26 interesting facts about the Dominican Republic

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The most interesting facts about the Dominican Republic, from cars that appear to roll uphill to fossils preserved in amber.

A beach in the Dominican Republic
Interesting facts about the Dominican Republic include its stunning natural scenery (Pixabay)

Fast facts

Official name: Dominican Republic
Population: 10,597,348
Area: 48,670 sq km
Capital city: Santo Domingo
Major languages: Spanish
Major religions: Roman Catholic 44.3%, Evangelical 13%, Protestant 7.9%
Time zone: UTC-4 (Atlantic Standard Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about the Dominican Republic

1. The Dominican Republic is an island nation in the West Indies of the Caribbean.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

2. The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola and borders Haiti which occupies the western third of the island.
– Source: Britannica

3. The Dominican Republic was first inhabited around 5000BC with farming villages established around 300BC. The Arawak people developed large communities with the Taino eventually becoming the dominant Arawak group.
– Source: Britannica

A beach in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is an island nation (Ben Kucinski, CC BY 2.0)

4. Christopher Columbus was the first European to explore the Dominican Republic in 1492. He landed and named the island La Isla Española (The Spanish Island), which later became Anglicized as Hispaniola.
– Source: Britannica

5. The Dominican Republic’s flag is quartered blue-red-blue-red with a central white cross containing the country’s coat of arms. The blue stands for liberty, the red for the blood of heroes and the white for salvation and Christianity.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

6. The coat of arms features a central shield with the national flag, a Bible, a cross, branches of laurel and palm, the name of the country, and the motto “Dios, patria, libertad” (“God, fatherland, liberty”).
– Source: Britannica

The flag of the Dominican Republic
The flag of the Dominican Republic (Pixabay)

7. The name of the country is derived from the capital city of Santo Domingo (Saint Dominic), which in turn was named after Saint Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221), founder of the Dominican Order.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

8. After being occupied by Haiti from 1822, Santo Domingo declared independence in 1844 and became the Dominican Republic.
– Source: BBC News

9. The Dominican Republic has one UNESCO site, the Colonial City of Santo Domingo. Founded in 1498, six years after Columbus arrived, Santo Domingo became the site of the first cathedral, hospital, customs house and university in the Americas. The town was set out in a grid pattern that became the model for most towns in the New World.
– Source: UNESCO

The Colonial City of Santo Domingo
The Colonial City of Santo Domingo (Максим Улитин, CC BY-SA 2.0)

10. The Dominican Republic’s flag is the only flag in the world to feature a Bible.
– Source: DK (2014) Complete Flags of the World: The Ultimate Pocket Guide. DK: London

11. Hispaniola is the second-largest island in the Caribbean (the Antilles) after Cuba.
– Source: Britannica

12. In 2020, a new species of boa was discovered in the Dominican Republic – the first of its kind for 133 years. The tiny snake, known as the Hispaniolan Vine Boa (Chilabothrus ampelophis), has “wide eyes, a unique zig-zagging scale pattern, and a square snout”.
– Source: Smithsonian

The boa snake against a black background
A new species of small boa was discovered in the Dominican Republic (Miguel A. Landestoy T)

13. Today, the Dominican Republic is a major tourist destination that, along with free-trade zones, has become the country’s principal employer and revenue source, replacing exports such as sugar and coffee.
– Source: BBC News

14. In 1965, the USA invaded the Dominican Republic in an attempt by US President Lyndon B Johnson to forestall a “communist dictatorship” during unrest in the country. The US was concerned the Dominican Republic could become “another Cuba” so 22,000 US troops were sent to install a conservative, non-military government.
– Source: History Channel

15. The oldest standing cathedral in the Western hemisphere is in the Dominican Republic. The first stone of the Catedral Primada de América was laid in 1514 by Diego Columbus, the son of Christopher Columbus. The ashes of both father and son apparently once resided in the chapel’s crypt.
– Source: Lonely Planet

The Catedral Primada de América under blue skies
The Catedral Primada de América (Mario Duran-Ortiz, CC BY-SA 2.0)

16. The Dominican Republic is widely referred to as “the DR”.
– Source: Lonely Planet

17. The Dominican Republic is a great place to spot humpback whales with Samaná considered one of the world’s top 10 whale-watching destinations. The North Atlantic humpback whales migrate through the surrounding waters from mid-January to mid-March.
– Source: Lonely Planet

18. Dominican amber is known for its clear composition and high concentration of fossil inclusions. The amber – which is mined on the island – forms from the sap of the Hymenaea tree and then traps an insect, spider or other creature. The resin hardens into a polymer preserving the animal within for millions of years.
– Source: The Atlantic

A closeup of fossilised mosquito in Dominican amber
A fossilised mosquito in Dominican amber (By Didier Desouens, CC BY-SA 4.0)

19. 25% of the Dominican Republic’s land is protected within 29 national parks.
– Source: The Telegraph

20. Cars can appear to roll uphill in Polo Magnético in the Dominican Republic. Polo Magnético is home to a “gravity hill,” an optical illusion caused by a slope’s shape and its relation to the surrounding landscape. A car put in neutral gear, with the brake disengaged, will appear to be “pulled” uphill.
– Source: Lonely Planet

21. One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Dominican Republic are the 27 Waterfalls of Rio Damajagua, a series of cascades featuring natural swimming pools and natural chutes to slide down as well as ladders for climbing.
– Source: Rough Guides, Lonely Planet

A bright bright green waterfall in the Dominican Republic
The Waterfalls of Rio Damajagua (kikeam71, CC BY-SA 3.0)

22. The Parque Nacional Cotubanamá is a series of over 400 caverns and caves in the Dominican Republic. The site is known for its petroglyphs (rock carvings) and wildlife which includes 112 species of birds, 250 types of insects and arachnids, and 120 species of fish, a well as over 500 species of flora, 55 of which are endemic.
– Source: UNESCO, Lonely Planet

23. The Dominican Republic is home to the highest mountain in the Caribbean. Duarte Peak (previously known as Mount Loma Tina and Trujillo Peak) rises 3,175m (10,417ft) above sea level.
– Source: Britannica

24. The Dominican Republic is considered to be a world-class birdwatching destination with at least 310 confirmed bird species and 32 endemic bird species on the island.
– Source: Lonely Planet

Flamingoes in the Dominican Republic
Flamingoes in the Dominican Republic (CC0 1.0)

25. The Dominican Republic’s Lago Enriquillo is the largest lake in the Caribbean. Oddly, the waters of Lago Enriquillo have risen 11.2m (37ft) over the last 10 years, engulfing at least 40,000 acres of land in the process.
– Source: National Geographic

26. Lake Enriquillo is also the region’s lowest point: in 2013 its surface was 34m (112ft) below sea level. Enriquillo is a hypersaline lake, meaning its waters are not fresh, but significantly salty.
– Source: National Geographic

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