CONSTANZA is a drop-dead gorgeous, circular valley set deep in the mountains at an altitude of 1300m. Populated and farmed since the Taino era, it was created millennia ago by a crashing meteor; as you first pass over the lip of the crater you’ll be stunned by the fertile, flat valley – irrigated by thousands of sprinklers and hemmed in on all sides by jagged peaks. Constanza had virtually no contact with the outside world until the end of the nineteenth century, when a decent dirt road was finally blazed to it; later development occurred when Trujillo trucked in 200 Japanese families in the 1950s, to introduce their farming methods to the valley. All manner of non-tropical crops are grown on the farms today – strawberries, raspberries, apples, garlic and roses; less tantalizing is the military base in town, a permanent presence since Castro attempted a Communist takeover here in 1959.
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Hiking in Constanza
Hiking in Constanza
As you’d expect amongst such dazzling scenery, the Constanza valley boasts several of the DR’s finest hiking trails. One 3hr trip sets off from Rancho Constanza in Colonia Kennedy, which is just east of the main town. From the hotel, take the dirt road north until you reach a white house at the top of the hill, the starting point of a trail that leads into the thick of the alpine forest. You can also set off 5km east of Constanza, via the Carretera Constanza, to the adjoining valley of Tireo Arriba, which holds a smaller farming pueblo worth exploring for a look at the local way of life. If you have your own transport, keep going 8km further east to pueblo La Parma – just before you reach the road to Jarabacoa – for a hike along the Río Arroyazo. Ask locals to direct you to the riverside walking path, from which it’s a 45min hike to an unspoiled wilderness balneario, with small cascades along the river giving way to a large pool partially enclosed by boulders.