Santo Domingo Mini Guide
Where is Santo Domingo?
Santo Domingo is the capital and largest city of the Dominican Republic. The Domincan Republic is the 2nd largest Caribbean nation after Cuba with a population of around 10 million. It forms the major part of the island of Hispaniola together with it's neighbour Haiti and was the site of the first European settlement in the Americas when discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
If you're into history then you could start by visiting the oldest cathedral in the Americas – Catedral Primada de America, completed in 1540, this combines elements of both Gothic and Baroque architecture. Or why not try a visit to the Museo de las Casas Reales, which traces the history of the country from 1492 to 1821 – one exhibit is even said to hold Columbus' ashes!
It's Gardens and Natural World
The northern sector of Santo Domingo houses the Jardins Botanico Nacional, the largest of their kind in Latin America, with it's highlights being the Japanese
Garden and the Great Ravine. This is close to the city itself, so if you don't have much time to spare to visit further afield be sure to make time for this. Also in Santo Domingo is the Acuario Nacional – the grandest aquarium in the Caribbean, complete with a shark tunnel to get right in amongst the deep. A slightly surprising fact is that the Domincan Republic is home to the finest amber in the world, so the Amber Museum is well worth a visit.
The main speciality shopping of the country is amber and cigars and you will find plenty of both of these in the shops in Santo Domingo, you will also find smaller gift shops for those all important souvenirs!
Just a Warning
Whilst the majority of Dominicans are extremely welcoming and trying to promote their country as a tourist destination, if you're driving around the area in a hire car, beware of some unscrupulous locals posing as police officers who will ask you to pull over – then relieve you of your valuables. A good way of distinguishing them from the real police is that they are riding ordinary motorcycles without flashing lights, so beware and keep on driving!
The capital and largest city of the Dominican Republic, Santo has a lot to see and do. Visit the Colonial Zone which has changed little since Christopher Columbus walked the streets. Of particular interest are the Ozama Fort, the Alcazar of Colon and the cathedral, all built in the late 15th century.
If you have a hire car you should visit the Faro a Colon, built in Columbus’ day and which now houses his remains. For even more remains of famous people, the Panteon Nacional is the final resting place for the country’s heroes and departed statesmen.