Official name: Dominican Republic.

Official name: Dominican Republic.

Location: The eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola island in the Caribbean (the remaining third is Haiti).

Language: Spanish is the official language, but in tourist areas some English and French are also spoken.

Population: Approximately 7 million.

Size: Three-quarters of the size of Cuba, the Dominican Republic has an area of 30,000 square miles and is the second largest country in the Caribbean.

National dish: Native cooking combines Spanish and African influences with local produce. Mangú (mashed plantain with onion) is a typical dish, along with goat stew - another local delicacy.

Best monument: Championed as the oldest city in the Americas following Bartholomew Columbus's decision to establish a settlement there in 1496, Santo Domingo is home to many historic sites of importance. Arguably, however, the imposing palace of the Casas Reales, now a museum, is the most impressive. Built in the early 16th century, it housed the governor's office, the royal court of justice, the treasury and the military administration.

Most famous citizen: Juan Luis Guerra, million selling bachata and merengue singer, hugely popular throughout Caribbean and Latin America.

Best moment in history: In 1844 independence was seized as the occupying Haitians were overthrown by underground opposition called La Trinitaria.

Worst moment in history: The dictatorship of General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo from 1930-1961 was a horrible period, during which "The Benefactor" killed and exiled thousands of opponents and ran the country like a family business.

Essential accessories: Bring your walking boots for hiking in the 'Dominican Alps', the highest mountains in the Caribbean, reaching 10,500ft and where, locals say, there are even frosts.

What not to do: Do not change your dollars for Dominican pesos in the street. The exchange rate may be touted as better but you will certainly be ripped off.