Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
We had been through Santo Domingo a couple of times in the past, but just in transit to one of the beach resorts in Puerto Plata, and had never stopped in Santo Domingo to explore it. This time, since we were catching a flight back to the US from Santo Domingo, we decided to spend a few days checking out Santo Domingo.
Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic (DR), which is on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, share by DR on the eastern half, and by Haiti, on the western half. What we discovered about Santo Domingo when researching it really opened our eyes; here are some eye-opening facts about Santo Domingo.
Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon in Spanish) first landed in Bahama’s when he “discovered” the new world, and with his brother, Bartholomew, liked Santo Domingo (SD) so much, that they built their capital here (1492-1498) to explore the new world from this headquarters. As such, SD is the oldest city in the Americas and lays claim to many “firsts” in the new world; like the first paved street, the first cathedral, the first hospital, the first school, the first university, the first library etc. It was from SD that the Spaniards launched expeditions to North, South & Central America to claim colonies for Spain. The old walled and cobblestoned street is a UNESCO World Heritage site, now called the Zona Colonial; and has many well preserved & restored buildings for the 15th century
Today, SD is a large metropolitan city of over 3 million inhabitants; and is well developed with good infrastructure from what we could tell. We were staying in the newer part of SD, and the Zona Colonial was in the older part.
Since we had arrived in SD in the late aftermnoon, we drove that night to Zona Colonial to check it out; below are some images from Zona Colonial, the original walled city.
The next day, we went back to the Zona Colonial to check it out properly in the daytime
We visited the Cathedral Primada, which was the original cathedral, with vaulted ceilings as seen in the picture. It was very well kept and preserved, and was in daily use.
Next, we visited the Museum of the Royal Houses (Museo de las Casa Reales). This were original palaces, that now house 2 museums; one is the history of how Santo Domingo came to be, starting from the original Taino Indian inhabitants and how they were overcome by the Spaniards. On the other side, is the Judicial Museum which depicts the original judicial system that was in place during the early days of the Spanish Colonial rule. This is a very nice museum, located close to the Plaza Espana, not to be missed. This plaza is a wide open area bordered on one side by Diego Colon’s house (Diego was the son of Christopher Columbus), and the house is now a museum showing the clothing, fashion, furniture and housing of that era. The Plaza Espana has multiple touristy restaurants bordering it, but the plaza itself is good, with usually many people in the evening milling around and enjoying the evening air, and free music concerts are held here every weekend.
After the Zona Colonial, we went to the Mercado Modelo, which turned out to be mostly arts and crafts market, but on its outskirts, we did find a small fruit & vegetable market and had the sweetest coconut water here.
We wandered around, and found a small beauty salon inside a home nearby in the Market Modelo area, where madam had to get her hair done.
Bu this time, it was getting evening, so we asked the hair salon lady and her family where we could go to eat typical DR food; where they would go to eat. They all agreed on El Conuco restaurant. So off we went to find El Conuco, which happened to be near the Malecon of SD.
El Conuco turned out to be a nice restaurant, decorated like a Dominican typical street with houses on both sides, was busy with local patrons and had good fresh food, fresh natural juices, and yucca with hot sauce 🙂
The next day, we went to check out the Tres Ojos (3 Eyes) National Park, which is truly an oasis found in the middle of Santo Domingo’s urban sprawl. Open-air caves formed centuries ago, lie at the heart of this small patch of green – the real experience lies down the craggy steps of the sunken cenotes, where visitors can explore this network of arches and freshwater pools surrounded by lush vegetation which clings to atmospheric stalagmites. A true natural wonder, definitely worth visiting, and a huge respite from the busy streets above.
To get to the 4th “lake” of Tres Ojos, you have to take this barge, that is pulled by hand from the 3rd lake, so as to preserve the sanctity of this fragile environment
After this visit, we checked flights from SD back to the US, and discovered that flights from SD had become full, and that flights from Punta Cana to the US were looking better that day :). So we said goodbye to SD, and drove back to Punta Cana once again, returned the rental car, and caught our flight back to reality 🙂
SD IMHO, is definitely worth visiting and spending a few days to take in the culture, the history, architecture, and friendly locals. Food was great and inexpensive. There are other parts of SD we did not have time to explore unfortunately, like the Botanical gardens, the Malecon etc etc. Definitely worth visiting.This entry was posted in Caribbean, Dominican Republic Dec 2017/Jan 2018, North America, Santo Domingo