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Experience Cuba

Experience Cuba

story by: Tom Ricketts

Cuba is one of the world’s most unique travel destinations. The island nation is smaller than our North Island but has diverse landscapes, many multiple cultures, and a fascinating history stretching back hundreds of years. If you’re looking for an unforgettable holiday experience, then Cuba could just be for you.

Cuba is located smack in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, just off the southern coast of the US. The warm waters of the Caribbean envelop the island and make her beautiful white sand beaches a magnet for European and Canadian holiday makers (American’s are of course, banned from travelling to Cuba). Inland Cuba hides lush green jungles and rich farmlands of tobacco, sugar and tropical fruit. The UNESCO World Heritage listed Valle de Vinales where giant limestone karts rise dramatically out of the green valley below is just one example of the diverse landscapes to be found here.

The nations capital city of Havana holds one of the largest and most complete historic city centres in the world. Beautifully ornate facades line the narrow alleys and lanes, which themselves open out into grand public squares anchored by over the top cathedrals and public buildings. Outside of Havana are many more beautiful cities to be discovered. The UNESCO World Heritage listed Trinidad is just one. This small town is a sea of terracotta roofs pierced only by the occasional belltower, church spire, and quietly swaying palm trees.

For such a small country, Cuba has been involved in a lot of major world events. The two most famous, the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban Missile Crisis have had a profound effect on the country. The former introduced famous names such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to the world. The latter was major turning point in the Cold War and nearly sparked a nuclear fallout between the US and the USSR, the two great world powers of the time. The US invasion attempt at the Bay of Pigs is one of Cuba’s most treasured moments. The resulting US trade embargo and collapse of the USSR has left Cuba very poor, and harshly limited its development. Nowhere is this more visible than on the roads. One of Cuba’s enduring images is that of the Yank Tanks. Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge cars were all the rage in the 50’s and 60’s, and Cubans loved them too. But now unable to import new cars, Cubans have had no choice but to keep their Yank Tanks running through a mixture of engineering prowess and ingenuity. Just driving down the road can be like heading back in time.

The culture of Cuba is wonderfully mixed. Little is known about the original inhabitants of the island, but it is being slowly brought back to life. Immigrants to Cuba first came from Spain with colonial interests, then black African and Caribbean slaves came seeing refuge from Europe and the US, and finally, there’s a strong Latin American influence too. Mix all that together and you’re left with a distinct array of dance, music and food amongst other things. For all their hardships, Cuban’s are an amazingly kind and friendly people. Crime, especially against tourists, is rare; and it’s even said Cuba is the safest country for a female tourist to be travelling alone!

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