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Extraordinary Architecture in the Dominican Republic

The arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Dominican Republic in 1492 heralded a new era in the development of this enchanting destination and its architecture. Previously inhabited by the Taino nation, the rise of the Spanish signalled their demise and new styles in building. In the northeast of the island, then known as Hispaniola, the settlement of La Isabela was founded in 1493 and you can still see its remains today.

Anywhere you travel in this destination you'll see examples of some extraordinary architecture. Beautiful buildings don't have to be listed in guide books to make their stamp on the landscape, and some of the most interesting buildings that you'll spot will be the charming beach houses scattered throughout the Dominican Republic. However, here are some of the better known buildings you might like to visit.

A UNESCO glory

In 1496, the current capital of San Domingo was built.

Today San Domingo is a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to beautiful examples of its Spanish colonial architecture. Only an hour and a half drive away from La Romana the 'zona colonial' is the destination to head to see see some fine examples of buildings dating back to the early 16th century.

The streets are cobbled and the 16th century palaces are stunning, such as the Alcazar de Colon, which is the former home of Diego Colon, the son of Christopher Columbus. Looking back further, Taino artefacts can be found at the 'Museo de las Casas Reales'.

Architectural replicas in La Romana

Just outside the popular holiday destination of La Romana lies an extraordinary architectural replica. Based on a European 16th-century village, Altos de Chavon has its own amphitheatre, and all the buildings are faithfully reproduced from European originals. The 5000-seater amphitheatre is based on a classical model and is used today for concerts and performances from international stars.

Construction of the village began in 1976, although tourists may be forgiven for thinking that it's much older, due to the the quality of the work and the attention to detail. Altos de Chavon was originally established as a centre for the arts and is an intriguing place to explore. Just take a turning down a winding lantern-lit cobbled alleyway and you may find yourself in a beautiful restaurant or an artisan workshop.

It's not an illusion

You may be forgiven for thinking that you're seeing double if you visit the the small town of Montecristi in the northwest tip of the country. The town's clock tower was designed by the same engineer as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the similarities are startlingly obvious. The Montecristi tower was shipped from France to the Dominican Republic in the 19th century.

Puerto Plata main square is a treat

Just a 45-minute drive away from Cabarete, the 19th century and neo-classical design houses surrounding Puerto Plata's main square are home to many cool nightclubs and restaurants. In contrast, the Fortaleza San Felipe is a 16th-century fort whose ruins still dominate the coastal skyline. There's also a recently restored 24-metre tall lighthouse based at the fort.

Innovative design in Higuey

Although only a 45-minute drive away from the vibrant resort of Punta Cana, Higuey could be worlds apart from this popular holiday destination. One of the main features of this town is its very contemporary cathedral. For stark modern originality, there's little to beat this very beautiful building.

The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia was completed in 1972 and famous visitors have included Pope John Paul 2nd in 1978. With its commanding spire and stunning interior illuminated by colours from the stained glass, this cathedral is always worth a visit.

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