The Republic of Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean linked by a string of archipelagos, comprised of more than 4000 islands and cays. Cuba is one of the few Communist nations, with a rich culture and a great political history. Cuba gained its independence from Spain in 1898. Cuba has an area of approximately 110,860 sq km, and a population of over 11.4 million. Havana, the capital, and Santiago de Cuba are the two most popular cities. The Cuban Convertible Peso is the local currency. Cubans speak Spanish, and find respite in music while struggling through economic hardships. It is normal to see unemployed men playing dominoes on card tables whiling hours away.
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A tourist visa is required, which may be obtained from airlines or travel agents. Cuba has great tourist potential, which is a source of revenue for the government with over 2 million visitors visiting Cuba annually. It is advisable to avoid travelling to the region during the hurricane season from June to November. Cuba is not cheap for tourists, but costs may be reduced by travelling on the Viazul bus system and staying in casas particulares.
People visit Cuba to enjoy sparkling waters and white sands, drinks and the sun. Latin dance and art are also popular among visitors. The top travel destinations include Havana, Vinales Valley, Trinidad, Santa Clara, Remedios, Baracoa, Santiago de Cuba and Cayo Largo del Sur. The island destinations offer a range of activities including beach fun, colonial city getaways, sea adventures, tobacco farms, and cultural activities. Cuartel de Moncada in Santiago, the Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara in Santa Clara and the Playa Giron are the most popular historic destinations. Ornithologists marvel the exquisite bird-watching sites.
Havana has museums, forts, antique buildings and a bustling city life. Western Cuba, comprising of Artemisa and Pinar del Rio, has beautiful beaches, farms and forests. Vinales and Vuelta Abajo are popular for tobacco and cigar manufacturing, and tourists enjoy hiking, mountain biking, cave exploration and bird-watching. Maria la Gorda and Isla de la Juventud offer great scuba diving opportunities. Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo are popular resort destinations. Ciego de Avila and Camaguey are cities from the colonial era. El Oriente, comprising of the provinces of Holguin, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo, has great beaches and natural beauty including the mountains of Sierra Maestra. Camaguey and Northeastern Cuba have a string of rural towns and cities, with long stretches of beaches. Trinidad has well maintained colonial era buildings. Santa Clara, also popularly known as "City of Che Guevara," is a quiet university town. Trinidad and Central Cuba form the countrys rural heartland, with vast regions of cattle ranges, tobacco and sugarcane. Varadero and Matanzas Province have the most popular beach destinations with more than 13 miles of white sands. Cienaga de Zapata offers great bird-watching, wildlife viewing and fishing opportunities. The stunning colorful waters off Playa Girion make lasting impressions in the minds of tourists.
Boobbyer, C. (2011). Frommer's Cuba. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Lonely Planet. (2012). Cuba. Available at: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/cuba Last accessed: February 17, 2012.