Five reasons why you need to visit Cuba this year

Cuba is a land of fascination, a land of contrasts and a land of colour. Famous for cigars, old American cars, rum and the Castro family, among many other things, it is unique in the truest sense of the word. It’s also pretty easy to get to with cheap trips to Cuba available from a number of operators and a huge choice of accommodation when you arrive: from guesthouses that are nothing more than a local’s home to five-star beach resorts on the stunning coastline. If you still need convincing, here are five reasons to visit Cuba this year:

1. Havana
The city of Havana is like no other on earth. Slightly shabby in places, there is some fantastic architecture and something to discover round every corner. It’s an eclectic mix, a 500-year-old melting pot of peoples and cultures, and with the roads clogged with traffic, the best way to explore the city is on foot. You can visit a number of museums, including the impressive Museum of the Revolution, and some colonial architecture but this is not a place for specific sightseeing – just wandering round the next corner is usually enough to experience something unexpected.

2. The casas particulares
Casas particulares are the Cuban equivalent of bed and breakfasts, providing short-term accommodation in private homes. The government has allowed Cuban residents to do this since 1997 and it provides an important source of income to many Cuban families. Accommodation will usually include breakfast and often dinner, for an extra charge. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in everyday Cuban life for very little cost.

3. The “Yank tanks”
Think Cuba and you think 1950s and 1960s American cars. Kept running to this day by the ingenuity of the owners themselves, there are still thousands of these cars on the road. Nicknamed “Yank tanks”, the trade embargo introduced in 1962 meant that cars could no longer be imported from the US so Cubans are now relying on models more than 50 years old. They may not be the most efficient but they lend yet more charm to the island.

4. The cigars and rum
Cuban cigars, the accessory of choice of former leader Fidel Castro for many years, are also a must-try when you’re there. Prices are regulated so make sure you buy from a state-controlled shop where you will get a genuine cigar. This may be more expensive than one from a street vendor but these are often fake or of an inferior quality.

Sometimes referred to as the “Isle of Rum”, Cuba has no shortage of producers or retailers of the spirit. Just read some Ernest Hemingway if you need convincing – he spent many years in Havana and partook of many a Cuban rum. Enjoy one with a cigar late in the evening for a true Cuban experience.

5. The beaches
In Cuba, it’s easy to combine a cultural trip to the capital with some coastal pleasures. You’ll find a number of five-star all-inclusive at resorts such as Varadero, about 100 miles east of Havana. With three marinas in the area, there is plenty of choice in terms of water-based activities, from fishing to kayaking, sailing to snorkelling. And with 20 miles of white sandy beach, there is plenty of space if you just want to relax.

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