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Pico Duarte, Dominican Republic

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At a height of 3,087 meters (10,178 feet), Pico Duarte is the tallest mountain in the Caribbean. Part of the Armando Bermudez National Park, the mountain is one of the most popular natural attractions for both Dominicans and visitors to the Dominican Republic.

Pico Duarte (Duarte peak) is named after Juan Pablo Duarte, considered one of the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic. Like many other things, the mountain was briefly renamed during the brutal egotistical rule of Rafael Trujillo, as Pico Trujillo. (Likewise, Santo Domingo was called Cuidad Trujillo.)

The first recorded ascent of Pico Duarte mountain did not take place until 1944, and the climb is still quite tough, through rainforest, harsh sun, cold temperatures, and strong winds. The best time for climbing is from December to April; thunderstorms often form in the area during the summer months. The weather is generally cooler than in the rest of the country, although temperatures of 80ºF in summer are not uncommon. It can drop to as though as 20F in winter, so Pico Duarte and the surrounding mountains are one of the few places in the Caribbean to ever see snow.

There are several routes to the Pico Duarte mountaintop. Most start in the village of La Cienaga, near Jarabacoa, where you can hire guides and private tours. Allow three days to completer the 15-mile hike to the summit, depending on weather and physical conditions. Hiking equipment such as raincoat, hiking boots, tent, and enough food and water are essential. Traveling by mule or horse can reduce the ascent time to two days. Another mountain of similar height, La Pelona, sits close to Pico Duarte. Views from the top of both are spectacular, encompassing the Caribbean Sea, Lake Enriquillo, the Cibao Valley, and the Cordillera mountain range.

Pico Duarte is also the source of the two major rivers of the Dominican Republic, Rio Yaque del Norte and Rio Yaque del Sur.

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