Dominican Republic // The Cibao //

Reserva Científica Valle Nuevo

The gutted, sky-high road that leads south from Constanza to San José de Ocóa – considered by Dominicans as the worst of the country’s many poor roads – offers an adventure, however hazardous, that you’re not likely to forget soon. Do not attempt this unless you have an excellent 4WD and are an experienced mountain driver. Allow five hours and be sure to bring two spare tyres, winter clothing and emergency supplies. The road runs through a national forest reserve known as Reserva Científica Valle Nuevo, a steep alpine wilderness with views that extend across a large chunk of the Cordillera Central, and for much of the trip you’ll be skirting the edge of a cliff far above the clouds; the park entrance is 4km south of Aguas Blancas. If you have time, make a stop at the turnoff for the small military fort at Alta Bandera, 30km south of Constanza, where you can get a glimpse of a concrete pyramid, La Pirámide, built in 1957 by Trujillo to mark the exact centre of the island. There are now basic camping facilities here.

Valle Nuevo also offers a terrific opportunity to relax in luxury amid remote mountain wilderness at Villa Pajón (t 412-5210, w http://www.villapajon.do; US$51–75), a set of lovely cabins built on the site of an old saw mill 4km south of the national park entrance (9km south of Aguas Blancas). Each cabin has its own fireplace, kitchen, bath, outdoor barbecue and multiple bedrooms. There is only electricity (solar-powered) in one of the larger cabins but kerosene lamps are provided. Given the remoteness, you should bring your own food with you – though you can arrange in advance to have someone cook and perform housekeeping. Outdoor activities abound, including unbelievable hiking andhorseriding into the surrounding mountains.