacked and destroyed several times by invading French troops, as part of long-simmering tension between Spain and France over control of the island.
Santiago also suffered terribly during the DR’s 1912 c ivil war. The years immediately following the civil war were some of the city’s best. WWI caused worldwide shortages of raw tropical materials, so prices soared for products such as sugar, tobacco, cocoa and coffee – all of which were being grown around Santiago.
From 1914 through the end of the war and into the 1920s, Santiago’s economy boomed. Lovely homes and impressive stores, electric lighting and paved streets appeared throughout town. In May 1922, Hwy Duarte opened, linking Santiago with Bonao, La Vega and Santo Domingo. Today, Santiago still relies on agriculture as its chief source of revenue, and is a noticeably wealthier city than most of the country.
SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES Interior of the Dominican republic
Museo Folklórico Don Tomás Morel
Renowned poet and cultural critic Tomás Morel founded this eclectic, eccentric folk art museum in 1962, and helped operate it until his death in 1992. Considered by many to be the father of Santiago’s modern Carnival. Morel was a tireless promoter and chronicler of the yearly celebration. He was especially fond of the distinctive caretas (masks), and since its founding the museum has displayed the best masks for visitors to enjoy. There’s also information on the history of merengue, some Taíno artifacts. And with at least a week’s notice you can organize mask-making classes at Carnival time, and dance classes the rest of the year. The brightly colored building is impossible to miss. And even those who may be dreading another museum will get a spark of astonishment out of this place.
Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración de la República
On a hill at the east end of the downtown area is Santiago’s most visible and recognizable sight. The Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration of the Republic . Standing on the steps of the Monument. You begin to understand what it means to be Dominican – that final war against Spain, a war for identity, is commemorated here. Completely renovated and reopened in 2007, the site now boasts life-sized museum exhibits of Dominican history. And on Tuesdays you’ll be joined by large groups of uniformed primary-schoolers being walked through the past.
There are great views from the top of the eight-story base, but the spire has been permanently closed due to safety concerns. Large bronze statues of the celebrated generals gaze down upon Santiago from the steps. And in a corner of the grounds you’ll find a bronze ‘hall of fame’ of former Águilas beísbol players (the local team).
CARNEVAL IN SANTIAGO
Held in February, Carnival is big all over the country, but is especially so in Santiago. The city is famous for its incredibly artistic and fantastical caretas (masks). And because it hosts an annual international careta competition leading up to Carnival. The Carnival parade here is made up of rival neighborhoods: La Joya and Los Pepines. Onlookers watch from overpasses, apartment buildings, even the tops of lampposts.
Costumes focus on two images: the lechón (piglet), which represents the devil. And the pepín, a fantastical animal that appears to be a cross between a cow and a duck. The most obvious difference between the two is that lechón masks have two smooth horns and those of the pepínes have horns with dozens of tiny papier-mâché spikes. All participants swing vejigas (inflated cow bladders) and hit each other – and onlookers – on the behind. If you decide to come to Santiago for Carnival, be sure to make reservations – rooms fill up fast this time of the year.
Nestled in the low foothills of the mountains at 500m, Jarabacoa likes to call itself the ‘City of Eternal Spring’. This may be an exaggeration, you can still happily tan poolside if you wish. But in the evenings the climate is noticeably cooler. More importantly, Jarabacoa is the outdoor capital of the interior, a place to go white-water rafting, horseback riding or canyoning, and the base most people use to hike to Pico Duarte. There are some excellent-value hotels in Jarabacoa, and a couple of good restaurants. Those wanting to party hearty can join the locals in the many colmados (combination of corner store, grocery store and bar). That ring Parque Central, or practice your merengue steps in the handful of nightclubs in town.
Av Independencia and Calle Marío N Galán, one block over, are Jarabacoa’s main north– south streets. Parque Central is at one end of Av Independencia and the Caribe Tours bus terminal at the other. The city’s major east–west street is Calle El Carmen, which borders Parque Central. And is the road you take from Jarabacoa to get to Rancho Baiguate and Constanza
White-water rafting is the star of the show here, followed closely by visiting the three waterfalls nearby. You can also go canyoning, and there are a few short hikes in the area.
So picturesque are the waterfalls near Jarabacoa that an opening scene of the movie Jurassic Park was filmed here, using the waterfall Salto Jimenoa Uno as the backdrop. It’s definitely the prettiest, a 60m waterfall that pours from a hole in otherwise monolithic rocky cliff. There is a nice little pool for swimming but the water is ice cold.
Salta Jimenoa Dos is a 40 meters tall cascade with charming little lake. But you should avoid swimming in it because the flows are sometimes very strong.
Salto de Baiguate is also placed in a fresh canyon but it’s not so amazing like the others, even his lake is not so charming, but however it’s still beautifull and you should visit him.
You can visit the waterfalls on your own without any problems, if you don’t have a car you can use motoconcho or taxi. You will also have to pay the entrance fee to the park.
In local mountains the peoples say ¨The god is everywhere, but he live in Constanza¨. You will see why: Constanza is located in the altitude of 1200 meters in fertile valley surrounded by mountains; it is a place that takes breath. Especially twilight is breathtaking – when the sun hides behind the mountains, the fog falls and cover the valley.
Valley is full of wonderful aromas – especially strawberries, apples and lettuce, in some seasons you can smell even fresh garlic. Constanza is great for a weekend relaxation.
Constanza is also a home for a few hundreds of japanese farmers who came to this valley in the fifties of the 20. century. Due to the invitation of the dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. Trujillo gave them many lands. Because he wished them for fertilizing of this valley and transforming it to a income producing area. And they really maked it.