The Dominican Republic has a rich history going back to long before Spanish colonization. Prior to 1492, the indigenous inhabitants, the Taino divided the island into five chiefdoms and territories. The Dominican Republic was explored by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. Columbus knew he was on to something good when he spotted a beautiful coral-rimmed island. He named it Las Espanola, and his son, Diego, was its first viceroy. The capital, Santo Domingo, founded in 1496, is the oldest European settlement in the Western hemisphere.
A legacy of unsettled, non-representative rule followed with the Dominican being ruled by the French, Spanish and United States. Since 1978, regular competitive elections have been held every four years, in which opposition candidates have won the presidency. U.S. raised President Leonel Fernandez has won three terms of office. On August 16, 2012, Daniel Medina won the presidential election with Fernandez's wife, Margarita Cedeno serving as Vice President.
The Dominican Republic has an area of 48,442 square kilometers with some of the most beautiful and diverse topography in the Caribbean. To put its size in perspective, the Dominican Republic is larger than the Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands all combined. The Dominican Republic offers an estimated 1,000 miles of gorgeous beaches, year round tropical weather, and a collection of four mountain ranges for the non beach lover. Pico Duarte is the tallest mountain peak in the Caribbean at 10,700 feet above sea level. Snow has been reported at its highest levels.
The country's capital, Santo Domingo attracts with its Old World charm, low cost of living, and an urban lifestyle that includes some of the top cultural venues. Santo Domingo offers the best of the old and the new. The oldest cathedral (Cathedral Basilica Santa Mario la Menor) and the first paved street in the New World (Calle de Las Damas) are found in Santo Domingo, along with the oldest monastery, hospital, oldest surviving fortress, and first two story European style residence. Recognizing Santo Domingo's importance, UNESCO has declared the colonial city a World Heritage Site. For new and upscale Santo Domingo, major avenues Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill are lined with high end boutiques, shopping plazas, expensive cafes and restaurants offering a large variety of international cuisines and just about anything money can buy, from cigar shops to Bentley dealerships. The new Acropolis Centre, Blue Mall, Bella Vista Mall, Diamond Mall provide ultra modern shopping where you will find everything this modern city has to offer.
The Dominican Republic offers a bohemian charm, a wonderful lifestyle, and warm, safe, colorful culture with activities for all, outside of the all inclusive hotels that are located throughout the island. It is a must visit for any traveler.