The best way to experience the pristine wilderness of the Sierra Bahoruco mountain range is along the border from the north, via the gravel track that begins at Duvergé, 80km north of Pedernales. Protected by the government as Parque Nacional Bahoruco, the mountain range contains a variety of ecosystems, including a vast stretch of pine forest that rivals the Cordillera Central in scope, large swaths of virgin rainforest and thirsty limestone desert in the foothills. While there are no nearby hotels to speak of, there are a couple of organized campsites in the park, and it’s also possible to do a day-trip from Pedernales.
The ascent from Duvergé to Puerto Escondido, a village of shacks perched atop the mountain14km along the way, is easily the bleakest stretch of country, parched mountainside bereft of vegetation, but as the road veers sharply west from here the ecology gradually transforms into rainforest mixed with ferns and pine. After 25km you’ll reach El Aguacate, a small military outpost on the border. From here the road leads steeply upward to Loma del Torro, the mountain range’s highest point at 2368m, and primary-growth rainforest – dotted with orchids and wild strawberries – begins, with clouds passing below the road and several spots with spectacular views of Lago Enriquillo.
Five kilometres south of Aguacate is the potato market. Very much worth a stop, the market is held daily in a series of tents in the middle of the wilderness where locals from both sides of the border swap Haitian potatoes for clothing and Haitian gourdes. Locals play poker beneath the central tent and cook beans over a campfire, while their mules graze nearby.
A few kilometres further south you’ll come across Hoyo de Pelempito, a 250m-deep canyon covered with virgin pine and inhabited with a variety of birdlife. The government has recently built a viewing platform here, and there are half a dozen great hiking trails in this area, especially for birders.
Getting to Hoyo de Pelempito and the national park involves either renting a car or getting Villa Barrancoli to pick you up, but there are guaguas every 30min to and from Duvergé via Azua, Barahona and Jimaní.