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Festivals of the Dominican Republic

You can visit the Dominican Republic in any month you please and still be able to enjoy a local festival. Known as 'fiestas patronales', or feast days, these celebrations are held in honour of the town's patron saint, and are a wonderful fusion of Christian and African traditions.

Start your year with a drumbeat

Starting at the beginning of the year, if you choose January as the month for your visit you'll be spoilt for festival choice.

One of the most exciting celebrations is the Guloya festival at San Pedro de Macoris, an hour's drive from Punta Cana. The Cubans came to San Pedro in the 19th century and this festival is an opportunity to admire the fusion of Cuban and local cultures.

A subculture called 'mummers' put on mini dance dramas and a very lively procession, all accompanied by the incessant beating of a drum.

Enjoy the Dominican Republic's national festival

February is the month when the Dominican Republic celebrates its independence from neighbouring Haiti. La Romana is an hour and a half drive away from the capital Santo Domingo, where you can go and view this astonishing spectacle.

You'll see battle re-enactments as well as lengthy and joyful processions. The day culminates in a vibrant party along the beachfront.

There's also a mega sandcastle sculpture event on Cabarete beach in February. The festival lasts for 10 days, during which time you'll see some extraordinarily complex sculptures that you might not believe are made from just sand.

Celebrating multiculturalism

The feast day of John the Baptist on 24th June is celebrated with gusto in San Juan de la Maguana in the centre of the Dominican Republic.

Starting on 17th June and continuing until the 24th, the festival is unique in that it honours St John alongside the African deity Chango, who was honoured among the Yoruba tribes in west Africa. You'll be able to dance and party all night long during the course of this festival.

Catch merengue fever in July

For one glorious week in July Santo Domingo is given over to merengue dancing. Specific dates vary annually, so if you want to catch your favourite musicians or dancers then it's best to check online first. Rest assured that you're in for the party of your life if you attend this hot-stepping celebration.

Cowboys celebrate too

The August festival at Higuey, a 45-minute drive inland from La Romana, is one of the best places to catch the traditional bull festival on 14th August.

There will be the usual wonderful music, food stalls and dancing of Dominican Republic festivals, but most interestingly, cowboys riding on horseback through the centre of town marshalling herd of cows.

Autumn festivals in Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata on the northeast of the island is a pretty happening place in Autumn, with a merengue festival in September. Then, in November, the town hosts an international jazz festival, which Cabarete also takes part in.

With both national and international musicians invited to perform, any jazz lover will find themselves in music heaven.

Santo Domingo lights up

December is the month when the Parque Iberoamericano Santo Domingo is illuminated by no fewer than 27 million coloured lights as part of the city's Christmas celebrations. Open from 6pm until midnight, you'll see some wonderful theatre and musical shows in the park's amphitheatre.

As an added bonus, all of this is free.

The exact dates of some of these festivals change annually so it's a good idea to check online before venturing forth to join in the fun.

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