Santiago de los Caballeros : 2nd City of Dominican Republic

Santiago de los Caballeros is located on the main highway linking Santo Domingo and Monte Christi. The town was founded in 1494 and was among the first European settlements in the region. The town has previously served as the capital of the republic, and it is still a vital agricultural, industrial, and cultural centre. The historic town is the second largest city in the country and a major tourism hub with an array of attractions and a thriving hospitality sector.

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Santiago de los Caballeros : 2nd City of Dominican Republic:table of contents

1. Diego De Ocampo

Diego de Ocampo is the highest point in Santiago Province and is about an hour away from the city centre. It was named after Diego de Ocampo, a young man whose heroic tales of bravery are the subject of songs and folklore. Born to a mother of Taino race from the island of Hispaniola and a wealthy Spaniard, he rebelled against the Spanish authorities repeatedly and was executed upon his capture making him a hero among the natives. The natural attraction offers a stunning panoramic view of the entire Cibao Valley as well as Cordillera Central and the Septentrional mountain system.

2. Fortaleza San Luis

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Built in the late 1600s, Fortaleza San Luis is a historic fort located near the Yaque Del Norte River in the southwestern edge of Santiago. The location of several battles during the War of Restoration, it also served as a military prison and is now a museum tracing the history of the region and its inhabitants. The museum was opened in 2004 and is home to a vast collection of historical, cultural, and military objects which coupled with its stunning architecture and strategic location make it a mandatory visit while in town.

3. The Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration

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The Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration is a hilltop monument in downtown Santiago de los Caballeros and undoubtedly one of the most prominent city landmarks. It was built in 1944 by the dictator Rafael Trujillo in his honour but was later rededicated upon his assassination in 1961 to the Dominican soldiers who fought for independence against Haiti in 1844. The eight-story edifice features large statues of generals lining the steps while a museum on the sixth floor tells the history of the country and its struggle for self-rule. Located on a hill, the monument offers great views of the city, and given its magnificent architecture, it makes for an excellent photo location. It also has a surrounding park where you can relax after your tour.

4. Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes

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The Centro Leon Museum was built by the renowned Jimenez family and is located a few miles east of downtown Santiago. It is a modern museum with a wide array of objects and pieces making it a must visit while in the area. The exhibits are divided into three segments; one showcasing the island’s rich history, culture, and biodiversity; the second displays the museum’s permanent art collection; and the third exhibits temporary works of art. There is also a garden and a gift shop that sells books on Dominican history, culture, and art. There is also a café that serves delicious snacks and refreshing drinks.

5. St. James the Apostle Cathedral

The Santiago de los Caballeros cathedral was built in the late 1800s by Onofre de Lora and consecrated in 1895. The church was built on the same site as a parish church that had been destroyed by an earthquake in the 1840s. Construction was halted time and again due to lack of funds and the War of Restoration during which the cathedral was used as a fortress. The architectural style that characterizes the cathedral comes from the time of the movement of romanticism, a curdled design, but at the same time includes neo-gothic elements and parts of the neo-classical style. The cathedral’s interior is also as exquisite, and its location near the old town area makes it a must visit in Santiago.

6. Estadio Cibao

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Estadio Cibao is a multi-use stadium in Santiago and currently the home of the Aguilas Cibaenas who play in the Dominican Baseball League. The stadium was constructed by Bienvenido Martinez and opened its doors on October 25, 1958. It is the largest stadium in the country with a capacity of over 18,000 spectators. The stadium exclusively hosted the Caribbean series, the highest Latin American club baseball tournament in 2008 for the first time. In 2014, a fire damaged sections of the stadium but restoration works were done, and it is a must visit especially during a home game of the Aguilas Cibaenas when the whole town gets behind their team, and it is packed to capacity.

7. Jardín Botánico Prof. Eugenio de Jesús Marcano

The Botanical Garden of Santiago is located north of the city and represents the main green space of the Municipality of Santiago. It bears the name of the distinguished late professor Eugenio de Jesus Marcano Fondeur whose work is acclaimed worldwide. The garden covers over 650,000 square meters within a perimeter wall and with permanent surveillance. There are more than 12km of bike and walking trails making it an excellent location for outdoor recreation. The garden also has an enviable collection of plants of different species making it a nature lover’s paradise. As it is easily accessible, find time while in Santiago and check it out. Trust me; it is worth it.

8. Kaskada Park

Kaskada Park is a public park in Santiago that also goes by the name Mundo Aquatico. It is a lovely family destination with a variety of fun activities to keep you occupied during your visit. The park has vast lawns, kid-friendly water slides, pools, and a playground. Heavy duty lifesavers are available on request ensuring that no one is left out on the fun. The admission fee is affordable, and there are outlets where you can grab a snack and refreshments. The park has free parking, and its prime location not far from the commercial city centre make it a mandatory visit while in Santiago

9. La Aurora Cigar Factory

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Santiago de los Caballeros is a leading producer of high quality cigars that are idolised world over. The La Aurora Factory is located within the largest tobacco area in the world known as the Valle del Cibao and is the country’s oldest cigar factory. It is a family business that was founded in 1903 becoming an international brand courtesy of its fine cigars. The La Aurora operation is a mix of tradition, history, and innovation making it an absolute joy to witness. There is a showroom and a museum tracing the history of the company and that of the region’s tobacco industry at large. It is an unforgettable experience particularly the hands-on demonstration of the cigar-making processing from seasoned experts that is a joy to take part in.

10. Parque Zoologico Gurabo

The Gurabo Zoo is a relatively small private zoo in Santiago with a decent selection of animals from the Dominican Republic and other parts of the world. There are lions, zebras, alligators, snakes, crocodiles, tigers, monkeys, buffaloes, and many more. There are also many birds on display including macaws, ostriches, pheasants, and many others. All the stations have informative plaques about the animals making it a nice learning experience for the little ones. The park also offers pony rides for children, and considering the affordable entry fee, it is one adventure you wouldn’t want to miss.

◎ Closing

Santiago de los Caballeros is a magical place with a variety of fun attractions to cater to any taste or preference. It is a modern and cosmopolitan city located a fair distance from the crowded beaches, and yet it checks off all the requirements of a fantastic holiday destination. The rich historical past of the city holds an alluring charm which coupled with its excellent food scene and natural beauty, make it a worthy entrant on any tourist’s itinerary.

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