1. Did you know that the island of Hispaniola was the first permanent European settlement in the Americas?
In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on the island during his first voyage across the Atlantic in search of a new route to India for the trade of spices. Aboard his flagship, the Santa Maria, Columbus reached the north coast of the island.
2. Santo Domingo, the oldest city in the Americas.
The city capital of the Dominican Republic is the oldest European settlement in the Americas. Founded by Bartholomew Columbus in 1496, Santo Domingo hosted the first colonial rule of the Spanish Crown in the New World. A city of firsts, it hosts the first Cathedral, the first municipal building and the first university in the New World.
3. The Dominican flag has three colors: red, white and blue.
Along with the national anthem and the coat of arms, the flag is one of Dominican Republic’s national symbols. Each of the colors of the flag has a meaning. The white of the cross in the center represents salvation, the red rectangles represent the blood of the heroes who fought for the independence, and the blue rectangles stand for liberty.
Founding father Juan Pablo Duarte designed the flag. It’s the only in the world to have the image of the holy bible in it. The bible is open to the Gospel of John chapter 8, verse 32, which reads: “And the truth shall make you free”.
4. Defy gravity in Barahona!
In the southwestern part of the Dominican Republic, there is a town called Polo. There you can go challenge gravity at the Magnetic Pole (El Polo Magnético). If you stop your car in neutral gear downhill, your car will roll up! As cool as it sounds, this is what’s called a gravity hill. This is caused by an optical illusion that has to do with the shape of the road and the landscape. Still, pretty cool to experience in person!
5. Unique, precious stones.
The Dominican Republic has two unique endemic stones that can’t be found anywhere else in the world: Dominican Amber and Larimar. The first one was created millions of years ago due to the warm climate in the DR and the extinct prehistoric leguminous tree, Hymenaea Protera. It is considered the finest amber available worldwide because of the high concentration of fossils included and it’s clear composition. The second one, Larimar, it’s a rare blue variety of the silicate mineral pectolite, with a color that changes from light blue, to green blue to deep blue.
6. Have fun down the water falls!
If you’ve never heard of the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua you’ve been missing out! This is a great adventure spot for families with kids over the age of 12 who enjoy nature, rivers and jumping down waterfalls. You hike all the way up and then come down through a series of caves and water slides for a super fun ride.
7. Winter home of massive, beautiful creatures.
Every year, the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic, the Bay of Samaná, welcomes between 2,000 and 3,000 of giant humpback whales. They migrate from the north Atlantic to the warm Dominican waters for calving and breeding as their newborns don’t have enough fat to survive the cold winter waters up north. They stay until March before returning to their summer feeding grounds between North America, Greenland, and Iceland. Technically, the humpbacks are native Dominicans living abroad for the summer, how cool is that?!
8. The highest peak in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte.
As if it wasn’t cool enough that the Dominican Republic has the lowest elevation in the Caribbean, it is also home of the highest elevation in the region. With 3,087 meters altitude, Pico Duarte welcomes over 3,000 climbers who make the ascend to experience its incredible beauty.
9. A very salty lake, Lago Enriquillo.
The lowest elevation in the Caribbean, Lake Enriquillo, it’s an hypersaline lake that covers 375 square kilometers. A very diverse and interesting wildlife inhabits the lake and surrounding areas, among them, beautiful pink flamingos! It is also home to the largest population of American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) living free in their natural habitat in the Caribbean,. There are more than 400 species in its waters.
10. Palmchat, the national bird of the country it’s totally unique!
Known in Spanish as “cigua palmera,” it takes its name after the palm trees. This is where she creates her nests to live and harvest its fruit to feed on it. Palmchat is an endemic species of the island of Hispaniola. It is the only member of the family Dulidae, what makes it one of its kind.
They are community-driven. They build their elaborate nests together with a bushel pile of sticks that form an apartment. Each pair of birds (up to 50 pairs) has its own portal to the exterior as well as internal passages. The sticks used in the nests come from wood, coffee, and orange trees.
Like Dominicans, Palmchats are known to be joyful, noisy, social and love singing. Who knows, maybe they are singing to the tunes of merengue music, our national rhythm!