The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 18,705 square miles and nearly 10 million people, one million of which live in the capital city, Santo Domingo.Paradise for tourists
From the Lake Enriquillo (the lowest point in the Caribbean at 44 m below sea level) to Pico Duarte, (the highest point in the Caribbean at 3098m), the Dominican Republic is a paradise for tourists. It is home to beautiful lakes, tropical forests, waterfalls, caves and mangroves, as well as whales which pass through the Samana region from January to March. Relax on the beautiful Caribbean beaches or explore the country on one of the many wonderful excursions - including the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, the amazing medieval village of Alto de Chavon reconstituted, or the paradise islands of Saona and Catalina. You can even swim with dolphins in Ocean World Adventure Park in Cofresi, 10 km from Puerto Plata.Sense of authenticity
Contrary to popular belief, the Dominican Republic isn't completely taken over by all-inclusive resorts, which are actually confined to a very small fraction of the country on the east coast in Punta Cana. The rest of the country has a strong authentic feeling - those who travel to the Dominican Republic will not be disappointed. The island has an abundance of cocoa, coffee, sugar cane, rice, palm, coconut and fruit tree plantations, birds, nature reserves and of course, it is all surrounded by clear turquoise waters and white sand.Where to go?
The country is divided into several key areas - the first is the west, where Barahona and its surroundings are far away from tourists. The northeast, Monte Cristi, is the driest part of the country and is ideal for travellers looking for tranquil beaches - this area is the least touristy of the country. The most popular part of the country for those seeking sun and cheap beer is Punta Cana in the east. The centre of the country is home to the beautiful green Cibao mountain range, which includes Pico Duarte. For a truly spectacular beach experience, head to the Samana Peninsula in the northeast. The town of Samana is the main port of call for major excursions including the Limon waterfall, whale watching and Los Haitises National Park.The capital
Santo Domingo, the capital, lies to the south of the country and it is worth spending a day or two to meander the dilapidated yet charming streets of the Zona Colonial on the east bank of the Ozama River. The Natural History Museum is also worth visiting to get a grasp of the country's history as well as its contemporary culture. In 1492, the Spanish, led by Christopher Columbus, first arrived in the country, which marked a clear change - the capital on the other hand was founded in 1496 by Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher's younger brother.An abundance of activities
The north coast is home to sublime exotic beaches and charming villages. There are an abundance of activities available - watch humpback whales, explore the Los Haitises park, swim in the waterfall El Limon, horseback riding, kitesurfing, and windsurfing. Near Puerto Plata, the seaside resort of Playa Dorada is perfect for tourists: big hotels, a golf course, casinos, nightclubs and a big shopping centre.
Surface area : 48442.0 km2
Population : 10088598 inhabitants
The island is the world's leading cigar exporter and has a national cigar institute. The innumerable varieties of hand-made cigars are very tempting. Dominican rum, of which 90 % is consumed in the country both by locals and tourists, is delicious and quite affordable.
Buy local Bachata and Merengue music.
As for jewels, amber, larimar and black coral are the local stones.
Whatever you are purchasing, haggle, as it is the local custom. Shops are open from 9:00am to 5:00pm on week days and on Saturdays. In Santo Domingo, La Serena, a popular department store, offers all sorts of items at unbeatable prices.
Dominican cuisine is a blend of Creole, Spanish and French influences. Try local delicacies such as fish, fried plantain, habichuelas (beans) and white rice. In Santo Domingo, typical dishes include empanadas and goat meat.
Breakfasts traditionally consists of scrambled eggs with ham mixed in, mashed plantains mixed with oil and fried onion, deep-fried cheese, orange juice, and a strong cup of coffee.Popular main courses include mondongo, a tripe stew, mofongo, a tasty blend of plantains, pork rinds and garlic; and bistec encebollado, grilled steak topped with onions and peppers.
Chivo, roasted goat, is usually eaten at special occasions with cassava, crispy flat bread made with ground yucca roots, or sancocho, a tasty stew made with five different kinds of meat, and an array of vegetables and spices.
For dessert, try the dulces con coco, made with black treacle and coconut shavings. You will find a wide variety of cakes, custards, and flans on offer, including a distinctive corn custard, flan de maiz. For a healthier option, try the delicious tropical fruit - bananas, papaya and pineapple are the most popular, but you won't regret trying the local limoncillos, delicious lime-like fruit sold in bunches and chinola, Dominican passion fruit. The mangoes and strawberries are also divine.
The Dominican Republic celebrates Día de los Reyes (Day of the Kings) on January 6 - the day when the three wise men came to bring gifts to baby Jesus. Nuestra Senora de la Alto Gracia (Our Lady of High Gratitude) is a religious holiday on January 21, where people pray to Mary and ask for favours. They also hold a carnival every year to celebrate the different colours and ethnic groups within the country.
Cock fighting is a traditional sport in the Dominican Republic. Many villages have wooden areas built for this purpose. Baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic today. After the United States, the Dominican Republic has the second-highest number of baseball players in Major League Baseball (MLB). Dominican Republic is also the largest producer and exporter of cigars in the world!
It is advised to bring mosquito repellent as cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in the Dominican Republic. ?Jejenes' are flies that bite during the night here, so male sure to bring some lemon grass oil as it helps calm the bites. Do not be deceived by the breeze and clouds, the tropical UV rays of the sun get through them very easily so make sure that you top up on your sun cream regularly. A hat and sunglasses for children especially are essential.
The hurricane season in the Dominican Republic runs from June to November. Before travelling, you should monitor weather updates and track the progress of approaching storms.
The currency of the Dominican Republic is the Dominican peso. Only exchange money at banks or official exchange offices (casas de cambio). UK credit cards and debit cards will usually work in ATMs. Take care when withdrawing cash at an ATM as credit card cloning and identity theft are common.
As of May 1, 2012 citizens of all nationalities are required to enter Dominican Republic with a valid passport. All visitors need a tourist card which you can get from the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in London, or on arrival at the airport. Tourist cards are initially valid for 30 days but can be extended by paying for an extension when you leave the country.
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.
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