On the bank of the Rio Ozama that flows through the city, stands the imposing Alcazar the governor’s palace erected by Columbus’ son Diego. Here were entertained the conquistadors Cortes, Pizarro, Ponce de Leon among others who were on their journeys of conquest and discovery in the Americas. In 1568 Sir Francis Drake occupied the town and held it for ransom, burning part of it in the process.
Independence Day, and also the start of Santo Domingo’s festival Carnival, is February 27, celebrating the revolt in 1844 that liberated the nation from a 20-year Haitian occupation. The Dominican Republic is a country of tremendous variety, from miles of magnificent palm-lined beaches to rugged mountainous terrain. The highest mountain in the Caribbean is here, the 10 400-foot Pico Duarte.
Traveling through the countryside you will encounter vast fields of green sugar cane, citrus groves, rushing rivers, and beautiful valleys. A dominating physical feature is the Cordillera Central, a mountain range that runs almost the entire length of the country. To the north and parallel, is another range of mountains, and these and the immense valley between them is the area known as the Cibao which Columbus thought was Japan. This valley, the Vega Real, is best viewed from Santo Cerro near La Vega where it extends below in a spectacular sweep of a hundred and fifty miles. Here are rolling savannahs of grass, grazing cattle, and fields of tobacco and other crops. The second largest city of the nation is here, Santiago, founded in 1496. Nearby are Constanza and Jarabacoa, towns of pine fragrance and frosted nights where acres of flowers destined for the markets of the U.S. splash the landscape with color.
Along the Caribbean coast, numerous resorts such as Juan Dolio and Casa de Campo have become a magnet for foreign visitors. On the north side of the island, Puerto Plata, Sousa, and the lovely peninsula of Samana with :as Terrenas are favorite tourist destinations. The Samana Peninsula has a spectacular 90- mile shoreline, excellent beaches, and breathtaking scenery. The finest natural harbor in the West Indies is here, Samana Bay. Wind-surfers are drawn to nearby Cabarete, internationally known for its ideal water and wind conditions.
On the eastern coast the resort of Punta Cana and Bavaro has become a favorite location in recent years. Here you will find an assortment of luxury hotels, resorts as well as private villas.