Most head to this region to see the most pristine, undeveloped white sand beach in the Dominican Republic, tucked on the southwestern edge of the Pedernales Peninsula: Bahía de las Águilas. But there’s much more to the southern pearl of the DR.

Rarely a first or even second timer’s choice, this region actually offers the country’s most remote, undeveloped, and breathtaking landscape, with over 70 percent of its land protected by national parks. Facing the Caribbean Sea, this poorest area in the Dominican Republic is called the sur profundo, or deep south. It’s also the greenest, most biodiverse area of the country. It’s home to the DR’s first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, making up 5770 square kilometers, and stretching across the Barahona and Pedernales provinces. A surprising range of ecosystems coexist within this one region, where temperatures can reach below zero in the Sierra de Bahoruco and rise to sweltering heat in the dunes of Baní or the Jaragua Park. It’s a world of birding, fishing villages, riverfed swimming holes, interior lagoons teeming with crocodiles, coral reefs, mangrove-lined shores, coastal lagoons, pebble stoned beaches, pine trees in cool cloud forests, and dry, desert-like landscapes.

History isn’t thin in these parts, either—it fills the region with the mystery of thousands of petroglyphs inside El Pomier’s caves, the valiant aura of Taíno cacique Enriquillo (Guarocuya), who fought the Spanish for decades, the Afro-Dominican heritage of music and dance through Casandra Damirón, and in San Cristobal, the dismal memory of once dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.

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For more on this region, stay tuned to the Blog or grab Moon Dominican Republic (Moon Travel Guides, 2016 edition).