Five strenuous treks lead up to 3087m Pico Duarte, which towers over the centre of the mountain range alongside its sibling peak La Pelona (“Baldy”; before 1930 they were known as Pelona Grande and Pelona Chica). The lack of fresh water on the mountain has left it uninhabited through the centuries – though Tainos once lived in the nearby Valle del Tétero – and the first recorded ascent was only in 1944.
Climbing to the very top of the Caribbean’s highest mountain holds definite cachet, and the view from the treeless peak is magnificent (though even here you can’t quite escape from it all – Duarte’s face is sculpted onto one of the rocks). If you’ve come this far, think seriously about extending your trek to include Valle del Tétero – a broad savannah with roaring mountain rivers, wild horses and Taino petroglyphs. This can be done by adding a two-day loop into the La Ciénega trek or by following one of the trails that crosses the valley on the approach to the peak. Unless you’re a seasoned trekker, you’ll do well to stick to the La Ciénega route.