Fascinating history, rich culture, white sand beaches, classic cars, music, rum and more ....
Stunning scenery surrounded by beautiful warm waters, friendly locals, and the world’s best in cigars and rum are just some of the fantastic things awaiting you in Cuba. Travel restrictions have been lessened for Americans, so now is definitely the time to pay a visit to this colourful Carribean country, and that’s why we’ve compiled the top 10 reasons to visit Cuba.
10 reasons to visit Cuba:
- Vintage cars
- White sand beaches
- Rich history
Filling almost every bar, home, small shop, street corner or beach in Cuba is a constant background noise of Cuban music. This music seems to run through the veins of all Cubans and its catchy rhythms will fill you with unexplainable energy. Of course Cuba’s best known musical export is the Buena Vista Social Club, who still tour today in almost their original line up. Visiting (the appropriately named) Buena Vista Social Club while in Havana is a must in order to experience the birthplace of this influential band, while enjoying a traditional Cuban meal and watching the various tribute acts. One thing you can guarantee is that no matter what time of day it is, you will be grooving your way through Cuba to the eclectic mixes of Salsa, Rumba, Jazz and Soukous.
The words ‘Cuba’ and ‘rum’ are synonymous with each other, and for good reason. To have a rum cocktail served by the hand of a Cuban will be a completely different drink to any you’ve experienced outside of Cuba. Birthplace of the Daiquiri, Cuba Libre and the iconic Mojito, an expertly blended version is available on every corner. The taste is only elevated when you sip a Mojito in a tiny neighbourhood bar, wiling away the hours and listening to salsa music. So proud are Cubans of their rum heritage that they offer rum tours, incorporating the Havana Club Museum, the original Bacardi Rum Factory, and the Manaca Iznaga Estate. Of course, sampling some of the different oak-aged rums they have to offer can only make a Cuban holiday better.
3. Vintage Cars
The streets of Cuba are a sort of moving museum, full of old 1950s American style cars. This is due to an embargo put in place by Fidel Castro in the 1960s ending all imports from America, including all cars, which were entirely imported from the US until that point. From then Cubans had to get creative in order to keep their beautiful American classics running, and they still do! No cars or their parts are sent to junk yards in Cuba. Every person’s trash could be another’s treasure and parts are recycled in inventive ways – you could ride in a Ford powered by a Russian engine, or a Chevrolet could pass by with a Buick grill slapped on the front. Cubans take great pride in their vintage wheels, and you can often see them shining up their chrome before heading out, even the taxis are old American classics. Car buffs will rejoice at the classic eye candy cruising down all Cuban streets. Even if you’re not a car lover, but simply love to travel in style, then this is definitely a top reason to visit Cuba.
4. White Sand Beaches
No matter what kind of beach you are looking for Cuba has it, with over 300 stunning beaches to choose from across its northern Atlantic Ocean coast and its southern Caribbean coastline. Maria la Gorda is a hotspot for diving. Located on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, this beach is rich in biodiversity. The 39 diving spots in this area will take you through the largest colony of black coral and the most abundant sea life in Cuba. Diving too active for you? For leisurely beach strolls and lazy days relaxing in the sun try Guardalacava, Cuba’s prettiest resort area. Here, lush tropical jungle fringes long white sand beaches dotted with many little coves that are ideal for swimming. The jewel in this crown is Starfish Beach in Cayo Jutía. Aptly getting its name from the bright orange starfish sitting all along the ocean floor! At all Cuban beaches, you will be met with crystal clear turquoise water, soft white sand and breathtaking views, making Cuba the perfect spot for that relaxing beach vacation.
5. Rich History
For such a small nation, Cuba has a firm place in the annuals of world history. In 1492 Christopher Columbus claimed Cuba in the name of Spain, and since then this country has experienced one of the most politically and culturally interesting histories to date. The legendary figures of Cuban history are what this nation is most well known, from the alliance of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in 1955, to the revolutionary war in 1959. Their political position still makes the news to this day with the US embargo that has been in place since 1962 finally being lifted last year, as well as Barack Obama’s highly publicised visit to Cuba earlier this year. Cuban history is well documented throughout Cuba and the best places to experience this is in their excellent museums and historical sites, such as the Museum of the Revolution in Havana, Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara, and the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana.
After all that rum you’ll be thankful that the Cubans make great coffee! In the mid 1700s coffee first arrived in Cuba and very quickly became synonymous with Cuban culture. Coffee production became so integral to the country, that the first coffee plantations are now on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Drinking coffee often becomes a social event, something that has been lost in a lot of other cultures as coffee is consumed on the go and less time is spent to really appreciate the drink. Cubans enjoy a drop when they stop by to visit friends and family and the most popular way to serve coffee is Colado, which reflects the social aspect of their coffee drinking culture. Colado is a large espresso served in a big cup accompanied by several smaller cups to share amongst the group. The smell of freshly ground coffee wafts out of the cafes and down the streets in Cuba and will be impossible to resist.
Architecture in Cuba is celebrated for its diversity. The non-uniformity of the buildings only adds to the vibrancy of this country, and reflects each unique epoch in Cuba’s history. In the 16th century the Spanish designed their buildings to make the most of the climate, creating expansive shaded porches to relax out of the heat, large windows to let in the sea breeze, and coloured glass panes to diffuse the harsh sunlight. Throughout the 20th century Cuba experienced an economic boom, especially in Havana, and so buildings were commissioned reflecting this. Many international influences appeared such as Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Eclectic Design. Photo opportunities abound when you explore the architectural history of Cuba, from old and weathered family homes, to extravagantly decorated mansions.
What image epitomises Cuba more than one of a man with a Cigar in his hand or clenched firmly between his teeth? This is because the best cigars in the entire world come from Cuba, and tobacco is their biggest export. If you’re a smoker or not, the process of making these infamous cigars is extremely interesting, and makes for a great day out. Take a glimpse behind the scenes at Pinar del Rio, home to the country’s top tobacco plantation. Here you can take a tour of the working factory to see how each perfect cigar is produced, and sample their finest cigars in the Casa del Tobacco shop.
With waters that stay tropically warm all year round and temperatures between 20-35ºC, Cuba is definitely your classic Caribbean island. Visit in spring if you want to avoid the humidity and storms but still get the beautiful hot weather. Otherwise, the beginning of the year is a popular time, because the sun still shines constantly and the prices are lower. If you do get caught in the rain it doesn’t last long, usually only a few minutes, and cuts through the humidity leaving you feeling fresh. Cubans enjoy festivals all year round come rain or shine. Whenever you choose to travel to Cuba you are almost guaranteed perfect weather to enjoy hiking, explore the city or just laze on the beach.
To top off all the wonderful virtues of Cuba, the best of all are the Cubans. They are warm and welcoming and genuinely fascinated by others, often asking you to join them in conversation or music, or at their table to eat. Cuban’s are a truly happy and hospitable people. Cuba is a very culturally diverse country and therefore Cubans embrace people of all backgrounds. For all the hardships Cubans have faced they remain hardworking and friendly, making Cuba one of the most welcoming places in the world. If you come to Cuba for the beautiful beaches, infectious music or delicious rum cocktails, you are sure to leave with the fondest memories of the people!
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