Why do we travel? For us, travelling is synonymous with wonder – it’s the gateway to the world. At Transat, our employees are travel enthusiasts who live this love for travel each day. Always on the lookout for authentic experiences, we accompanied Christopher, our Public Affairs Coordinator at Transat, to the Dominican Republic to discover his second home, as he lived there for two years. Returning for the first time in four years, he revisits his favourite places and happily shares them with us.
Christopher guided us away from the idyllic beaches bathed in turquoise waters to explore the city of Santiago de los Caballeros and its surroundings. Located in the north of the country and bounded by Cordillera Septentrional and Cordillera Central, this city is the ideal place for discovering the authentic Dominican way of life.
Climbing Diego de Ocampo’s summit
Here’s a confusing statement: the Dominican Republic is a mountainous country! Its range of lush mountains evoke the Alps, hence its nickname, the Dominican Alps. At 3,087 metres above sea level, the Pico Duarte is the highest mountain in the Caribbean. It attracts numerous hikers from around the world, but the ascent requires some preparation and a guide.
Apart from the Pico Duarte trek, the region offers many more accessible treks that can be completed in half a day. Christopher recommends climbing to the top Diego de Ocampo, located one hour away from Santiago by car. At 1,249 metres high, this summit is the highest point in the Cordillera Septentrional and offers breathtaking views of the Cibao Valley. Once at the top, chances are you’ll be greeted by applauding Dominicans who have also just climbed the mountain and are celebrating their ascent with a small glass of rum and a few merengue steps.
- The climb takes about an hour and the descent takes around 45 minutes.
- Stop on the way to admire the vegetation, observe exotic birds or eat some mangos or guavas that grow in the middle of the jungle.
- Be sure to pack good hiking shoes, as the trails are very narrow and steep and the ground often turns into mud when it rains.
- At the top, you’ll find a rustic lookout perfect for taking panoramic photos. However, you won’t find any bars or restaurants so we recommend bringing along a water bottle and energy bars for the road.
Admire the city of Santiago from the top of the Monument to the Heroes
Santiago, the second-largest city in the country, deserves the attention it garners. For a spectacular panoramic view of Santiago and its surrounding mountains, head to the city centre to see the Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration of the Republic. This monument, covered in white marble, is dedicated to the Dominican soldiers who fought during the last War of Independence against Spain. Christopher enjoys climbing to the top of this 70-metre high tower, which has a terrace that offers a 360-degree view of the city.
- Access to the tower costs US $2 per foreign visitor.
- Stroll around the Monument, where you will find several typical restaurants where you can enjoy classic Dominican dishes.
Experience baseball fever at the Cibao stadium
According to Christopher, a visit to Santiago would not be complete without attending a beisbol dominicano game! In the Dominican Republic, baseball reigns – it’s more than just a national sport; it’s a shared passion! Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, the experience is worth it. Head to the Cibao stadium, located in downtown Santiago, to watch a game of Aguilas Cibaeñas (the Cibao Eagles), Santiago’s baseball team.
Accommodating up to 18,000 spectators, the stadium’s atmosphere is supercharged: people sing, dance, drink and eat while watching the game! Watching Dominicans cheer their players on is just as entertaining as the game.
- It’s better to buy tickets in advance (starting at RD $150).
- In the Dominican Republic, baseball games usually start at 7:30 pm, while on Saturdays and Sundays, they start at 5:00 pm. The match calendar is available here: www.lidom.com/home/index.php/calendario
- The Cibao stadium is about an hour’s drive from Puerto Plata.
Follow Christopher, Public Affairs Coordinator at Transat, on his adventures in the Dominican Republic! He shares his travel tips for discovering its culture, lush nature and friendly people in Puerto Plata here and in Cabarete here.