Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic
Oh yes indeed, there are plenty of reasons to visit the Dominican Republic. Do you see yourself sipping delicious frosty cocktails on a white sand beach with palm trees swaying in the breeze? Maybe you dream of dancing the night away, sashaying to a sexy salsa, or perhaps your ideal vacation is clambering through tropical jungle to spot exotic wildlife or examine an ancient ruin. Dream no longer because they all exist as reasons to visit the Dominican Republic, along with plenty more.

1. Perfect Beaches

For many, one of the main reasons to visit the Dominican Republic is its perfect beaches. Whether you like it busy and backed by all-inclusive resorts or whether you prefer secluded cays where you can hide away and go snorkeling or diving, you’ll find it somewhere along the coastline. The beaches of the Dominican Republic are renowned for their fine sand, which is usually either white or golden, and the clear waters of the Caribbean. You’ll find plenty of opportunities for water sports too.

2. Sultry Latin Rhythms

When you pack for a trip to the Dominican Republic, be sure to find a space in your luggage for your dancing shoes. The balmy tropical weather and Latin heritage of the island combine into the perfect place to shake those hips. The rhythms of salsa and cumbia are infectious already, but what better place is there to learn the steps of the merengue than in its birthplace? There are several clubs and dance schools, especially in the capital, where you can take merengue classes and in July or August every year, the city also hosts a merengue festival.

3. Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo is the Dominican Republic’s bustling capital and a great reason to visit the Caribbean island nation. It was founded in 1496 by Bartolome Columbus, brother of the famous explorer Christopher. Fascinating museums, tranquil parks, historical architecture and the first street of European origin in the New World, clubs, cafes and casinos all combine to make this a city where it’s impossible to be bored and are just some of the very best things to do in the Dominican Republic. If you can’t be here for the merengue festival in the summer, try to visit in February, when it’s time for the colourful Carnival.

4. The Highest Point in the Carribean

The Dominican Republic is home to the Caribbean region’s highest point, the Pico Duarte. Located in the Cordillera Central, the country’s most magnificent mountain range, it’s a popular destination for hikers and climbers. The climb can take between two and four days, depending on which route you decide to take. When you reach the summit with its elevation of 3,098 m, you’ll be blessed with fantastic views over the island, not to mention a real sense of achievement.

5. The Lowest Point in the Caribbean

Another of the great reasons to visit the Dominican Republic is Lago Enriquillo, the largest lake in the Caribbean. At 45 m below sea level, it’s also the lowest point in the region. The lake lies in a rather barren landscape and because of its low elevation and the fact that it doesn’t have an outlet, its waters are saline. Take a boat trip on the crocodile-infested waters to Isla Cabritos, an island in the middle of the lake where you’ll find ancient Taíno rock art, and don’t forget to take your camera because you’ll definitely want to photograph the flocks of pink flamingos against the greenish blue backdrop of the water.

6. Eco-Adventures

The Dominican Republic is a popular destination for eco- and adventure tourists. The great biodiversity makes for fantastic wildlife viewing and you can explore the island on horseback, Jeep tours, mountain bike or on foot. If you need some extra adrenaline pumping through your veins, try whitewater rafting on one of the wild rivers or swoop among the treetops on a zipline adventure.

7. Caribbean Food

If you love Caribbean food with a Latin flavour, you have another of the reasons to travel to the Dominican Republic. Rice and beans, meat, fish, plantains and a variety of tropical fruits are some of the typical fare you can enjoy here. The country also puts its own twist on dishes that were brought over by the many immigrants that have come to the island throughout the centuries, from Spanish paella to West African fufu, known here as mangú. Kipes are derived from the Middle Eastern kibbeh and yanikeke is Dominican-style Jonnycakes. Wash it all down with fruit juice or one of the world-famous Dominican rums.

8. Ball Games

The Dominican Republic is the place to come to if you like ball games. It’s a premier destination for golfers with some spectacular courses where you can tee off. If you’d rather watch a ball game than play one, be sure to catch a baseball game on the island. Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the country and several legendary players have been of Dominican origin.

9. A Spectacular Cable Car Ride

If you love cable cars, head to Puerto Plata on the country’s north coast, where you’ll find the only one in the Caribbean region. It takes you up Pico Isabel de Torres and offers stunning views along the way. Once you’re at the top, take in the panorama of the city and the ocean but don’t forget to turn around and look up too, or you’ll miss the replica of Rio de Janeiro’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue.
Are you convinced by the reasons to visit the Dominican Republic? Putting it on your travel wishlist?

10. The People

No matter how amazing and beautiful a country is, if the people are impolite and unfriendly, you will likely be left with a negative overall impression of your travels.  The people of the Dominican Republic are some of the warmest and most genuine people I have ever met.  They are full of exuberance and love.  They welcome visitors with such kindness and will have you feeling like family before you leave.

11. The Hotels and Resorts

Some may snub their noses at the Dominican Republic because of the overwhelming amount of ‘all-inclusive’ resorts.  However, not every ‘all-inclusive’ resort is created equal.  While some are extremely large and cater to the college crowd, there are also plenty of tiny, boutique-style resorts as well.  No matter what your style is (college party, kid-friendly, or private and secluded), you can find it here.  The added benefit of an ‘all-inclusive’ is that you can sit back and relax and not have to worry about all of the extra costs associated with standard hotels.  However, if you prefer the basic hotel set-up, there are plenty of those as well.
Highlights
- Beautiful beaches with crystal clear water
- Mountain regions with the opportunity to mountain bike, and river rafting
- National parks with stunning wildlife

Geography
The Dominican Republic is a coutry in the west Indies that ccupies the eastern two thirds of the Hispaniola island. It has an area of of 48,442 km² including offshore islands. The land border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, that occupies the western one-third of the island, is 388 km long. The maximum length, east to west, is 390 km from Punta de Agua to Las Lajas, on the border with Haiti. The maximum width, north to south, is 265 km from Cape Isabela to Cape Beata. The capital, Santo Domingo, is located on the south coast. The Dominican Republic's shores are washed by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south. The Mona Passage, a channel about 130 km wide, separates the country (and the Hispaniola) from Puerto Rico.

Language
Spanish is the official language of the country and which street signs and restaurant menus are written in. Even though the people linked to the tourist trade generally speak English, knowing some Spanish is a great advantage.

Money
Dominican Republic Peso (DOP; symbol RD$) = 100 centavos. Notes are in denominations of RD$2,000, 1,000, 500, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of RD$1 and 5 and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 centavos. All the coins are legal tender but only the RD$1 and 5 are actually used due to the impracticality of the smaller denominations.


Climate
The country is a tropical, maritime nation. Conditions are ameliorated in many areas by elevation and by the northeast trade winds, which blow steadily from the Atlantic all year long. The annual mean temperature is 25 °C; regional mean temperatures range from 18 °C in the heart of the Cordillera Central (Constanza) to as high as 27 °C in arid regions. Temperatures rarely rise above 32 °C, and freezing temperatures only occur in winter in the highest mountains. The average temperature in Santo Domingo in January is 24 °C and 27 °C in July.
The rain season for the northern coast is from November to January. For the rest of the country, the rain season is from May to November. The average annual rainfall is 1,346 mm, with extremes of 2,500 mm or more in the mountainous northeast (the windward side of the island) and 500 mm in the southwestern valleys. The western valleys, along the Haitian border, remain relatively dry, with less than 760 mm of annual precipitation. The northwestern and southeastern extremes of the country are also arid. The Dominican Republic is occasionally damaged by tropical storms and hurricanes, which originate in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern Caribbean from June until November (mainly from August to October) each year.

Gastronomy
Breakfast typically calls for a serving of "Mangu," a mix of plantains, cheese and bacon, which can be found at most hotel and resort restaurants. Mangu has been dubbed the "mashed potatoes" of the Dominican Republic and is a must-try for all visitors. Locals are also known to prepare the dish for evening meals.

A foundation of the native diet, "La Bandera Dominicana," or the Dominican flag meal, is eaten by nearly everyone at lunch time. The most important meal of the day, La Bandera consists of rice, beans, meat, vegetables and fried plantains to ensure energy throughout the afternoon and evening.

Another popular dish is "Sancocho," a Spanish-style stew usually served with rice. Ingredients include various roots, green plantains, avocado and typically chicken or beef, although it sometimes includes a combination of seven meats (Sancocho prieto). Goat meat, a staple in many Dominican homes, may also be used in this recipe. It offers a unique addition to the character of any dish as these animals graze on wild oregano.

"Locrio," or Dominican rice, varies with its preparer. An adaptation of the Spanish paella, locrio is made with achiote (a colored dye produced from the seeds of the achiote plant), since saffron spice is unavailable.

Near Samana, coconut trees decorate the landscape and provide a delectable milk sauce for fish, known as "Pescado con Coco." Throughout the south central coast, "bulgur", or whole wheat, is a main ingredient in "Quipes" (ground beef wrapped in wheat) or "Tipili" (bulgur salad).

Other favorite Dominican dishes include:
• "chicharrones de pollo" (diced chunks of deep fried chicken)
• "yucca cassava" (type of bread)
• "monfogo" (plantain based dish)
• "ropo vieja" (seasoned and fried shredded beef served with rice and a side salad)
• "pastelitos" (meat-or -cheese filled pastry turnovers).

History
Columbus discovered the island of Hispaniola (which he called La Espaniola) in 1492 and established it as his main base for the further exploration of the region. In 1697, the western part of the island came under French control, with the east remaining under Spanish control. In 1795, the city of Santo Domingo – the oldest city in the Americas, founded by Columbus’ brother, in 1496 – was ceded to the French, followed by the rest of the island of Hispaniola later the same year. The battle of Palohincado, in 1808, in which Dominican General Ramirez inflicted an important defeat on the French, heralded the collapse of French rule in the eastern part of the island. The colony reverted to Spanish sovereignty in 1809, and in 1821, the colonial treasurer, José Nunez de Caceres, proclaimed Santo Domingo’s independence. This independence was short-lived – in 1822, the Haitians invaded the colony and occupied it for 22 years, until, on 27 February 1844, the territory of Santo Domingo recovered its sovereignty and declared independence once again, this time permanently, as the Dominican Republic.
After many years of civil war, dictatorship and US occupation, the Republic was ruled by the dictatorship of General Rafael Trujillo (1930-61), whose assassination led to a period of civil unrest. Under the control of President Joaquin Balaguer, leader of the Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC), who served three terms from 1966, the country was reasonably stable. Guzman Fernandez of the main opposition party, the center-left Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), won the elections in 1978. However, after a further defeat in 1982, Balaguer was re-elected four times consecutively between 1986 and 1995: in total, he served seven terms of office as President.
In November 1995, amid a cycle of protests and strikes caused by a serious energy crisis, steep inflation and deterioration of public services, Balaguer was forced to stand down. In June 1996 Leonel Fernandez took the Presidency. In May 2000, despite failing health, Balaguer took one more shot at the Presidency, but this ended in defeat at the hands of PRD candidate Hipolito Mejia. Two months later, Balaguer, who dominated the politics of the Dominican Republic for half a century, died aged 95. In the most recent elections, in 2004, Leonel Fernandez became president again after promising to reduce inflation, stabilize the exchange rate and restore investor confidence.



Religion
The many kinds of religion in the Dominican Republic have been growing and changing. Historically, Catholicism has dominated the religious practices of the small country. In modern times Protestant and non-Christian groups, like Jews and Muslims, have experienced a population boom.

Culture
The Dominican people and their customs have origins in a unique mix of African, Taino and European roots. The Dominican Republic was the first Spanish colony in the New World. The newly-arrived Europeans killed many of the native Taino people through enslavement and the introduction of diseases previously unknown to the native inhabitants, although many Tainos fled into the mountains where along with African escapees they formed Maroon colonies. The colonizers imported African slaves to replace the natives. After the Haitian liberation of the entire island, slavery was abolished and free blacks (and those of mixed race) could be found all over the islands. However, there are vast differences in class and education that separate different groups. The wealthy privileged status elite are mostly of European descent, while the majority of the poor are of mixed race and of African descent. The metropolitan culture available to the upper class and vanishing (due to economic turbulence as of late) middle class is often comparable to the life of city dwellers in the rich countries of Western Europe and the United States. But this metropolitan culture doesn't reach the poorest people, who may not have the most basic amenities, necessities, running water, electricity, sanitary facilities nor consumer electronics.

Music
The music style of merengue is unique to the Dominican Republic. The earliest form of merengue, perico ripiao, originated in the countryside as three-person re-interpretations of suggestive folk songs. Bachata is also a Dominican invention, one that has become increasingly popular worldwide. Reggaeton, a style of music originating in Panamá and Puerto Rico, defines the party lifestyle of the country and is popular with the youth, although the music is disliked by most of the older generations. Salsa music, though not of Dominican origin, is also a part of the popular music scene of the country. As people emigrated to the Dominican Republic, so did several instruments. Indians native to the island made güiros, hollowed out gourds with notches, which players grated with a fork. The güira evolved similarly, a metal cylinder with holes, scraped to make a percussive beat. Just as important is the tambora, a two-sided drum. Traditionally, one side of the drum was made of a male goat's skin soaked in rum, while the skin on other side came from a female goat who had never borne offspring.

Wildlife
The lush vegetation and the interesting wildlife of the Dominican Republic will provide the perfect background for everything that you wish to do on the island. Activities that take you to the off-beaten paths or the deep jungles of the island will give you the exciting opportunity to see the tropical plants and wildlife of the Dominican Republic in their natural habitat.
The Dominican Republic has sixteen national parks which take up about 10% of the island’s entire area. These national parks are put up mainly to help in the preservation of the island’s countryside and in the protection of the wildlife of the Dominican Republic. Almost all of the national parks and other protected areas have tourist facilities and most often conduct guided tours. These places are the top choices for seeing tropical plants, trees, and the wildlife of the Dominican Republic up close.
The island has its share of species of amphibians and reptiles, though not abundantly. The wildlife of the Dominican Republic consists of a variety of lizards species like the endangered “rhinoceros iguana”, four main types of turtles including the world’s largest - the “leatherback”, and the famous American crocodile. Land mammals are not particularly abundant in Dominican Republic as with the rest of the islands in the Caribbean. There are rat-like species on the island called “solenodon” and “hutia” which feeds on insects and worms and are mostly found in caves and tree trunks. Chancing upon them is highly unlikely as these are nocturnal creatures.

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