With the recent news that the US trade embargo is to be lifted and the embassy re-opened following a 50 year stand-off, the world is waiting to see how Cuba will change over the coming months. Famous for its turbulent political history and the Cold War, outside the US, the island is also known as a wonderful holiday destination. Full of sun, sea, and salsa, find out how to see Cuba and its unique charm before it’s gone.
They say that the best index of culture is food – so Cubans know how to show off. It’s worth noting that state-owned restaurants are more expensive, so to get a real taste of Cuban cuisine, head to a nearby palade – a privately-owned eatery usually in somebody’s house or garden. Meat lovers will be very happy here, with lots of pork and chicken on the menu, often marinated in citrus fruits and garlic. That said, vegetarian specialities do exist, including a delicious cheesy corn-on-the-cob. Be sure to grab some churros and chocolate sauce to enjoy with a yummy cuban coffee in the afternoon.
As a result of the US trade embargo, one of the characteristic features of Cuba today (to outsiders) is the abundance of classic cars on the roads. It’s easy to take a tour or a taxi ride in a souped-up 1950s chevy, and many tourists look forward to this unique experience. Another big part of Cuban culture to soak up while it lasts is the homegrown music scene, as the origin of salsa and jazz music elsewhere. An evening in Havana allows plenty of opportunity to grab a drink and join some salsa dancers in a club to get the full experience, or even try a locally crafted cigar.
Part of the appeal of Cuba is the country’s eclectic history, with aspects of indigenous, African, and Spanish colonial artefacts a part of daily life. Old Havana’s gorgeous architecture holds plenty of museums to learn more about the country, including the Museum of the Revolution, putting the current affairs of the country in context. For a taste of 19th century life, you can spend a night or two in Trinidad, formerly the sugar capital of the country and almost untouched since 1850.
Home to some of the best preserved coral reefs in the world, Cuba’s beaches are a reason in themselves to visit. The Isle of Youth and Maria la Gorda, on the western coast, are some of the best spots for scuba diving and snorkelling. Otherwise, the Viñales Valley national park is an ideal spot for hiking, climbing the famous mogotes mountain formations, or even going caving.