|At around 1,250 kms long, Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean (almost as large as all the others put together!) and has a population of about I I million. It is surrounded by over 4,000 keys and islets, most of which are untouched. The country is in a state of flux because after years of economic dependence on the old Soviet bloc (and on the USA before that, and on Spain before that.....), it is in the extremely difficult process of adjusting to life as a modern independent trading nation. The local shops are often empty, food and petrol are scarce (though not for tourists), and power cuts are not infrequent. It is still the subject of an extremely severe American embargo. However, it is an exciting time to visit and one aspect of Cuban life which is not changing is the people's natural friendliness and exuberance as expressed in their pulsating music.
Cuba was "discovered" by Christopher Columbus who famously described the island as "the most beautiful that eyes have ever seen"; it is not difficult to see why. The scenery varies from snow-white sandy beaches, protected by virgin coral reefs, to tropical mountains smothered with palm trees, coffee plantations and tropical fruit. The lush valleys have clear unpolluted rivers meandering across a carpet of sugar, tobacco and citrus fruit. Little has changed for hundreds of years. Most of the country population still travels by horse or bicycle and many farmers still use oxen to plough the fields. It is a fabulous sight.
The wildlife in Cuba has been generally left alone. Many areas are completely uninhabited and have been declared national parks. The birdlife is spectacular, ranging from the '2um Zum'. the smallest hummingbird in the world (which is fluorescent blue or green and is found in the western province of Pinar del Rio): to Flamingos. These create a pink carpet across the straits between the mainland and some of the northern keys; on occasions there are so many that the clouds above them reflect a pink glow.
The snorkelling and scuba diving in Cuba and its surrounding islands is some of the least spoilt in the world, mainly due to the lack of tourism over the last thirty five years. Most of the reefs are almost inaccessible due to the lack of facilities at most coastal towns. The only way to see these spectacular marine areas is by boat which can be organised from Havana and Cayo Largo, an island to the south of Cuba with very good diving and fishing. However many of the tourist areas have reefs that would still astonish most visitors.
Valid passport and a Cuban tourist card (visa) are required to travel to Cuba. (We will obtain the Cuban tourist card on your behalf). We are not authorised to issue Cuban tourist cards to Cuban Nationals. Whilst we feature a choice of hotels in our brochure we have many more available to suit most requirements. Please ask for details.
Many areas exist in a 'time warp' where old American cars are pre-dominant in the towns, and oxen and horses are still used extensively in agriculture. The beaches in Cuba are amongst the best in the Caribbean, and despite the rapid growth of tourism many are almost deserted. The countryside is both beautiful and unusual, with the huge 'mogotes'(Abrupt limestone mountains) in the Vinales valley, and many areas declared national parks to preserve the wonderful flora and fauna.
Towns in Cuba owe much to their colonial past and Havana, Trinidad and Santiago are all world heritage sites. One of the most memorable aspects of Cuba is the friendliness and 'joie de vivre' of the people.
Music is a way of life in Cuba and the rhythms of Salsa, Bossa Nova and Rumba can be heard throughout the island. As a result nightlife in Cuba is great fun, and lasts till very late!!
Recommended Hepatitis A, Polio, Typhoid, Tetanus, Malaria.
Most Cuban hotels have an in-house doctor.