There are things in life we can’t miss out on; one of them is visiting Cuba. If you ever wanted to go to a place that looks like a museum in the open, then it definitely should find its way on your bucket list. Apart from the worldwide famous cigars, Cuba is also known for the varieties of rum as well as vintage cars that have become somewhat the symbols of the island. Though it seems like it’s a locked country, mainly due to the remnants of the regime of Fidel Castro, its cities and vivacious streets have gotten international flair as many are drawn to the Caribbean exotic appeal.
There are various Cuba vacation packages, from private escorted tours, to ship cruises around the island and all the way to Mexico, so there’s something to satisfy the different tastes of travellers. When you first set foot in Cuba, you realise just how much of a bundle of beauty and diversity it is. The many beautiful Spanish colonial buildings are proof of the degree of history ingrained in modern life; one can’t go about without noticing the legacy Spanish conquistadors left when they first arrived in the 15th century.
This can best be seen in the country’s capital, Havana, as the key trasnshipment spot connecting the Old and the New World at the time of its founding which is why it abounds in Cuban Baroque and colonial buildings, in the likes of the Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana, Mueso de Arte Colonial, Palacio del Segundo Cabo and Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, and of course the fortresses such as Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña and Castillo de la Real Fuerza – making it a real Mecca for architects and historians alike. The rainbow side streets of Trinidad are also a feast for the eyes, full of colonial style mansions, churches and museums.
With nine UNESCO world heritage sites, there’s plenty to see so you can expect a grand Caribbean adventure. Cities that are part of some Cuba vacation packages are Varadero and San Cristóbal, famous for the many cigar factories where you can see the process along with the many tobacco fields, and the sandy beaches ideal for tanning, trying out the Cuban drinks, starting from the mojito, that got its popularity at Havana’s Bodeguita del Medio bar, and the savoury combination of white rum with cola and lime – the cuba libre. Varadero as part of Cuba’s Hicacos Peninsula, offers the chance to visit the Reserva Ecológica Varahicacos, the home of an ancient burial cave.
One can’t speak of Cuban history without mentioning Che Guevara, his revolutionary spirit with the famous quote “Hasta la victoria siempre” in the Cuban Revolution and the legacy he left, which can be seen all around the country’s cities on murals and graffiti. Another prominent figure connected with Cuba is of course the US writer Ernest Hemingway, who lived just outside Havana, in San Francisco de Paula in his home Finca Vigía. Apart from popularising the La Flordita bar and their daquiri cocktail, Cuba is also the country where he wrote many works, including his famous The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls, got plenty of inspiration from doing a lot of fishing with his boat Pilar, and bred many polydactyl cats.
Of course, locals make up the country vibrant as it is by being very hospitable. One can’t be grumpy when listening to the lively music and seeing the salsa (bet you remember the romantic Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights film) and rumba dances that Cubans would gladly teach you all around their streets or specialised dancing schools. According to the UN, Cubans are people whose health care system is a model for the world. When there, don’t forget to taste the many mouthwatering dishes, like the ropa vieja, fufú del plátano and pastel de boniato. Are you ready to fall in love with this Caribbean island?