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“The hardest physical task I ever accomplished!” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Pico Duarte

Pico Duarte
Parque Nacional Armando Bermudez | Republica Dominicana, Dominican Republic
809 472-4422
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Activities: Hiking
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Owner description: The Dominican Republic's tallest mountain sits at 10,000 feet and is a popular destination for hikers.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
4 attraction reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
“The hardest physical task I ever accomplished!”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 1, 2012

To climb el Pico Duarte, go to el Pico Duarte, every Dominican should climb the Pico at least once… since childhood I have been hearing about said mountain over and over with more emphasis towards January… Well I finally conquered the dammed place, and I know finally what lies in store, what I’m not so sure is IF I would recommend that journey to a third. I PERSONALLY enjoyed it, BUT for many people in my group it was HELL.
I’m going to start with the preparations. Because make no mistake, if you are not ready for this DON’T DO IT! I’m not overreacting here is the plain truth. First the physical conditions: No out of shape person should do this, why? Because it can be hard for them… IF you think you’re fit enough you are going to have to exercise a lot more O_o yes, sorry but climbing stairs (of 30+ floor buildings) every other day and walking hills two-three months in advance is the difference from arriving in the afternoon or arriving at night at “Comparticion” (last camp) and believe me, you’ll WANT to get there before the light is out. Also getting used to climbing stairs, hills and uneven ground is going to help your knees and ankles to get use to abuse because they’ll be abused… especially if it’s raining because of the mud (calf deep mud :S). Second the food, the least trouble it takes to cook it the better. Or if you have an arrangement with the locals for them to cook you you’ll be fine. The weather: It can rain, fast! So carry all your belongings in waterproof bags and carry a poncho yourself.
We started at 7:00am from the town “La Ciénega” the whole group walks together until half an hour later when people start to disperse. The fit ones race ahead while the rest of us… take a longer time admiring the nature :P Once you pass “La Laguna” (a point in the trail) the view of the surrounding mountains becomes breathtaking. There aren’t many animals on sight because of all the human trafficking; however, you can still see birds here and there perched on the highest trees.
At some points the trail is a narrow path in-between two elevations so it gets difficult to walk; even more so if the mules are right behind you. NOTE: It is usually explained at the beginning of the trail that you have to yield the pass to the mules since they just tend to –go forward- and push everything in front of them out of the way, including humans. It´s advisable to always let the mules pass, even if it means you have to step in between trees or bushes. Also, NEVER stand beside a precipice edge, because they can and most certainly push you into it.
After you pass “El Cruce” comes the infamous “Loma del Arrepentimiento” or Hill of Regrets, were it is said that most people question their decision to ever embark on such a journey. Basically is a little steeper with rocks covering the whole track, so it´s a good idea to have a good pair of boots to walk this part.
However, at this point you start to see clouds at eye height, and pretty soon you are covered in fog. But make no mistake… the heat is overwhelming! The temperature won´t start dropping until 6pm so there’s plenty of heat yet.
By now you are on one of the highest points, which gives you a view of the rest of the smaller hills. Looking at this view it actually makes you feel as if you have accomplished a lot already… (hang in there, not yet!)
Then you arrive at “Aguitas Frias” if you are out of water reload now! There aren’t any more water sources until you reach camp. This water source is a small hole in the ground where it is said the Yuna River is born from… I was a little apprehensive to drink water from it but the thirst and the exertion got the best of me, Oh well! I’m still alive.
From them on I walked a little more than an hour to reach Comparticion. After 6pm it got cold fast. So I set up my tent as soon as I got there, went to take a bath (on the frikin coldest waters I ever step on), changed into winter gear and got ready to spend the night. The night sky was... aweinspiring, breathtaking... I had never seen sooo many stars before! :D However the cold didn't allowed me to stay outside much, the temperature dropped below cero that night… to -1c I heard someone say.
The next morning we had breakfast early and then we set to cover the remaining trail to the peak. This part was by far the most demanding one for me, whether it was because of the exertion of the previous day or because I never ever got to see where the trail was going most of the time. But eventually I made it! I reached the peak, climb alongside Duarte’s bust, made my victory calls (since is the only area with cellphone signal), took my pictures and headed back to camp… Uff!
The next day we headed back to “La Cienega” It was a lot more easier to go down the same way, (the gravity helps I guess :P)
Overall I enjoyed very much this adventure and would probably repeat it next year. Only that next time I would take more food and a much smaller bag to carry while in the trail.
Feel free to email me should you need additional information. Good Luck!

Visited January 2012
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English first
new york
2 reviews
18 helpful votes 18 helpful votes
“Dominican Republic is more than resorts”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 30, 2009

At Dawn on Pico Duarte

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
H.D. Thoreau

At 3,087 meters, Pico Duarte is the tallest mountain in the Antillean region of island nations. Dominicans would proudly point to that fact, which they learn early in their school years, while tourists learn it in their promotion packets. Dominicans climb Pico Duarte mostly during the months of January and February. The rest of the year, it is foreigners who predominate. The trek requires to cover a distance of 46.2 kilometers, four kilometers longer than a marathon. A more important difference, however, is that the distance to Pico Duarte can be done in stages and over several days. The traveler advances over winding and steep hills. The terrain alternates between stony and rocky, with some short stretches of muddy, reddish clay. The breathtaking views one is exposed to change as the traveler moves from sea level to ever higher ground. Tones of green and blue frame the ascending and descending movements of the visitors. The only blemishes on this paradisiacal landscape are the black spots that remind us of the thousands of trees burnt in a fire during the dry season of 2004.

Why did I go to Pico Duarte, not once but twice in a two-week period? Some reasons are clear to me, like my penchant for strenuous exercise; others I may not be aware of. Walden, for one, is never out of reach. And though I open it only from time to time, I still feel its continuing inspiration with the same force it hit me the first time I read it, twenty-five years ago. Also, I had wanted to walk this year El Camino de Santiago, in Spain, by my fiftieth birthday; but circumstances changed and I postponed it, perhaps until 2011. Instead, I found myself this summer with a great opportunity to do Pico Duarte. Why, I had time and a Dominican friend, Candido, willing to share the experience with me. Obviously, going to Pico Duarte just after coming out from a retreat at Manresa Altagracia, in Santo Domingo, must have seemed to me a logical follow-up. I burned with the desire to continue the spiritual experiences lived at Manresa.

Candido and I traveled to the Armando Bermudez National Park, where Pico Duarte is located, on his bike. Public transportation is available, but infrequent. People get to the park either on private vehicles or charted buses. Our departure point was El Abanico, where the road to Constanza stems from Autopista Duarte. We covered the 76 km distance to the park in two hours and ten minutes. Once the city of La Vega is past (after 20kms of flat road), the rest of the trip takes place on hilly terrain. Though paved and in good condition, the road is narrow, making it for a very slow ride when fast and light vehicles are lined up behind heavy and slow ones. The next big town after La Vega is Jarabacoa. From Jarabacoa and the entrance to the park, there is a distance of 38 kms. The last village before reaching La Ciénaga is called Manabao.

No One is allowed into the park without a guide. There are stories about people who got lost and even died when this requirement was not in place. Today visitors may choose from among 80 men who perform this function. During most of the year business is slow, so finding a guide is not a problem. If some of them are not hanging around the entrance, the park ranger or the owner of the store at the corner before the park entrance will send someone to fetch a guide for you. Guides are responsible for a series of tasks, including the safety of the visitors, protection of their personal property, and food preparation. Depending on the number and needs of the visitors, they may rent one or more mules; some mules carry provisions and bags, others carry visitors who prefer to ride rather than walk, or who can alternate walking with mounting. Victuals can be purchased at any of the colmados near the park entrance.

On average, visitors take between three and four days to complete the whole trip to Pico Duarte and back. It is recommended that people start before noon on day one, walk five kilometers up to the first resting station (Los Tablones), and sleep there until the next day. Departing early from Los Tablones will help ensure that visitors reach the second station (Compartición), located 13 kms away, before nightfall. Compartición consists of two sleeping cabins, one large and other small, with capacity to hold approximately 100 people. The facilities include showers, bathrooms, kitchen and a space to light a fire at night. This communal fire is a convener for social interaction that hardly anyone misses. The fundamental reason, naturally, is that in the evening temperatures drop noticeably, requiring that visitors wear a jacket or at least a sweater. Our second trip made even more evident the need and benefits of having a fire to sit by. We had started our walk under a clear and blue sky. Nothing indicated that the weather would be changing that day. However, when we were about five kilometers from reaching Compartición, the clouds began to gather fast, thunder broke the comforting silence, and a storm unleashed its shower of hale on us. The trail became a raging river against which we walked; the water almost reached our knees. Our fingers and toes were getting numb at the same time that we were getting soaked. The fear of lightning hitting us was heightened by how close we felt it and the awareness of being surrounded by a pine forest. In this situation the challenges were multiple. No other option existed but to continue towards Compartición. The other great challenge, besides the physical one, was confronting my fears. I had not only to acknowledge them, but also that I could do nothing about the condition I found myself in. Accepting this reality released me. “God,” I said, “I cannot do anything to change the weather and the high probability of being struck by lightning. Then, I accept whatever the outcome is for me at this moment.” The peace I experienced after this acceptance was a new feeling to me. I felt fear no longer. I was able to focus on doing the only thing that was possible, sensible, and in my power: to walk forward. Reaching my destination tired, cold and with minor bruises only, was nothing compared with the wondrous spiritual growth I felt I had gone through.

The first time I climbed Pico Duarte I missed the sunrise by half an hour. Therefore, the second time I was determined not to miss it again. I had calculated that walking at a fast pace, it would be necessary to break camp at 4:30 AM by the latest. It takes me about two hours to cover the last five kilometers to the final destination. We left the camp at ten to five, which already worried me about getting there on time. Moreover, unlike the first time, there was now no full moon to illuminate the path. On the contrary, this was a dark hour to walk on such a steep, rocky and narrow trail. Early on I hit my knee against a rock so badly that I thought it was going to slow me. I paid no attention to it until later when I was able to see the damage; that is once I had reached my goal and decided to sit and contemplate my bleeding knee.

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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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