This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.
The city of Santiago doesn’t get the number of tourists you’ll find in Punta Cana or Santo Domingo, a blessing for the travelers who do visit this second largest city in the Dominican Republic. Blessed with an active dining scene, plenty of nightlife options, and a wealth of shopping and cultural activities to keep its one million residents entertained, it’s also one of the country’s biggest cigar making areas, and that practice and the history behind it is showcased at the Leon Cultural Center. Visitors here can explore a replica of a cigar factory and witness a detailed explanation of the process of cigar production. You won’t find any beaches here—Santiago is set right in the center of the island of Hispaniola, earning it the nickname “Heart City”—but in place of the traditional resort experience, travelers here find themselves surrounded by storied industries. Coffee plantations, cocoa farms, and rum distilleries all operate here, many offering behind-the-scenes tours. But you don’t have to take an organized tour to get a sense of place because exploring the city on foot is the best way to immerse yourself in its culture. Calle El Sol, one of Santiago’s most important thoroughfares, contains a mix of exciting attractions and activities,
from bustling hotels to traditional restaurants, exciting rum bars and shops and boutiques selling a world of goods. At its north end, Parque Duarte awaits, a relaxed space as popular with locals as it is with tourists. It’s an ideal place to hang out, do some people-watching, and take in the signts of the Catedral de Santiago Apostol.
- Best time to go:
November to May
- Fun fact:
The remains of Christopher Columbus are rumored to reside inside the Columbus Lighthouse
- Getting there:
Delta flies from New York (JFK) to Santiago
- Entry documents:
- Must-try local food:
Mangu, a dish of mashed plantains
- Best buys:
Cigars, rum, amber jewelry
- Information please:
Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism—godominicanrepublic.com