Suddenly Amid the Dominican Palms, A Spot of Olde Europe

February 26, 2010 at 8:02 am | Posted in Caribbean/Bahamas/Bermuda, Dominican Republic | Leave a comment
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by David Paul Appell

If you know the Caribbean and/or have been to the Dominican Republic, chances are you’ve at least heard of one of the islands’ odder (and the DR’s most popular) tourist attractions. Otherwise, coming across this ringer for some centuries-old southern European village on a clifftop over the Chavón River can be enough to make your jaw drop. Built in the early 1980s just outside the gracious south coast Dominican city of La Romana, Altos de Chavón rises above the mere ersatz attraction you might suspect; not only did the designers go well out of their way to faithfully recreate the look and feel of 16th-century Spain and Italy, but the complex is now also home to cultural institutions (including a respected design school affiliated with the New York City-based New School) that have enriched the island, its people, and even the region as a whole. It’s now under the aegis of the huge, upscale adjoining resort Casa de Campo, and besides some nifty photo ops, visitors wandering these cobblestone lanes will find some great shops for local crafts and antiques, Dominican and international restaurants, nightclubs, a very good museum of local archaeology, and a 5,000-seat ancient-Roman-style amphitheater featuring world headliners (in 2009, for example, Andrea Bocelli). More info:,,


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