- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Visit Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is renowned as an affordable beach destination brimming with package tourists and enticing all-inclusive resorts. But the country is also a captivating blend of culture, history, and stunning natural beauty. The main tourist magnets are the areas around Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, La Romana, and Samaná. However, the country's cultural jewel is the capital, Santo Domingo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In addition to well-developed beach resorts and world-class golf courses, the Dominican Republic is home to vast coral reefs, waterfalls, jungles, secluded islands, pine forests, and the highest peaks in the Caribbean. Thanks to these diverse ecosystems, recreational opportunities abound. Adventure seekers head to the mountains to raft the white waters of the Río Yaque del Norte.
Here are some places you absolutely have to visit in the Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo: The Zona Colonial
The Zona Colonial is the historic heart of Santo Domingo. This square mile of pretty streets and shady squares contains some of the oldest colonial buildings in the Western Hemisphere, including the cathedral. To walk along the Calle de las Damas is to retrace the steps of the first Spanish conquistadors, who used Santo Domingo as a base for the conquest of Latin America. Yet this district is no museum piece. It’s dotted with shops, restaurants and cafes, many housed in colonial-era buildings. It is also a real neighbourhood, where families sit outside their homes enjoying the cool of the evening.
“King Sugar” still reigns in the southern port city of La Romana, a place dedicated to cutting, milling and exporting sugar since 1917. The huge sugar mill, though damaged by 1998’s Hurricane Georges, still dominates the town, and you are likely to see cane-filled trains trundling through the surrounding countryside. Tourism rather than sugar is now the town’s main lifeblood, and its pride and joy is the nearby Casa de Campo resort. This tropical playground of beach, sports facilities and exquisite gardens offers the most sophisticated choices of activities.
A tiny ramshackle fishing village only 30 years ago, Las Terrenas has developed into one of the Domincan Republic’s most sought-after tourist centers. An influx of expatriates from North America and Europe has brought a wide array of guesthouses and restaurants, tailored to the independent traveller. But development has not ruined this welcoming seaside community’s relaxed atmosphere. Lying on the North Coast of the Samana Peninsula, a lush strip of land pushing out into the Atlantic, the town is blessed by the proximity of some of the country’s most beautiful beaches and by spectacular countryside around. Extensive groves of coconut trees fringe expanses of white sand which slope gently and invitingly into clear warm water.
La Isabela Bay
Set among some of the country’s most rugged countryside and bordered by magnificent beaches, La Isabela breathes history at the site of the first permanent colonial settlements in the Americas. The bay protects a placid expanse of ocean, while a pristine white beach looks much as it must have done in 1493 when Christopher Columbus decided to establish a town on this spot, named in honour of the Spanish Queen. The excavated ruins of La Isabela give powerful impression of that decisive moment, but it is the situation as much as the archeological display that makes this place special. An adventurous trek through remote terrain is rewarded by an unforgettable insight into how the course of history was changed.
The “Silver Port” lies between the glittering Atlantic Ocean and the imposing bulk of the Pico Isabel de Torres. Its roots go back to 1495, but it was during the 1970s that this once-sleepy provincial back-water was rejuvenated by the advent of mass tourism. The nearby resorts of Playa Dorado and Sosua attract legions of visitors each year, but a tour of Puerto Plata’s colourful center, complete with Victorian-era architecture, galleries, and restaurants should not be missed. A tight grid of central streets dates to the brief tobacco boom in the 19th century. This is the best place to soak up the atmosphere of a bygone golden age.