Behind the rather shabby but colourful facades of its cities, Cuba reveals itself as a magical place rich in culture and history. The capital city of Havana along with places such as Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey still show evidence of an opulent past touched with the influences of pirates and colonial settlements. Away from the cities, Cuba offers a beautiful landscape of tropical beaches and lush rainforests.
From bright Havana with it's unique architecture and bustling streets, to the stunning white beaches of Varadero, you'll be sure to find the perfect holiday for you. Soak up a little sunshine and salsa in a Latin paradise with our fantastic Cuban holiday offers.
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Although Havana is the country's political capital, Santiago de Cuba is often considered Cuba's cultural capital. Fidel Castro used it as a base for his revolution while Don Facundo Bacardí started his rum empire here. Take in the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morro, a UNESCO World Heritage site that dominates the city's entrance. It houses a swashbuckling pirate museum.
Camagüey is Cuba's third largest city and a sophisticated place with pretty well-maintained streets and squares. One of the most beautiful of these is the Plaza del Carmen. Recently restored, it's a peaceful focal point for both visitors and locals. Two of Cuba's most famous artists have their home in Camagüey. The cluttered and kitschy Casa de Arte Jover is where Joel Jover and Ileana Sánchez both work and exhibit.
Among the destinations more related to sea and relaxation, the world-famous Varadero stands out. Here you'll find the best Caribbean beaches, a crystal-clear sea and a fine white sand waiting for you to spend days of total leisure and relaxation.
Three mountain ranges, six UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, thousands of caves, the second-largest coral reef in the world and gloriously coloured birds make Cuba a paradise for lovers of the outdoor life. Outdoor activities include inland or sea fishing, hiking, diving at Spanish shipwreck sites, caving or simply sunbathing and swimming. Natural highlights include the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park or the Sierra Maestra, Cuba's highest mountain range.
Selling everything from neat spirits to complicated cocktails, Cuba's bars are lively venues where music is always playing and dancing is almost always expected. Rum and mojitos are the drinks of choice. Ballet, classical music, salsa dancing, comedy shows and, of course, jazz all add to the country's rich nightlife especially in the capital, Havana.
Owing to strict controls and rationing, the gastronomy of Cuba can be fairly limited especially away from the main cities. Within Havana, the situation is gradually changing and some pioneering restaurants are bringing a modern gastronomic touch to the country. Basic ingredients of most meals include congrí or rice with black beans, meat such as pork or chicken and fried plantains. Yuca (cassava), pumpkin or seasonal salad accompany the main dishes. Fish and seafood are readily available in coastal areas. The most common catches are red snapper, lobster, dorado, swordfish and prawns. Cubans love their ice cream and waiters will happily discuss the merits of different flavours with you when it's time to choose your dessert.
If catching sight of the local wildlife is important to you, then plan your Cuban visit around March. This is also a good season for hiking, cycling and other outdoor activities. In June the international Boleros de Oro is held in Havana to celebrate the distinctive music of Cuba. Santiago de Cuba's Carnaval in July is considered by many to be the best in the Caribbean with processions, costumes, rum and rumba. Havana is, of course, famous for its cigars with cigar aficionados visiting the city in January for the Habanos Festival.
Tourists visiting Cuba for less than 60 days do not need a visa but just a tourist card (Tarjeta de Turista) which is valid for 30 days. If you book a package holiday you should receive this with your travel documents. If travelling independently you can buy one with your plane ticket but may need to collect it at your departure airport so factor in time for this when travelling. You will have to present the card again when you leave Cuba and should you lose it, you'll encounter lengthy Cuban bureaucracy. You also need an onward or return travel ticket to enter the country.