Santiago, or Santiago de los Caballeros, is located in the Cibao Valley, and with nearly 1 million residents, it’s the second-largest city in the Dominican Republic. Santiago’s origins date back to 1495, when Christopher Columbus built a fort on the banks of the Yaque del Norte River. Santiago was once named Santiago de los Treinta Caballeros (Saint James of the 30 Knights), a nod to the 30 Spanish aristocrats who helped form the original community.
Many people refer to Santiago as the “heart city,” as it’s located at the center of what was once Hispaniola. Santiago has a large arts and culture scene. Do not miss the Museo del Tabaco (Cigar Museum), where visitors can learn about the art of making cigars and purchase some of the most famous brands. Other museums of note include Museo Folklórico Yoryi Morel, which features exhibits related to Santiago’s Carnival, and Museo Histórtico Fortaleza San Luis, which once served as a municipal prison.
Sports are also a popular aspect of life in Santiago. Baseball and basketball are the most popular sports in the city. A number of notable Major League Baseball players are originally from the Dominican Republic. Fertile lands in the region support Santiago. Items like cigarettes, rum, furniture, soaps, leather goods and pharmaceuticals are produced in this region. Foods like cacao, dairy, coffee and milled rice are also staples in Santiago. While not typically a tourist destination, the city is seeing a slight increase in tourism.