Salsa, rum, revolutionary history and Caribbean heat
Cuba, the country where clocks have stopped for decades, is searching its way back to the future. A population desperate for change is recovering from the Cold War's most extended hangover and warming once again to its closest neighbor, for so long its frostiest foe, the US. Far from becoming the American neo-colony it once was, however, this proud nation, whose stature and influence within Latin American has long outweighed its small size, is holding on tight to what makes it so unique. Salsa still runs in the veins of every Cuban, roadside billboards again declare "Socialism or death" (rather than "Sale now on"), world-class ballerinas and baseball players continue to work for a state salary, and the island's breathtaking beaches and forest-covered mountains aren't going anywhere.
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Cienfuegos – The Cayos (4days)
Top locations in Cuba
See top spots for boating in the area
Havana is a mesmerizing and captivating city, with the twists and turns of its compelling history and rich culture laid bare in the surprising diversity of its architecture and kaleidoscope of citizens. Nowhere is there uniformity, with the hotchpotch of buildings and people presenting a different set of stop-and-stare images on every street. Policemen on military service lean against Soviet-era Brutalist office blocks; adherents of Santería, dressed all in white, stroll past Neo-Gothic churches; queues of smart, elderly socialites form outside Art Deco theatres; and taxi drivers in baseball caps tout rides in their fifty-year-old Buicks and Chevrolets in front of Neoclassical shop fronts. In the center especially, almost every street seems to have an intriguing story to tell, whether one of colonial grandeur, bygone glamour, economic hardship or revolutionary change – and sometimes all of these, wrapped up in just one block.
Although the islands have a large number of attractions, The Cayos of Cuba is undoubtedly the most extraordinary, as they bring together spectacular Caribbean beaches with beautiful white sands and crystalline waters and an exuberant nature you can get lost in during your vacation in Cuba. What's more, The Cayos of Cuba is so diverse that it will fit to whatever your needs and interests may be. As such, you'll have to keep in mind what each one has to offer and what makes them so unique.
Santiago de Cuba
Cuba's cultural capital, Santiago is a frenetic, passionate and noisy beauty. Situated closer to Haiti and the Dominican Republic than to Havana, it leans east rather than west, a crucial factor shaping this city's unique identity, steeped in Afro-Caribbean, entrepreneurial and rebel influences. Cuba's most important town outside Havana draws visitors mainly for its music and festivals. Settled by the legions of bands that have grown up here, the regional scene is always active, but it boils over in July when the Fiesta del Caribe and carnival drench the town in rumba beats, fabulous costumes, and song.