The Dominican Republic's second-largest city, formally named Santiago de los Caballeros, lies in the heart of the cigar-producing Cibao Valley about 80 mi/130 km northwest of Santo Domingo. However, this sprawling city is not a popular tourist destination. Its colonial core, full of historic buildings, is a pleasant place with wide streets, museums and cathedrals. The main square, Parque Duarte, is surrounded by intriguing structures, and the nearby Fortaleza San Luis hosts an interesting museum.

Dominating the landscape is the Monument to the Restoration Heroes, a huge hilltop monument built by brutal dictator-president Rafael Trujillo to honor himself. The monument has since been repurposed to honor those who fought in the Dominican Restoration War against Spain. Adjacent, the El Gran Teatro de Cibao (a theater modeled after the National Theatre in Santo Domingo) has an enormous stage and is said to have perfect acoustics. It hosts theatrical and musical performances. Visit the Folk Art Museum and the not-to-be-missed Centro Leon, combining a superb art gallery and the most interesting and well-presented museum in the country.

Adjoining the Center is the Aurora tobacco factory—a great place to see cigars being hand-rolled. Cigar production centers on the nearby town of Tamboril, which has several family-run factories open to visit.

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