Although traveling to Cuba has become significantly easier for American citizens in recent years, getting in there is still not a ‘walk in the park’ for the yanks. What this means for the rest of us is that we can still enjoy the tranquility of the many deserted beaches that dot its coastline, for now! With the recent passing of Fidel Castro, relations are expected to warm between communist Cuba and the U.S., which inevitably means we will see Cuba’s borders opening up over the next few years. Anyone that has visited Cuba will tell you that its charm is in its authenticity – the Cuban character is raw, wholesome and unspoilt. Add an increase of a couple of million tourists to that and unfortunately what we tend to see is places tend to lose their culture or become watered down to please tourists. Don't call us melodramatic, but instead of the nice Cuban man that sells cigars and the finest rum outside your hotel lobby – it could be a KFC in five years time!
The island of Cuba is home to a staggering nine UNESCO world heritage sites; these are protected sites of outstanding cultural importance. And the fact that there are so many in an area so small is testament to the rich history of this island. Old Havana and its infamous fortifications are among the most popular, spend the day bustling through its many parapets and enjoy an evening meal in one of the private rooftop restaurants of its many mansions. If you’re looking for more of a natural scenic route then the Desembarco del Granma National Park with its stunning cliff faces and waterfalls. It is named after the ship that carried Castro and his forces to overthrow Fulgencio Batista.
“The land of tobacco” is an old-school nickname for Cuba, and its no mystery as the countryside is dotted with tobacco farms. The title of ‘worlds best cigar’ has sat with Cuba for as long as anyone can remember – and the urge for smokers and non-smokers to find out why can be tempting. You wont find a more immersive Cuban travel experience than pacing the floorboards of one of Havanas cigar factories. You can watch the workers here perfect their craft as they ensure every cigar is produced perfectly. Outside the capital, you can visit some of the tobacco plantations and see where these world-famous products originate. Tobacco is the backbone of the Cuban economy, and the access they currently allow their tourists to witness its cultivation is second to none.
Second only to tobacco, rum is Cubas biggest export. Driving through the rural areas of Cuba you can see endless acres of sugarcane plantations. With such an abundance of this plant its no mystery the Islanders figured out a way to cultivate rum from the thick sweet molasses that they extract from the plant. In typical Cuban fashion, the history of rum here is a tumultuous one. The Bacardi Rum Company was the first to dominate the market in the 1800’s, until it was overtaken by the Castro regime and driven off the island to Bermuda. The Mojito, The Cuba Libre and the Daiquiri all originated in Cuba, and tourists can visit a number of different rum museums – most notable are the Havana Club Rum Museum and the Factory Bocoy.
Cuba is and always has been renowned for its characteristic charming personality, and nowhere is it more evident than in its people. The island has a history of cultural diversity, so the spirit of acceptance is strong in the Cuban D.N.A. Homestays are quite a common feature of a holiday to Cuba, as the locals are more than happy to open their doors and welcome tourists to a homemade seafood dish and a night of stories and music. As we mentioned earlier, tourists are still something of a novelty here – so the locals are both curious and grateful for the revenue that foreign travelers bring.