Cuba Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia (4K)
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Cuba Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia (4K)

It’s only 93 miles from Florida, and just
13 from the Bahamas, but like the smoke that coils from its legendary cigars, The Republic of Cuba exists in a time and
space all it’s own. Blending the traditions of Spain, Africa and its native peoples, and lit by the fires of independence and revolution, the aromas, textures and flavors of this Caribbean
nation are like no other. Despite its size, Cuba has punched
well above it’s weight. For centuries its vast plantations satisfied
a global appetite for sugar and thirst for the smoothest rums. In 1962 it played center stage in a
nuclear standoff, which made the planet hold its breath for
13 days. And through it all, its infectious rhythms taught the world how
to move its hips. Few cities can stir the imagination like
Cuba’s capital, Havana, a city preserved by forts and citadels, …a five-mile seawall, …and an imposed embargo which held back
the excesses of the 20th century for over 50 years. Havana’s symbol is La Giraldilla, dedicated to the city’s first female governor, who scanned the horizon each day for her husbands
return from sea. 400 years later she continues to wait, high above Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the
city’s original fort. While her husband never returned from his
explorations, today she watches as millions of travelers
come to explore her city. The fort overlooks Plaza de Armas the birthplace
and heart of Old Havana. Step into the cool colonial elegance of the
Palace of the Captains General, once the home of governors, today the home
of the Museum of the City of Havana. Browse the vintage books and posters
in Plaza de Armas, …then take the short walk to Plaza de la
Catedral where fortunes are told and salsa spills from
beneath the arches. Made from blocks of coral cut from the ocean floor, The Cathedral of Saint Christopher is a Cuban
Baroque masterpiece that has been called music set in stone. For 100 years, it was also the resting place
of Columbus, who claimed these fertile lands for Spain
in 1492. Another of the Old Town’s squares is
Plaza de San Francisco, which has changed little since the days when
the crews of passing galleons filled their barrels at the Fountain of the Lions. A more recent addition to the square is ‘La
Conversación’, a statue that reminds us of the need for dialogue
in contemporary society. Cubans however, need little reminding of the importance of such simple pleasures. In a world where our heads are increasingly
bowed to the smartphone, this is a city where the people still walk
with heads held high. There’s something truly liberating walking
these advertisement and franchise-free streets, where you can be open to millions of unguarded
moments, …like the curbside battles of wits, …the characters, …the melancholy of peeling paint, and the
promise of each new coat. One place that will never see a paintbrush
is La Bodeguita del Medio. Enjoy a mojito and add your name to the thousands
of others, which adorn every surface of this iconic bar. Getting around the city is easy, simply walk,
catch a bus, or cruise in style. Havana is home to thousands of classic autos
from a golden age, which just like the city, only become more
alluring with each passing year. Head west, and you’ll soon see the majestic dome of El Capitolio rise over Central Havana. The streets here are lined with some of Havana’s
finest architectural treasures, such as the Great Theatre of Havana,…and
the National Museum of Fine Arts. Just a little further to the west, discover the Vedado district, a mix of fabulous 1950s modernist buildings and neoclassical mansions patiently awaiting
restoration. Explore the markets, …then join ice-cream loving locals at Coppelia, Havana’s futuristic temple to the multi-scoop. The Vedado is also home to The University of Havana, a hotbed of enquiry and dissent for almost
300 years. And the iconic National Hotel, where the likes of Winston Churchill, Rita
Hayworth, and Leonardo DiCaprio have spent many a Cuban night. While the streets of Havana give the city it’s pulse, it’s on the Malecón where you’ll find
its soul. Extending for miles along Havana’s northern
shores, this is where the city comes to meet,…romance,…and
dream, ….and perhaps, catch a little dinner. At the Malecón’s eastern end, look out across the mouth of Havana Harbor
from Fort San Salvador, to its big brother, Moro Castle. For centuries these two guardians were linked
by a giant chain, which could be pulled tight to keep marauding
ships at bay. While you’re near the Malecón’s eastern end, visit the Museum of the Revolution. Housed in the former presidential palace of
deposed dictator Batista, the museum is a dedication to those who took
part in the long march to a free Cuban homeland. You’ll find tributes to Cuba’s political
heroes all over Havana, but there is none greater than the Plaza de
la Revolución, where more than a million Cubans can gather
at a time. Towering over the square is the memorial to
Jóse Marti, the poet, writer and lightning rod for Cuban
Independence. Pay your respects to Cubans great and small, at Colon Cemetery, a city within a city containing
over 500 mausoleums. From generals to chess champions to the poor, a walk through these 57 hectares is a walk
though Cuban history. Another city within this city, is Fusterlandia, where for more than 30 years
the wild imagination of artist Jóse Fuster has exploded from the confines
of his studio and into the neighborhood streets, walls and rooftops of Jaimanitas. Havana has long been a magnet for creative minds. On Havana’s outskirts, high on a shady hilltop, sits the former Cuban residence of Ernest
Hemingway. Peer into the rooms where the Nobel laureate
lived for twenty years, writing classics such as The Old Man and The Sea. The home was a gift to the people of Cuba, and remains much as it was, the day Hemingway left his beloved island
forever in 1960. When the sun gets low and the city takes on its beckoning glow, why not head back downtown and order a daiquiri
at El Floridita, just as El Papa did after a long day at the
typewriter. Then let Havana’s magical rhythms carry
you into the night. Havana’s lure can be hard to resist, but Cuba offers so much more beyond the seductive
lights of its capital. In Cuba, a long sandy beach and a cool sea
breeze is never far away. Just 12 miles from Havana’s downtown, the Eastern Beaches unroll toward the town
of Matanzas, the birthplace of the rumba, …and Cardenas, where in 1850, the Cuban
Flag flew for the very first time. From here, follow the scent of fresh lime, rum and suntan lotion north, to one of Latin America’s premier resorts, Varadero. This long sandy peninsula is famed for its
natural attractions as well as its resorts. Be sure to take a walk in the Varahicacos
Ecological Reserve, and experience the subterranean world of the
Cueva de Ambrosio. Then cool off in the pure, crystal waters
of nearby Cueva Saturno. After exploring the northern coastline, turn south towards Cuba’s heartland. Santa Clara is Cuba’s most revolutionary city. Here, in 1958, Ché Guevara and 18 fellow rebels took on an armored government train with a
bulldozer and Molotov cocktails, and won. The Battle of Santa Clara brought an end to
the Revolution and cleared the way for a new President, Fidel
Castro, who would steer Cuba’s course for the next
50 years. But this city will always belong to Ché. He is everywhere,…watching over the city
from his mausoleum, from the streets, from the very walls, extolling us to remember that liberators do
not exist, …the people liberate themselves. From a city forged by Revolution, to one built on sugar, welcome to Trinidad. In the early 1800s, this was the sugar capital of the world. Here, plantation owners poured vast fortunes
into plazas, …churches,…and Spanish colonial mansions filled with the best furnishings money could buy. Just a few miles from Trinidad, climb Manaca Iznaga Tower for views across
the Valle de los Ingenios. Here, for as far as the eye can see, thousands of workers once cut sugar cane, while more than fifty mills squeezed out its
sweet liquid gold. Trinidad is surrounded by other riches too. Relax on Southern Cuba’s finest stretch
of sand, Playa Ancón. Then follow the rural back roads that lead to the cool heights of the Sierra
del Escambray. In Cienfuegos, the mood changes from Spanish, to something a little more Parisian. This is the only Cuban city founded by the French, and it shows. There is an unmistakable elegance here, in the spacious avenues around Jose Marti Park, …to the theater where Caruso once brought
opera lovers to tears. You’ll find it amid the lavish dining room and roof-top terrace of the Palacio de Valle, …and in the seaside homes of Punta Gorda. And when it’s time to experience natures elegance, you’ll find plenty nearby, …in the birdlife of Laguna Guanaroca, …and in the afternoon light of Rancho Luna Beach. After exploring Cienfuegos, why not just keep going, because there’s so much more to discover in
this country, which opens to the world more each day. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether Cuba
is awakening to the world, or if the world is awakening to Cuba. Whatever your politics, it’s easy to admire this island nation that
has proudly gone it’s own way. Cuba may still have one foot firmly in the past, but as the world tumbles towards tomorrow, we can be thankful for the many things it
has not let go.


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