Nothing overshadows the dame that is Cuba. She has more charisma than both her northern Florida neighbour and all her Caribbean cousins combined. And boy does she know it. From the plumes of smoke that coil from her iconic cigars, to the crumbling colonial mansions, she may be old, but like the rum that pours from her Havana taps, she only gets better with age.
This is what we like. Scrap that, this is what we LOVE about Cuba.
1. Havana: An unpolished gem. But a gem nevertheless.
In Havana, Cuba’s capital, the streets are dressed to impress, albeit half a century has passed since they first put on their finest threads. The streets are cobbled, the paint is peeling and the colourful walls - replete with beautiful motifs - are just one bad shock from decaying altogether. But it’s Havana’s rundown elegance that makes it so utterly beguiling.
2. The capital’s ambiance is electric
The taxis are Cadillacs, brightly coloured and still owning the roads much as they did in the 50s; sax players sway in the street, and the dazzling architecture is only outshone by the bright head scarves worn by Cuban women. It’s an intoxicating mix of colour, rhythm and the underlying sense that a street party’s about to erupt. A city built around forts and citadels, with an eight kilometre sea wall still protecting its people, Havana’s history creaks as loudly as the street musicians strumming their guitars and threadbare drums.
3. Santa Clara: Untouched by tourism
If you thought Cuba was all about Havana good time, wake up and smell the revolution. East of the capital lies sleepy Santa Clara, and the former hangout of Che Guevara. From his mausoleum to the deluge of Che-related souvenirs, the city belongs to Guevara. But despite the world-famous face that adorns Santa Clara’s streets, the landscape, much like the rest of Cuba, remains relatively untouched by tourism. A consequence of the US trade embargo, the air is languid and the laid-back Clara lifestyle predominately resides around the Parque-Vidal, where locals congregate for fresh air, a dance, a frolic, or gossip.
4. Trinidad. There’s no better place to Rumba
Cuba’s assured good looks can be attributed to her Spanish and African heritage, and we all know what these two nations have in common. Dancing. Hence why the Rumba, complete with its rolling hips and slinky twists, originates from the sexy town of Trinidad. The moves might make you blush but Trinidad is equally blessed with much sweeter characteristics. A town which made its fortune from sugar, it’s still regarded as the sugar-capital of the world. Tear yourself away from the candy-coloured street houses and track down the palm-lined Spanish colonial mansions. Built from a sugar-fortune, many are dressed in a beautiful shade of canary yellow. And nothing looks more delicious than Trinidad basking in the soft orange glow of a sunset.
5. Cuba will always be a knockout
Oh yes, she’s a handsome one alright. And although she might appear a little dishevelled to the naked eye, Cuba will always be a knockout. Blessed with good looks and charm, nobody’s ever called at Cuba’s door and come away disappointed. She’ll invite you in, knock your socks off and send you on your merry way with a smiling face and a clipped cigar.