Do you want a three day, fast paced, fun filled vacation to a truly unique destination? Welcome to Santo Domingo, one of the most historical cities in the Caribbean! The oldest continuously inhabited city in the New World will keep you excited to find out what is behind the next corner. From historic colonial architecture, to informative museums, to natural landscapes, Santo Domingo is full of surprises.
As you embark on your journey, be sure to pack light clothing as this is a tropical destination that can reach stifling temperatures all year round. You will definitely need the most comfortable shoes in your closet, as this is a walking destination! Situated on the Caribbean Sea at the mouth of the Ozama River, Santo Domingo is relatively flat and easy to get around.
With the largest population of any city in the Caribbean, expect a cosmopolitan culture with a number of ethnic groups. Santo Domingo is characterized as a place where various cultures meet, grow and thrive together, ever since Columbus founded it in 1496.
The first stop on your trip is to visit the many historic sites in the city. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990, the centre of Santo Domingo offers one of the best and most comprehensive displays of early Spanish colonial architecture in the New World. Start you day off in the Zono Colonial district where most of the major architectural wonders are to be found. Spend your morning getting acquainted with the area and wandering through the old streets. A local guide book or a walking tour will help you get situated before your begin more in depth explorations in the afternoon.
Once you’ve had a bite to eat, choose a few buildings to take more comprehensive tours. Consider the various churches and religious architecture in the area. Some of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas, remarkably preserved and protected, are found in Santo Domingo.
The Catedral Primada de America must make everyone’s short list, while the Cathedral of Santo Domingo is also worth a stop. Learn about early settlement by checking out the first castle in the Caribbean, the Alcazar de Colon, and finding out how this young colony defended itself at the Fortaleza Ozama. With such a rich and deep history, Santo Domingo is sure to impress every history lover.
After some visits to the historic buildings in the city, for day two it is time to read up a bit more on how everything in Santo Domingo got started. Let this be an enjoyable activity by informing yourself at one of the many museums in the city. The Museo de las Casas Reales should be at the top of your list. Located at the site of one of the first governmental buildings in the New World, this historic structure is one of the most visited sites in the area for a reason. If you are just aching to learn more about the Dominican after this museum, head over to the Museum of History and Geography. And, if you have some children tagging along, do not miss the Museo Infantil Trampolin, a fun science space for kids of all ages.
As you travel through this nation’s capital, be sure to visit some of the nationally important sites. In a city full of colonial architecture, the National Palace may seem a bit out of place. Visit this site to learn about the Dominican government and catch a glimpse of later architectural trends of the country. Also, check out the National Panteon, an important historic site of Santo Domingo that is now the resting place of some of the country’s most historic figures.
Following two days of history, change gears a little on your final day by visiting some of the natural wonders of the area. The part of the city that borders the sea is the most thriving tourist area of Santo Domingo. Head here to find local markets, shopping areas, and of course beaches. Most of the hotels are located in this bustling district, so take some time out of your third day to wander the area and browse local wares.
Enjoying the natural setting of the Dominican Republic is simple at the many parks and gardens in the city. The National Botanical Garden features a large variety of plants that are local to the area and is a quiet and more serene environment that contrasts with the big city surrounding it. The Park of Three Eyes of Water is also an excellent source of beauty in Santo Domingo. An interconnected series of caves, this park is an inexpensive getaway that is a short excursion away from the colonial centre of the city.
You’ve seen some of the oldest structures of the New World. You’ve learned about one of the first governments of the Caribbean. You’ve explored the natural caves of a local park. And you’ve walked and walked and walked some more. However, every step was a useful one as you explored the unique experience of Santo Domingo. Thankfully you brought your most comfortable shoes, as you were certainly wowed at every turn.