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This article was written on 16 Apr 2010, and is filled under To: Dominican Republic.

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CIBAO VALLEY in the Dominican Republic

Jarabacoa is located southeast of Santiago, in the mountainous region known as the Dominican Alps. The town serves as a starting point for excursions on foot, horseback, or by motorbike taxi to the surrounding forests and waterfalls. There are other activities as well, such as white-water rafting, canoe trips, jeep safaris, and paragliding. If you feel hungry or need some rest, the town offers good restaurants and hotels.


Sitting 90mi (145km) northwest of Santo Domingo is Santiago de los Trenta Caballeros, the Dominican Republic’s second largest city. Columbus built a fort on the banks of the Yaque del Norte River to protect gold mining activities in the area. In 1504 Spanish farmers settled in this fertile land and began farming tobacco, making this center of the Cibao Valley the most important area to the Dominican Republic agriculturally. Although more an industrial hub than a tourist pole, Santiago is surprisingly charming, offering good restaurants, an active nightlife, and some of the country’s most beautiful women.

It is definitely worth setting aside some time to visit the city’s many monuments and museums. Check out the buildings from the colonial period and the Victorian era, and climb the stairs of the 67m Monument a los Héroes de la Restauración (Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration), a monument dedicated to those who died in the War of Restoration. Notable museums in Santiago include the Tomás Morel Museum of Folkloric Art, the Santiago Museum, and the Tobacco Museum.

Santiago is well known for the excellent rum and cigars produced in its factories. Take a tour to the Bermudez Rum Factory and E. León Jimenez Tobacco Company and gain an appreciation for the art and skill of Dominican rum and cigar. A world-class cultural center, the Centro León displays a variety of exhibits and performances, including elements of the Dominican culture, Natural Dominican History, Native Indian Evolution and Culture, and art exhibitions of Dominican and international artists.

One of the oldest settlements in the Now World, La Vega Vieja was founded in 1495 by Christopher Columbus, who ventured inland looking for Taino slaves. Although there is little left of the original settlement beyond the ruins of a fortress, you may still find the tour to this historic site rewarding. Before an earthquake leveled the town in 1562, La Vega prospered with the discovery of gold nearby and the growing of sugar cane. The town is said to have contained the New World’s first coin mint, as well as the continent’s inaugural brothel and archbishopric.

Overlooking the ruins is a hill called Santo Cerro (Holy Hill), where a miraculous apparition of the Virgin is said to have helped Columbus win a battle against the Tainos. Legend has it that in March 25, 1495, Columbus had planted a wooden cross during the battle. When the Tainos tried to pull it down, the Virgin Mary appeared above the cross, frightening and distracting the Indians. Columbus seized the opportunity and emerged victorious from the battle. The hole where the cross is believed to have stood is preserved in the Iglesia Las Mercedes, where pilgrims come to pray. Even if you don’t believe this story, you can always enjoy the breathtaking views of the Cibao Valley from the top of the hill.

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