La Altagracia Cathedral

A site where it’s said people have been miraculously healed and a destination for thousands of pilgrims, this striking basilica is one of the Dominican Republic's most sacred religious buildings.

With its distinctive arched spire towering over the bustling inland city of Higüey, Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia (La Altagracia Cathedral) is unmissable. Admire the unusual exterior and learn more about the history behind the site.

Although the building was only inaugurated in 1971, it has quickly established itself as a site of sacred significance, thanks to reported healing at the hands of the Virgin Mary. According to legend, the icon of her, known as Our Lady of Altagracia, was left there by one of the apostles.

Stand in awe of the parabolic arch that stretches into the sky like the eye of a needle. At around 262 feet (70 meters) high, it is unmistakable and impressive. Try to spot all of the church's 45 bronze bells and take as many photos of the remarkable exterior as you can before heading inside. Arrive in the afternoon to see the setting sun cast colored light through the large windows on the far wall. The curves and concrete continue indoors, arching over the pews that face the icon of Our Lady of Altagracia, enshrined in front of an orange tree.

Visit in August and witness the arrival of 800,000 pilgrims offering bulls to the Virgin. Hundreds of the beasts are gathered as alms for the journey. The 5-day pilgrimage begins on August 10 and the noisy and celebratory event signifies the huge importance of this basilica and icon.

Learn more in the enlightening Museo de la Altagracia, which shares grounds with the church. Religious devotees have donated jewelry and paintings to the museum that reflect the centuries-old devotion of the Dominican Republic's inhabitants.

Buses into Higüey stop outside Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, so it's easy to find. There is an admission fee to enter the cathedral, which is open to everyone of all faiths and none. It goes without saying that the pilgrimage in August is the busiest time, but its sacred status and unique design ensures a steady stream of visitors year-round.