Santiago de los Trenta Caballeros, the second largest city of the Dominican Republic, plays a very important role as a cultural, industrial and economical center. The town is very famous for the annual carnival celebrations in February, which are among the most elaborate in the Caribbean. Whenever possible I plan my Santiago trip or stopover during this time.
The local tobacco industry produces some of the best cigars in the world, rolled from tobacco grown in the Cibao Valley that surrounds Santiago. The awe inspiring natural beauty of the Cibao Valley, the wonderful city streets full of shops and restaurant, exciting nightlife and various interesting historical sites makes me wonder where all the tourist have gone. more...
The city of Santiago de los Trenta Caballeros is one of the noticeably wealthier towns of the Dominican Republic, which does not need tourism to flourish. The original town was founded in 1495. Following an earthquake in 1562, the city was rebuilt on a different location. Santiago is slightly rough around the edges but feels real authentic and by no means unsafe. I love to stroll along Calle del Sol, check out the shops, restaurants and artisan stalls of Mercado Modelo. Parque Duarte is located at the center of town from where it is impossible to miss the Catedral de Santiago Apóstol, built at the end of the 18th century. I loved the carved mahogany altar and the delightful stained-glass windows but walked quickly by the tomb of the 19th-century dictator Ulises Heureux. The highest point in the city is where the Monumento a los Heroes de la Restauracion of the Republic stands. The best thing about this eight-story monument is perhaps is the view over the city, valley and mountains.
Santiago is famous for its tobacco, especially cigars. A visit to Museo del Tabaco is quite entertaining and gives a lot of history though I preferred the La Habanera Tablaclera. This real cigar factory offers tours where you can follow the cigar rolling process from the leaf selection to packing and sealing the box. One of my favorite museums in the Dominican Republic must be Centro León, which has various collections like the ones on the evolution of Dominican art and the history of the Dominican people over the last 5,000 years. From October to January you can enjoy a high-class baseball game at El Estadio Cibao, home of the Águilas Cibaeñas, one of the best teams in the Dominican Republic.
And then there is the Carnival, celebrated in February, the event of the year and the best reason I can present to visit Santiago (and La Vega). The Santiago Carnival holds so much history and is a feast of rhythms and colors. The people of Santiago create unique costumes and handmade carnival masks that are true works of art.
How to get there
The International airport, Aeropuerto Internacional del Cibao is located 20 minutes out of Santiago. From here you can take a taxi or public transportation into town.
- Dominican Republic International and Domestic Flights
Both Metro Tours and Caribetour provide bus services to and from many cities in the Dominican Republic.
- Caribe Tours
My favourite way to explore the wonderful surroundings of Santiago de los Trenta Caballeros is by renting a car. Renting a 4x4 preferable in case you plan to drive to Jarabacoa or Constanza.
Tours and excursions
The Cibao Valley offers adventurous and nature minded travelers excellent tours and excursions ranging from horse riding to mountain biking and river rafting as well as extreme sports like canyoning etc. For your safety, I suggest that you choose a renowned company like Rancho Baiguate, which offers excellent and really affordable outdoor adventures. Santiago is also close to the north town beach paradise Playa Dorado near Puerto Plata and the real cozy and authentic beach town Sosua. In both towns you can arrange for a wide variety of water related activities.