Cuba is a fantastic country to visit, with attractions including salsa dancing, music and wonderful towns and cities steeped in Spanish cultural heritage and architecture from the colonial age, with old-fashioned haciendas and pastel-coloured buildings. In addition, Cuba is home to magnificent countryside made up of rivers, green valleys, tobacco fields and sugar plantations, tall mountains and white Caribbean beaches.
Cuba received a record 3.5 million visitors last year, up 17 per cent from 2014. American visitors rose 77 percent to 161,000, in addition to hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans, testing the country’s supply of hotel rooms, rental cars and beer. The most recent tourism figures, for January, showed a similar pace of growth. Small restaurants that cater to both tourists and Cubans have blossomed on the Caribbean island since President Raul Castro five years ago formalized changes designed to remove the Communist state from many small-scale economic activities. In fact Cuba is undergoing massive changes currently. Nearly all US airlines have announced their intention to fly to the island and hundreds of tourists will step off a cruise ship arriving there from Miami this month. All major hotel chains have also announced their intention to open on the island. The Yankees are coming!
The Caribbean Castro run outpost of communism that is Cuba holds an enduring fascination for tourist worldwide. A country reminiscent of glamour and casinos, musicians, writers, proliferated with old mafia bosses. Visitors can enjoy all the vibrancy, cultural richness, and architectural beauty of Havana.
Begin the day with a half-day excursion to the places in Cuba that inspired the great writer Ernest Hemingway. You can visit his home, Finca Vigía, where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls in the 1930s. From there you can head out to the fishing village of Cojimar, which was the backdrop for The Old Man and the Sea. Why not enjoy a cocktail in La Terraza before heading on to visit the 17th century Morro- Cabana, the largest fortress constructed by the Spanish in the New World.
Havana – Matanzas – Varadero
When I visited Cuba I stayed in the Melia Cohiba Hotel in Havana for three nights and then I travelled by bus to Matanzas where I stayed in one of the rewarding casas particular (private homes) Matanzas is famous for its unique handmade books an each book is beautiful to behold and it is work to be treasured. In Varadero I booked into a fully inclusive three star hotel where I paid $35 a night including all your meals and drinks, the local beer was excellent. I found the food to be the best in Havana and it is renowned for its cuisine, including classy cafés and the lively paladars (independent, state-sanctioned, family-run restaurants. I enjoyed an unforgettable night at the famous Club Tropicana, dancers with chandelier like head decoration dragged me on the stage for some salsa lessons… much to the entertainment of my fellow travellers.
For much information on tours to Cuba I recommend the following or to contact your local ITAA travel agent –
Flights to Cuba – www.skyscanner.ie – Check flights originating from Dublin and also from Madrid and Paris for good deals.
There are also great deals from Canada to Cuba with Westjet and Air Canada and it is a short flight. You could combine a few days in Canada with a trip to Cuba for something different.