Geography

The Geography of the country is greatly diverse, ranging from arid semi-desert plains to verdant valleys of tropical rain forests. This endows the island with a wide variety of vegetation. Most of the tourists to the island come initially attracted by its magnificent golden sand beaches along its 870-mile coast line, but they are soon taken in by its impressive historical legacy. So, the island’s northern Atlantic side concentrates the majority of tourist attractions, hotels and resorts, particularly in the 40-mile zone between Puerto Plata and Cabarete. And Santo Domingo on the south features the very first monuments of the American continent: first cathedral, first hospital, first chapel, first university…. and many more. Many others, however, that the true charm and beauty of the Dominican Republic can be found in the very center of the country. Its three impressive main mountain ranges run roughly parallel to each other in an easterly/westerly direction. The Cordillera Central is the highest mountain range on the island, extending from the interior of Haiti all the way to San Cristobal in the south, close to the capital of Santo Domingo. It includes Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the Caribbean at a height of 3,175 meters (over 10,000 feet). During the winter season, thick snow can frequently cover its peak.

Cordillera Central

Cordillera Central

Further to the north, Cordillera Septentrional stretches along the Atlantic coast from Monte Cristi near the Haitian border to San Francisco de Macorís. This mountain range divides the Atlantic coast and the fertile Cibao valley which contains the gold mines that formerly brought Christopher Columbus and the Spaniards rushing back to the island after their initial “discovery” of America. Tourists in the north (Puerto Plata region) should not miss an exploratory day-trip into the magical valleys of Cordillera Septentrional, especially around Jarabacoa, a region called locally the “Dominican Alps.

The Cordillera Oriental, on the east, is the smallest of the three main mountain ranges. Two more mountain ranges are Neiba Sierra and Sierra de Bahoruco both in the southwest of the country. These ranges partially surround the unusual inland saltwater Lake Enriquillo, the lowest point in the Caribbean at 27 meters below sea level.

The Southeastern region of the island, including the area surrounding the capital city of Santo Domingo, is mostly covered with rolling plains. To the west, along the northern two-thirds of the border with Haiti, the land is quite arid, with typical thorn shrubs and some varieties of cacti, and sparsely populated.

Similar to other islands of the Caribean, there are no large wild animals, no poisonous snakes, spiders no insects whose bite or sting is life-threatening to humans. There are some spiders whose sting can be painful but these are rare.

Topography

The Dominican Republic is truly an island of contrasts where rocky cliffs and mountain ranges tower to the highest peak, and valleys fall to the lowest-lying point in the Caribbean. It is a land that spreads from rain forests and fertile valleys to cacti-strewn desert regions. Its 1,600 kilometers of coastline include 300 kilometers of prime, soft sand beaches. Four rugged mountain ranges bisect its terrain from northwest to southeast. Cordillera Central is the largest of these mountain ranges where Pico Duarte rises over 3,175 meters to the tallest point in the Caribbean. Three large fertile valleys rest between these ranges, one of which holds Lake Enriquillo in the southwest with the lowest point in the Caribbean falling 40 meters below sea level and boasting the only salt water lake in the world inhabited by crocodiles.

Lago Enriquillo

Lago Enriquillo

The topography of the land ranges from Lake Enriquillo, the lowest-lying landmark in the Caribbean (144 mts. [475 ft.] below sea level) to Pico Duarte, the highest mountain (3,175 mts. [10,500 ft.] altitude). The watershed area maintains numerous rivers and streams. The fertile central Cibao valley is the major agricultural region, however irrigation projects in the Southwest and Northwest have greatly added to the amount of land usable for agricultural purposes. The economy has traditionally been built on agriculture, sugar having been its main export crop, followed by coffee, tobacco and cacao. Over the past decade, other products such as citrus, green vegetables, pineapples and flowers have grown in importance.

Mining also represents an important economic activity. The Pueblo Viejo gold and silver mine in the Cibao valley is the world’s largest open-pit gold mine, and the Canadian company, Falconbrigde, mines nickel ore and operates a large melting plant. Bauxite deposits near the Haitian border have not be exploited for some years now. Concessions to explore for oil have been granted.

Climate

The Dominican Republic enjoys a year-round tropical maritime climate. Its location at 17°36′ – 19°58′ latitude places it on the very border of the tropical zone. Temperatures average 23°C in the early mornings to 32°C at noon time year round. Temperatures rarely falling below 16°C [60°F] nor rising above 32°C [90°F].The lowest temperatures occur in the mountain areas near Constanza, where temperatures have dropped to 0°C, while record highs in the summer have been registered at the border with Haiti, 39°C. May through November are regarded as the rainy season. Although the hurricane season goes from June through November, August-September are the peak of the season. David (August 1979) and Georges (September 1998) were the last major hurricanes to hit the island . All of these features have made the Dominican Republic a first-class tourist destination. Santo Domingo is accessible by air from New York (3 hours), Miami (less than 2 hours) and San Juan (45 minutes), as well as several major cities in Europe, Central and South America.

Population

The country has a population of close to 10,000,0000 (9,900,000). Some 3,500,000 reside in the urban area, or the greater Santo Domingo area. The balance is spread throughout urban and rural areas of the nation’s 26 provinces. Approximately 1,000,000 Dominicans live abroad in the United States. The second city is Santiago in the Cibao region (est. pop. 500,000), followed in importance by San Pedro de Macorís (est. pop. 200,000). Most of the population descend from the original Spanish settlers and their African slaves