Monday, 2 April 2018

Dominican Republic Travels - A Historic Day Trip to Santo Domingo

Readers, I’ve got a travel post coming up for you today, after a recent collaboration with Go Dominican Republic to the historic and colonial city of Santo Domingo.

As you’ve probably seen over on Instagram – we headed off to the Caribbean region of the Dominican Republic – staying at the Excellence El Carmen Resort on honeymoon. We’ve done Excellence before – staying at the Playa Mujeres resort in Mexico and I might well do a comparison blog in the near future, to talk about both.  We enjoyed 10 days of taking it VERY easy and decided that we should at least leave the resort for one day... 
Excellence El Carmen Beach Sunset photo by What Claire Did

As part of trip, the national tourist board "Go Dominican Republic" organised for us to go off on a day trip to Santo Domingo – the capital and home to around 3 million of the Dominican Republic’s 10 million person population.

We’d managed to avoid early starts for most of our honeymoon, but headed off at sunrise for this one – being picked up in a mini bus at 6.30am.  We then met a bigger coach nearer to Punta Cana and were transferred over to the new bus, to go as a big group tour, with other visitors from around the world.  Hats off to Nacho – our energetic comedian tour guide who had a tough crowd to entertain on the early morning journey.

Around 10am we arrived in Santo Domingo, to blue skies and temperatures in the high 20s (Celsius) to start our day of historic visits.   For those who don’t know,  Santo Domingo was discovered in December 1492, by the European explorer Christopher Columbus and is considered the first city discovered in the Americas.  It’s the oldest continuously inhabited city and our trip helped us to learn more about the history of Santo Domingo and Dominican life.  For us Europeans, we are lucky to see some great architecture from a a similar time period, across our continent, however for our American cousins, this must be fascinating to see, especially if they’ve never been “across the pond” to Spain, Portugal and other places in central Europe.
Colonial District Santo Domingo by What Claire Did

Santo Domingo is home to the first castle, monestary and fortress in the Americas – part of the Colonial Zone which we visited on the tour – listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.  The first cathedral of the Americas was also built in Santo Domingo and we had the chance to visit this on our tour too.

The Colonial Zone is popular with tourists and Dominican school groups who are going to learn more about their history and we visited here first. It’s probably wise as I can imagine the buildings would get incredibly busy as the day went on.
santo domingo dominican republic by what claire did

We experienced it all on the day – including a buffet style lunch at a traditional Dominican restaurant where we saw dancing and singing, before heading off for a walk around the square and cathedral area in the afternoon.  The Catedral Primada de America was stunning inside – with beautiful historic architecture and we learned that Pope John Paul II visited here twice during his time in post.  It was also lovely to watch the world go by in the square after we left the cathedral.
Cathedral Santo Domingo Dominican Republic by What Claire Did

We went from the very old to the very new – visiting a 4D cinema experience showing a short film about the English pirate Sir Francis Drake and his invasion of Santo Domingo. It was great fun and an interesting way to learn - particularly if you were a family on the tour.  

Nacho our guide was with us every step of the way – providing humour, wit and interesting facts about Santo Domingo throughout the day.   He cared about us all, constantly reminding us to drink the free water they’d brought along for everyone!

Our day ended with a bus tour around some of the remaining tourist parts of the city – starting off at the National Palace and then on to a drive past the Columbus Lighthouse (spoiler – it’s not a lighthouse as we know it).  We would have loved the chance to walk around Columbus Lighthouse, as Nacho had talked a lot about it on the day, however, our tour didn’t have the time to stop off for a walk around at the end of the day, which would have been a nice touch.  

We got back on the bus around 4.30pm for our drive back to Punta Cana, stopping off at a great chocolate shop en route to buy some souvenirs for home.

The tour is around 14 hours from leaving in the morning to getting back to your resort (drive time from Punta Cana around 2.5/3 hours each way, so we’d recommend this for couples and families with older children (probably age 10+). Younger children could go on the trip, but we are aware that it's a long day and they'd need to be a point they are interested in learning. about history.  There wasn’t too much walking, so suitable for all athletic abilities and the tour would be of particular interest to those who like European history, architecture and learning about new cultures.
Flowers in the window Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

Thank you to Go Dominican Republic who arranged the day out for us.  We travelled as part of the Amstar DMC tour which included all transportation, entrance fees and lunch.  English tours run daily except Sundays and are priced from 70 USD per person. 

Disclaimer: we received a complimentary day trip for 2 people. Any opinions expressed are my own.

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