Cuba

Cuba

on Saturday, 17 September 2011. Posted in Cuba

Defying all logic, the world’s 105th-largest country is also one of its most instantly recognizable. Think psychedelic Che Guevara murals and antediluvian American Buicks, dudes with bongos and old men slapping down dominoes, queues outside ration shops and communist cadres smoking chunky Montecristos. Cuba has a way of going against the grain. It’s all part of its historical make-up, part of its dynamism, part of its intrinsic beauty.


Travel here not only requires a passport, money and a good sturdy rucksack; it also requires flexibility, creativity, good humor, patience and a healthy sense of adventure. Speaking Spanish, though not a prerequisite, is undoubtedly a huge advantage, and will allow you to travel further and dig deeper than the average tourist.

Linguistic dexterity aside, Cuba remains an easy country to travel in and there are few barriers stopping you from wandering around pretty much how and as you choose. A slight loosening of the screws since Raúl Castro took office in February 2008 has allowed Cubans access to cell phones and entry into tourist hotels, meaning interaction with the locals is now simpler and often surprisingly candid.

Havana

on Sunday, 28 August 2011. Posted in Cuba

Historical Spanish-colonial character abounds in central Havana and the spectacular old town area known as Habana Vieja has earned itself a UNESCO World Heritage listing, following its substantial restoration work, which transformed it after many years of poverty. The Habana Vieja Walking Tour is the perfect way to acquaint yourself with this city and the tourist attractions that it has to offer. If you prefer to do things at your own pace, then choose between a visit to the Partagas Cigar Factory (Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas), the National Aquarium (Acuario Nacional), the National Zoological Park (Parque Zoologico Nacional) or the National Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanico Nacional). Then perhaps finish off your day of sightseeing by enjoying a stroll along the scenic El Malecon promenade, taking in the seafront views and perhaps stopping off at one of the many bars and cafes to watch the sun setting.
Being the proud Cuban capital and a true Caribbean metropolis, prominent landmarks and striking buildings are in good supply in downtown Havana, particularly around the Habana Vieja and Centro districts. Here you will find the Plaza de Armas (Square of Arms), which serves as the city's principal plaza and is where it all began some 500 years ago. Although this square is easily the most important and interesting, many others exist in the city, with the most obvious being the Plaza de la Catedral, the Plaza del Cristo, the Plaza de la Revolucion, the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis and the Plaza Vieja. When it comes to buildings, the National Capital Building (Capitolio Nacional) is one of Havana's most magnificent and functioned as the Cuban seat of government for many years, until the revolution in 1959. Another landmark of note is the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, a historic fortress dating back to the 16th century and built to defend the city from possible pirate attacks.
The list of cultural offerings within Havana is quite lengthy and there are easily more than you would ever wish to visit during a holiday. Therefore, it is well worth selecting those that appeal the most, with the Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolucion) being a very likely candidate and found within the former Presidential Palace. The Museum of the City (Museo de la Ciudad) on the Plaza de Armas is another good bet, while if you are here with children, then the National Museum of Natural History (Museo Nacional de Historia Natural) may be more appealing. For an insight into the country's love of art, both the National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes) and the Museum of Colonial Art (Museo de Arte Colonial) will appeal.

Getting out and about is an integral part of any Cuban holiday and a variety of day trips are possible. Although Havana enjoys a coastal setting alongside the Straits of Florida, there are not actually any decent beaches in this area. If you would like to spend the day sunbathing on some of the best beaches in this part of Cuba, then an excursion to the resort town of Varadero is in order, being around two hours away and to the east. Located a similar distance from Havana, only this time to the south-east, is the vast Cienaga de Zapata National Park (Parque Nacional Cienaga de Zapata), where scuba diving, walking and bird watching are all highlights. Closer to home is the municipality of Playa, which is sited just over the Almendares River and fronted by a series of old forts. Located a short distance from the city's harbourfront is the bustling port town of Regla, where a vibrant Afro-Cuban community welcomes visitors.

* Note: Room prices change constantly. You should check the latest availability as in many cases the room price can be even lower than the listed price on the LastBeds website.