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Dominican Republic

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Continent:America National flag
National flag: Dominican Republic
Capital city:Santo Domingo
Area:48,734 km2 ( 127. )
Population:8,950,034 Person ( 84. )
People density:184 Person / km2
GDP per capita:1,225 $ / Person ( 96. )
GDP:10,963,791,650 $
Official language:spanish

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Occupying the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic (or the DR, as it’s often known) is the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean, somewhat of a surprise given its relative poverty and previous instability, not to mention the allure of nearby islands that perhaps are more wholly given over to holiday-makers. What traditionally attracts most visitors are the parts of the country that do most resemble the image of a Caribbean playland, the crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches lined with palm trees, of which the DR has plenty. This vision of leisurely days spent by the sea and romantic nights filled with merengue and dark rum is supported by what turns out to be the largest all-inclusive resort industry in the world; if you’re looking to pay a set rate for airfare, hotel, food and drinks - and have a carefree Caribbean vacation behind the protection of a fenced-off compound - you can’t do much better than here.

Unfortunately, such a "perfect" vacation would mean missing out on much of what makes the Dominican Republic so special. Set on the most geographically diverse Caribbean island, it boasts virgin alpine wilderness, tropical rainforests and mangrove swamps, cultivated savannas, vast desert expanses and everything in between within its relatively small confines - slightly smaller than the US states of New Hampshire and Vermont combined. The opportunities for ecotourism and adventure travelling are staggering: if you were so inclined, in a single week you could scale a 150-metre waterfall on a rope, mountain bike across remote dirt tracks, ride the best windsurfing waves in the hemisphere, trek to the top of a 3000-metre mountain, and head out in a fishing boat to see dozens of humpback whales crashing about in a scenic bay.

The Dominican Republic also lays claim to some of the more intriguing culture and history in the area, dating back to its early cave-dwelling groups, the Tainos, who recorded much of their activities in the form of rock art - it’s quite likely you’ll find yourself clambering down a dark cave to view some of these preserved paintings during your stay. In addition, as Dominicans are often quick to point out, their land was the setting for Christopher Columbus’s first colony, La Isabela, and Spain’s first New World city, Santo Domingo, at the end of the fifteenth century. Though the island quickly lost this foothold, the events that took place during its brief heyday did much to define the Americas as we know them, and examples of period architecture - both preserved and in ruins - remain scattered across the country, most notably in the colonial heart of Santo Domingo, today the nation’s capital and centre of industry.

During the intervening centuries the Dominican people have endured much hardship - interminable civil strife in the nineteenth century, an oppressive dictatorship in the twentieth, intermittent occupation by Haiti, Spain and the United States, and a boom-and-bust economy centred first on tobacco, later on sugar, that never allowed the country to stand on firm economic footing. Even today, the DR remains a nation in transition. Despite owning the highest growth rate of any country in the hemisphere, in part due to the all-inclusive tourist industry, eighty percent of its people live in poverty. Santo Domingo has grown into a heaving metropolis, five times larger than the next biggest city, and much of the rest of the country is made up of rural tobacco towns or tiny fishing villages often held at the mercy of tropical rainstorms, hurricanes and frequent power outages.

The Dominican people have dealt with these tough circumstances in ever- resourceful ways: extended families maintain close ties and pool their assets, most village homes are built one brick at a time (sometimes taking two generations to complete), and informal shoestring transportation systems connect nearly every city and village in the country. Another coping mechanism has been the extreme pride that residents take in the diverting rhythms of merengue and bachata - the national musical forms - and in the exploits of homegrown baseball players made good in the North American big leagues. And even if the Latin American "maana" culture stereotype sometimes holds true, with service that can be less than prompt, any frustrations are more than compensated for by the island’s beauty and its surprisingly cheap price: along with its less politically stable neighbour, Haiti, the Dominican Republic is the last true budget destination left in the Caribbean.

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Map of country Dominican Republic

Map of country  Dominican Republic

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