Santiago de los Caballeros–named after the 30 Spanish aristocrats who followed Columbus and settled here in 1495–was the country’s first capital before it suffered an earthquake in 1562. Today, the Dominican Republic’s second largest city–affectionately dubbed “Ciudad Corazón” or the city in the heart of the Cibao Valley–is a modern and cosmopolitan center thriving in commerce, finance, education, and services, and pulsating with culture.
Towering over its sprawling urban streets, the Monumento a Los Héroes de la Restauración–affectionately called El Monumento–is the city’s chief landmark and social hub, where residents and visitors gather on its lawns, but also serves as a constant reminder of the men who regained the DR’s independence from Spain in 1865. Looming in the distance is the Cordillera Central mountain range, replete with hiking adventures. History, arts, and culture are never far in Santiago–Centro Cultural León offers a comprehensive display of the country’s rich heritage–and are part and parcel of this significant region as birthplace of the Mirabal Sisters, as well as several Dominican presidents. Home to universities, the area also brims with a dynamic population of millenials, amid professionals, all of whom enjoy the city’s vibrant entertainment and nightlife, boasting over 100 discos, bars, and lounges within the downtown area.
Despite the big city life, traditions run deep. Baseball passion thrives, as Santiago is home to the popular Aguilas Cibaeñas team, winners of three Caribbean Series and 22 national titles since 1952. In the city’s surrounding areas are some of the most talented artisans and painters in the DR, while Santiago Carnival ranks among the most revered in the country, with the most bejeweled handmade devil costumes after La Vega’s. To boot, nature has blessed the province with fertile soils that grow the world’s finest tobacco, home to 90 percent of the largest cigar plantations and factories and earning Santiago the nickname “Cigar Country.” Puro aficionados will also find all the premium brand factories near the city center at Tamboril, offering free daily tours and exclusive shopping opportunities.
Cultured, innovative, and fast-paced: that’s Santiago. Yet minutes outside city limits, the peaceful sight of mountains and cool air whisk you away from the hustle and bustle, plunging you into the stunning Cibao heartland.
The Cibao International Airport (STI) is conveniently located a half-hour from the city center.