The capital of a vast tobacco and sugar-cane growing district, Santiago is the second-largest city in the Dominican Republic. It lies deep in the lush Valle del Cibao, meaning "rocky land," the words the Táino Indians used to describe the lush Cordillera central mountain range that covers a great deal of the landmass of the country.

This sprawling, fertile land contains the highest peaks in the Caribbean, including Pico Duarte, towering to a height of 3,087m (10,130 ft.).

Far removed from the beach resorts, Santiago is often called "the most Dominican of cities," its full name being Santiago de los Treinta Caballeros. Home of the best makers of rum, tobacco products, and textiles in the West Indies, it is also known as the cultural center of the Dominican Republic.

Since it doesn't depend on tourism, Santiago is also a center of industry, manufacturing leather goods, shoes, furniture, and even cement. Lush tropical forests, great spots for ecotourism, surround the city, the towering mountains protecting it from those hurricanes that plague coastal areas.

The best time to visit is during the month of February (dates vary) when one of the most exciting Carnivals in the Caribbean takes place. At this celebration, the streets are filled with loud music, colorful parades, and locals in bizarre Carnival masks.

With a population approaching the one million mark, the rapidly expanding city is the wealthiest in the D.R.

The original Fortaleza (garrison) was founded in 1495. The settlement on the banks of the Rio Yaque del Norte was named for the famous pilgrimage city of Spain, Santiago de Compostela, lying in Galicia. The founder was Bartholomew Columbus, the brother of Christopher Columbus. In 1562 an earthquake struck, and after that, the town was moved and rebuilt.