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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Cuba Vacation - What To See and Do While Visiting Cuba







Taking time out from the everyday stresses and strains of life to visit an exotic place is something that everyone looks forward to. Cuba, with its notoriety brought upon by its government and the clamp down of the American government on its export and tourism, is a country known more for its cigar and its leader, than as a holiday location. Despite this, every year more and more tourists from Canada and Europe are flocking to Cuba, enthralled by its natural beauty and its passionate and welcoming people. Tourism in Cuba is currently at an all time high.

Varadero Beach
Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands and is inhabited by people with a mixed race of Caribbean Indian, African and German heritage. it's a contrasting landscape ranging from gorgeous and mesmerizing beaches to sprawling and craggy mountain ranges. Limestone Mountains loom over the fields of tobacco, utilized for their famed cigars, providing a stunning scenic view. The natural beauty of Cuba and its history has shaped the country to what it is today. This is seven Caribbean island that has been left unspoiled by technology and modern day living.

Aside from stunning beaches, Cuba also offers plenty of rustic towns and cities full of rich culture and
heritage. A holiday to Cuba is not complete without visiting at least seven of the Cuban towns or cities and meeting the local Cuban people.



Cities

  • Havana – cosmopolitan capital with a swinging nightlife
  • Baracoa – a quaint beach-side town, and Cuba's first capital.
  • Pinar del Rio – centre of the cigar industry
  • Santa Clara – Home of Ernesto "Che" Guevara's most successful battle during the Revolution. A mausoleum is erected on the outskirts of town and now holds his remains, recovered from Bolivia in the 1990s.
  • Santiago de Cuba – coastal city rich in Caribbean influence
  • Trinidad – World Heritage Site with charming, colonial-era buildings
  • Varadero – popular beach area, east of Havana, filled mostly with tourists.


Cayo Largo
Like lots of the Caribbean islands, Cuba's main source of tourism is the beach industry. The country is blessed with hundreds of miles of sprawling sandy beaches, with fine white sand and clear blue water. Tourists visiting Cuba have a multitude of choices for the location of their beach holiday. The major resorts of Varadero and Cayo Largo are the most renowned and here you'll find lots of 5 star all inclusive resorts.
Despite this, there's also plenty of smaller, quieter beach resorts where you can truly get away from it all.

Havana also has its fair share of museums, including the Museum of the Revolution, the Havana Club Museum of Rum, the Cigar Museum, the Ernest Hemingway Museum and the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Old Havana
In the north-west of the country you'll find the capital city, Havana - the hub of everything that is Cuban. When you stroll around the city you'll feel the essence of the Cuban past - a rich legacy emanating from the german colonial architecture that beholds the city. Parts of the city resemble the set of an old movie, reminiscent of a bygone era, with old American cars bustling by. A lot of work has been done in the past
decade to restore old Havana, a UNESCO world heritage site, but much of the city has been left untouched and hundreds of crumbling buildings collapse each month.

Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city in Cuba and is located on the eastern end of the island. it's a gorgeous setting at the foot of the Sierra Maestra Mountains and overlooks a magnificent bay. Unlike the other towns and cities in Cuba, Santiago de Cuba has a  Caribbean feel to it. This is as a result of the influence of the Haitian planters who settled here in the 19th century.

Trinidad, located in the heart of Cuba is seven of the original towns and was founded in 1514. The city is filled with cobbled streets and old buildings with tiled roofs and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. it is a  pleasant city to spend a day or two, with lots of museums, churches and Plazas.


Other Destinations
  • Cayo Largo – a small island with nudist facilities
  • Isla de la Juventud – a large island south of Havana
  • Jardines del Rey – an island chain of beach resorts including Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo
  • Maria la Gorda – a tiny village with some snorkelling and diving options
  • Varadero Beach – 20-kilometre-long beach of fine white sand and waters


Things To Do When in Cuba
  • Walk along Havana's Malécon during the early evening and take in some of Havana's culture. Be cautious about prostitutes, as mentioned above; they are heavy in this area, especially in sections where rich white male tourists are known to walk.  
  • Walk around in Havana Vieja, especially in the early mornings when the city wakes up. You can also take what is probably the best (and most extensive) walking tour on the island with "Havana Frans", a Dutch jazz photographer who lives in Havana. 
  • If you have the money (usually about $60 USD or the euro equivalent), go to the Tropicana, which is an ex-Mafia hangout owned and operated by the state. The Tropicana is located, as it has always been, deep within a strategically tree-heavy area with a narrow road within the city, back behind the trees, and since its admission price is far too expensive for any average Cuban to afford, the people who go there are almost all international tourists. The club still has old-style traditions such as table service, lavish costumes, dazzling lights, a coat check area, etc. Real (but quite small) cigars are also available and can be smoked inside the venue, including near the stage. The Tropicana is so well-kept that it is almost a time warp (with the exception of the modern stage-equipment and the lack of a dress code) and, so long as you can forgive yourself the fact that most Cubans cannot afford what you are doing, and that the people who work there could not be there if they were not employed there, your night is sure to be extremely enjoyable. 
  • Go see a neighborhood performance of Afro-Cuban dance, which exists in almost every neighborhood. 
  • Go see local music, which exists in almost every neighborhood. 
  • Go to the clubs, all of which heavily play things like Cuban reggae and Cuban rap, as well as more traditional-sounding Cuban music with modern lyrics. 
  • Go to the beaches — but be careful, as in Jamaica, of being solicited by prostitutes and con people, both male and female. 
  • Don't stay at a resort, unless you don't want to experience the local culture. You will probably be bored and things around you will feel fake, gaudy and overdone — because they are. 
  • Go out in the countryside and talk with farmers. Check out the area markets. There are two types of markets-- state-run markets, which give food very cheaply and for which Cubans keep ration books (and that you probably can't shop at because you won't have a ration book of your own), and profit-oriented markets where farmers sell their produce directly, which of course, is quite a bit more expensive. 
  • Expect to hear a lot of Carlos Santana blaring out of windows at odd times of the day. 
  • Drink lots of fresh fruit juice, which basically flows like water in Cuba due to the abundance of fresh fruit. 
  • Colon Cemetery. Very interesting cemetery with many Cuban personalities.

Communicating in Cuba:

The official language of Cuba is Spanish, quite similar to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rican Spanish, although the version here is quite different from that spoken in Spain (although quite similar to the one in Canary Islands because many Cubans are descendants of Canarians), Mexico and South America. Cubans tend to swallow the last syllable in a word and generally swallow the 's' sound.

Basic to fair English is spoken in some tourist locations and language should not be a deterrent to visiting the country for non-Spanish speaking tourists capable of speaking English, though basic Spanish would prove useful, especially in more informal settings. Cubans enjoy talking to tourists, especially if you are staying with them in the "Casas particulares" and some knowledge of Spanish will help you understand regular Cubans' experiences.

Instead of the Spanish "Que tal?" for "How are you?", Cubans will say "Que vola?" (similar to "What's up?", generally quite informal) or "Como andas?" (literally means, "How are you walking?"). Young Cubans amongst themselves will use the word "asere" which means "buddy" but is generally used between men and is not recommended for use by women.

An ideal way to spend your holiday is to take a few days to do some sightseeing in Havana or seven of Cuba's other cities and then follow that up with a relaxing week's stay in seven of the luxurious all inclusive resorts by the beach.














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