CubaPLUS Magazine

Ten reasons to visit Cuba

By: Alina Gómez
Ten reasons to visit Cuba

Nature, history, traditions, culture and hospitality make Cuba one of the privileged places in the Caribbean, worth visiting for many reasons, and more than once, to better appreciate everything the country has to offer.

The Cuban archipelago, with the largest island of the Antilles and some 4,000 islands, cays and islets, can be enjoyed from practically east to west and from north to south, and all year round because of its tropical climate.

Sun & beachesSun and beaches

More than 300 natural beaches dot the island of Cuba, with clean, warm and safe waters in shades from blue to turquoise and white, golden and copper-colored sands... ideal for sunbathing and cooling off in the sea or practicing water sports.

Perhaps Varadero, 22 kilometers long on the northwestern coast, is the most famous, a growing tourist centre since the first decades of the last century and an infrastructure that houses, among other places of interest, an 18-hole golf course on the grounds formerly owned by U.S. millionaire Irénee Dupont.

The beach repeatedly appears among the best in the world on sites such as TripAdvisor, a recognition that has also been given to other coastal areas throughout the country.

Off the northern coast of the central provinces of Villa Clara and Ciego de Avila are true oases to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean, in keys like Santa Maria, Las Brujasand Ensenachos, Coco and Guillermo, and in the southwest, Cayo Largo is a jewel in the Caribbean Sea.

Deep seaIn the deep sea

In the depths of these generous waters there is much to discover. About a thousand dive spots offer spectacular seabeds for dive lovers and are the setting for world underwater photography tournaments.

Throughout the archipelago, international diving centers with qualifiedprofessionals offer all the facilities to appreciate a multitude of coral species, colorful tropical fish, gorgonians, sponges, other rich marine fauna and shipwrecks, in interesting underwater reliefs with walls, tunnels, caves...

Among many other dive sites are María la Gorda and Cayo Levisa (west), El Colony (southwest), Jardines de la Reina (south-central region), Guardalavaca(east), Cienfuegos (south-central region), home to the six-meter-high coral known as Notre Dame, one of the most remarkable coral reefs in the Caribbean, one of the most remarkable in the Caribbean, as well as Santiago de Cuba and Marea del Portillo (east), with wrecks of the Spanish fleet sunk by American ships in mid-1898, during the Spanish-Cuban-American war.

Green NatureNature’s greenery

Despite the advance of civilization, much of the original green of Cuban nature is still preserved, a habitat of a rich biodiversity, and ideal for hiking, wildlife watching, nautical and equestrian tours and caving.

In the eastern part of the island are the majestic Alejandro de Humboldt and Desembarco del Granma National Parks, both declared Natural World Heritage Sites. The former is the main remnant of Cuba's preserved mountain ecosystems and the latter is the world's largest and best preserved exponent of the systems of emerged and submerged marine terraces on calcareous rocks.

Particularly interesting in the west are the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and Zapata Peninsula Biosphere Reserves, the latter considered the largest wetland in the insular Caribbean, as well as the Viñales Valley, Cultural Landscape of Humanity, with unique mogotes existing in harmony with agro-productive systems like tobacco cultivation and distinctive local architecture.

Cuban citiesThe cities

For centuries, man has been building urban environments that today treasure numerous traces of the passage of time that have been respected by modernity.

Havana, the capital city founded in 1519, always fascinates visitors, perhaps because of the coexistence of its more modern wide avenues, theaters and cultural centers with spaces dating back to colonial times, such as the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral, San Francisco and the Plaza Vieja. The seafaring city, with its extensive and unmissable Malecon, won the title of "Wonder City" in 2016.

Established in 1514 in the south-central region, Trinidad is today called an "open-air museum" due to the state of preservation of its ancient buildings. The typical architecture of the luxurious mansions, with reddish tile roofs and wooden balustrade portals, the cobblestone streets and unique layout, the centuries-old squares, the once religious and public buildings give the impression that the clocks stopped there in past centuries.

Located on the southern coast of the eastern part of the island, Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city in the country and is considered the most Caribbean city, not only because of the sea that bathes it, but even more so because of the mixture of races and cultures that developed there like nowhere else in the archipelago, and that is reflected in its traditions and daily life. There are numerous places of interest in the town founded in 1515 and, for many, the  joviality of the locals is one of its best qualities.

Historical placesHistorical heritage

Cuba is the Caribbean island country with the most assets recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, including several historical legacies:
- Old Havana and its system of fortifications, in which the castle of the Real Fuerza, the castle of the Tres Reyes del Morro, the castle of San Salvador de la Punta and the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña stand out.
- Historical center of Trinidad and the neighboring Valle de los Ingenios, with the traces of the area’s prosperous sugar industry from the XVII and XIX centuries exploited with slave labor.
- Castle of San Pedro de la Roca del Morro, bastion of the defense of Santiago de Cuba in colonial times.
- Archaeological landscape of the first coffee plantations in southeastern Cuba, promoted in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by French colonists fleeing the Haitian revolution.
- Historic Center of Cienfuegos, the first urban center in Latin America founded in the 19th century to receive such distinction for having since then introduced ideas of modernity, hygiene and order in urban planning.
- Historic Center of Camagüey, a town established in its central-eastern location around 1528 and whose development took place on the basis of an irregular urban pattern with squares, small squares, winding streets, alleys and arbitrary plots, which gave it an exceptional character among the colonial cities of Latin America.

Cuban music and festivalsMusic and festivities

Known throughout the world as "the island of music", rhythms and melodies from this land can be heard everywhere, even just walking the streets of its cities, and have transcended national borders. Son, rumba, conga, guaracha, chachachá, mambo, bolero... are part of the rich sound complex of the island, and also an invitation to dance. Rumba and the Cuban punto, native to rural areas, are part of the World Heritage.

This is reflected in popular festivals that date back to colonial times and are still celebrated today, colorful and lively: Carnival in Santiago de Cuba, in the summer; Charangas de Bejucal, in the west, and Parrandas in the center of the country, generally in December, the latter also a World Heritage Site. 

Famous cigarsThe famous Havana cigars

Cohiba, H. Upman, Montecristo, Partagás, Romeo y Julieta are some of the brands that have gone around the world and have cemented the prestige of Cuba's tobacco industry, with centuries of tradition.

The Vuelta Abajo region, made up of municipalities in the western province of Pinar del Río, is considered the best in the world for this production due to its soil conditions, climate and the experience of the producers. So, smoking a Havana cigar in this land and visiting plantations, selection and destemmingsites and factories is an attractive option in Cuba.

Cuban rumsRum for memorable moments

Cuban light rum, said by many to be among the best companions of memorable moments, has a history and uniqueness that helps it stand out in the world of good drinks. Although it arrived in Cuba after it was produced in other Caribbean islands, rum established itself here as a modern classic.

Today, it continues to be made with native raw ingredients, obtained exclusively from sugar cane, with the idea of keeping the essential values of the long national rum tradition, which excludes the use of tricks in the aging process, as well as modification of aromas and flavors.

A smooth and silky character, even after several years in barrels; unique sensory notes and sublime bouquet are some of the values that experts attribute to Cuban rum, including the internationally well-known wide portfolio of the Havana Club brand.

Cuban dishesTo please the palate

A variety of dishes made Cuban-style and part of the national cuisine can be tasted in this archipelago, such as ajiaco soup, ‘ropa vieja’, tamales in leaves and casseroles, congrí rice or ‘Arabs and Christians’, creole minced meat, fritters made from malanga or other root vegetables, yucca with sauce, oxtail stew, homemade sweets of fruit in syrup...

Some emblematic restaurants of the country's gastronomy have been the Bodeguita del Medio, with its walls signed by the many celebrities who have visited it over decades and cradle of the mojito cocktail, and the Floridita, which gave birth to the daiquiri and was a sort of temple of the American Nobel Prize for Literature Ernest Hemingway.

And many other reasons

They are many and varied, for example, from riding around cities in so-called almendrones of various car models from the 40s, 50s and 60s of the last century and even earlier, which are museums on wheels; sharing with Cubans in their own, not always easy, environment, and discovering the joy that emanates from a culture forged in a melting pot of diversity and determinedly good-natured.

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