The island nation of Cuba is just 150 kilometres from the coast of the United States, but it’s a world away in terms of culture and lifestyle.
For visitors, Cuba has a charm all its own. Its distinctive music is famous worldwide, as is its fascinating, tempestuous history. Add a balmy tropical climate, graceful Spanish colonial buildings, picture-perfect beaches and the world’s best mojitos, and it’s clear why Cuba delights a growing number of visitors each year.
With a recent thawing of relations between Cuba and the United States, the best advice is to get to Cuba as soon as possible, before the number of visitors to the country skyrockets.
Charming cities and towns
Thanks at least in part to a period of isolation, Cuba’s cities and towns have retained strong cultural identities. Even the country’s largest cities – including the capital, Havana, and the bustling city of Santiago de Cuba – have a charm and sense of history that’s undiluted by international franchises.
Cuba’s cities and towns also include an eclectic mix of different architectural styles, along with amazingly well-preserved churches, palaces, castles and forts, some dating to as early as the 1600s. In Old Havana alone, there are over 900 buildings of historical significance.
Events and festivals
Cubans like to party. Exuberant carnivals and festivals, featuring music, dance, colourful costumes and plenty to eat and drink, are held around the year in different parts of the country. Topping the list is the Santiago de Cuba Carnival, held annually from 18 to 27 July.
Cuba is also host to several significant art, film and book festivals that draw visitors from around the world, and includes an impressive array of museums and galleries.
Beautiful Cuban beaches
If lying on a beach listening to the gentle lapping of waves and sipping a rum-laced cocktail from a coconut is your idea of paradise, Cuba won’t disappoint. The country includes a number of gorgeous white-sand beaches, with outrageously blue, warm water that’s ideal for swimming, snorkelling and diving.
Unlike many popular beaches elsewhere in the world, Cuba’s best beaches haven’t been subject to huge development. They’re not deserted, but they’re also not fringed by high-rise buildings, jam-packed with tourist “huts” or overrun by boatloads of cruise ship passengers.
Gorgeous Cuban countryside
Thanks to its tropical climate, Cuba includes incredibly green, lush plantations, valleys and national parks. Most of the country consists of rolling plains, but the southeast is dominated by the Sierra Maestra, with dramatic mountains, dense forests, rivers and waterfalls.