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The Dominican Republic (Spanish: República Dominicana) is a nation on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,442 square kilometres (18,704 sq mi) and an estimated 10 million people.
Inhabited by Taínos since the seventh century, the territory of the Dominican Republic was reached by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, namely Santo Domingo, the country's capital and Spain's first capital in the New World. In Santo Domingo stand, among other firsts in the Americas, the first university, cathedral, and castle, the latter two in the Ciudad Colonial area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The climate of the Dominican Republic is mostly tropical. The annual average temperature is 25 °C (77 °F). At higher elevations, the temperature averages 18 °C (64.4 °F) while near sea level the average temperature is 28 °C (82.4 °F). Low temperatures of 0 °C (32 °F) are possible in the mountains while high temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) are possible in protected valleys. January and February are the coldest months of the year, while August is the hottest month. Some snowflakes can fall in rare occasions on the top of the Pico Duarte.
The wet season along the northern coast lasts from November through January. Elsewhere, the wet season stretches from May through November, with May being the wettest month. Average annual rainfall is 1,500 millimetres (59.1 in) countrywide, with individual locations in the Valle de Neiba seeing averages as low as 350 millimetres (13.8 in) while the Cordillera Oriental averages 2,740 millimetres (107.9 in). The driest portion of the country lies in the west. Tropical cyclones impact the country every couple of years, with 65 percent of the impacts along the southern coast. Hurricanes are most likely between August and October. The last time a category 5 hurricane struck the country was Hurricane David in 1979.