If its fiestas and dancing you’re after, Cuba will be your dream destination. The Cuban tradition lies deep in music and an infectious love of life, and you will undoubtedly find Cubans to be extremely warm and welcoming. With its mix of world famous cigars, classic cars and cocktails, this is a vibrant country, full of energy and colour. Wherever you go, you can guarantee you will be swept up into its exciting atmosphere and culture. Over two million tourists visit the island each year, with their concentration focused mainly on resort holidays based in Varadero, Cayo Coco and Havana.
Things to see and do in Cuba:
Attractions: With its stunning colonial buildings, vibrant music scene and classic American cars (albeit mostly in disrepair) dotted around the streets, Cuba’s unique and energetic capital city of Havana is one of the country’s major attractions. Old Havana is the place where most tourists flock to with its cobbled streets, pretty buildings and impressive churches. Wander along the Malécon, a large boulevard which stretches along the seawall or visit Castillo del Morro, a stunning fortress located at the entrance of Havana Bay. Old Havana has plenty of pretty plazas and Plaza Vieja (the Old Square) is no exception. It is the perfect place to soak up the Cuban atmosphere and sit and watch the world go by. There are also a plethora of museums in the city including a Rum museum, Automobile museum and Ernest Hemingway museum. You can also take a tour of a cigar factory. Another must-see Cuban city, is Trinidad. A UNESCO listed city, it is a wonderfully preserved authentic Spanish colonial city with beautiful 18th and 19th century architecture. Visit the Plaza Mayor in the evening for a real sense of Cuban flavour where the square erupts into a fabulous mix of live music, dancing and vibrancy. Beaches are of course some of the country’s major attractions some of the best stretches of stunning sand and heavenly waters located at Varadero, Guardalavaca, The Cayos and Casasa.
Events/festivals: The Cubans certainly know how to party and if you can coincide your trip with a fiesta you will definitely get a real taste of what Cuba is all about. The biggest (and arguably) best of all the celebrations is the Santiago de Cuba Carnival held each year at the end of July which attracts visitors from all over the world (so book your hotel early if you wish to stay in Cuba during this period!) This week-long extravaganza is filled with dance, music and elaborate, flashy costumes setting the whole city alive with colour. The carnival is a religious event, which celebrates the saint day of Santiago on the 25th July. Havana’s carnival which takes place in late July/early August is also an elaborate affair with a lively atmosphere and parades along the Malécon promenade. There are also various fiestas throughout July and August taking place all over the island including the Pinar del Rio Carnival in July. At Easter, the city of Trinidad celebrates the ‘Way of the Cross’ where Catholics come together to parade through the cobbled streets of the city.
Sports: Baseball is Cuba’s national game and if you’re visiting during the Baseball season (between November to March) it is well worth trying to catch a game or two. Visitors to the island tend to take advantage of the fabulous opportunities for water-based sports and there are some great dive sites around the island including the magnificent Cabo Francés on the western coast of the Isla de la Juventud and María la Gorda in the Pinar del Río province just west of Havana. There are also fabulous opportunities for fishing and sailing and bird watchers will delight in the island’s many incredible bird watching locations where you may be lucky enough to spot the world’s smallest bird (the bee hummingbird).
Nightlife: If you like nightlife, Cuba is the place for you. Music is at the heart of Cuban life and wherever you are on the island, you’ll never be far from a café, club or bar with live music, rum cocktails and that distinctive Cuban joie de vivre. For something a little different, try the Tropicana Cabaret, Cuba’s answer to the Moulin Rouge, which has been enthralling audiences with its colourful dancers, dazzling lights and energetic rhythms since 1939.
Eating/Drinking: Cuban cuisine is mostly a mix of Spanish and Afro-Caribbean influences. Popular ingredients include roasted and fried pork, beef and chicken with accompaniments such as rice, beans, plantains and yucca. The national dish is ajiaco, which is a meat and vegetable stew. Rum is the spirit of choice amongst the locals with over 80 different brands available on the island which can of course be sampled in all sorts of rum-based cocktails such as mojitos and daiquiris. Fresh fruit juice is also in abundance, thanks to the wide variety of fruit grown on the island.
Shopping: Shopping possibilities are relatively sparse on the island, having said that, there are some popular local tourist goods to take home including; include: cigars, rum, coffee, CDs and arts and craftwork. Please note though, if you are planning to travel to the US after your trip to Cuba, it is illegal to take Cuban cigars and other Cuban tobacco products into the United States.
When to go
Cuba generally enjoys a great climate all year round. The hurricane season runs from June to November when most of the rain falls, although it usually consists of a quick downpour and then the sunshine returns. December to April are the coolest months with the least humidity whereas the months from June to late September can be very hot with high humidity levels.
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