Floating halfway between the US to the north and Latin America to the south sits Cuba, an isle of intrigue, romance and politics quite unlike any other. There are rousing rhythms, dancing in cobblestone streets (for real), wafting cigar smoke, a bounty of beaches and a Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack to accompany every style of journey.
Without further ado, here are five reasons why you should consider dropping everything and heading to Cuba.
5. The time travel
When Castro pressed pause on economic progress in the 60s, he also inadvertently pressed pause on Cuba. So while we know it’s a cliche, visiting the crocodile isle really is like stepping back in time. There’s zero internet (well, scratch that, five percent of Cubans have internet), ancient Chevrolets rumble down cobblestone streets, ration shops sit beside colonial palaces, and salsa dancers twirl against a backdrop of crumbling pastel facades. It’s a time capsule glory town, if there ever was one.
4. The rhythms
In Cuba, music is life. It seeps from every pore, every crack, every cobblestone and takes the saying “sing like no one is listening and dance like no one is watching” quite literally. You could be walking to the market when a gang of guitar-playing troubadours start serenading, you could be eating at a street side cafe when the waitstaff break out in an impromptu rumba, or perhaps you’ll be minding your own business, just reading a book, when you absentmindedly begin humming ojos verdes. That’s when you know the rhythms of Cuba have got you, too.
3. The food
…and the rum, are straight out of Caribbean heaven. We recommend savouring a little Havana Club over ice, mixing things up with a minty mojito and then throwing down a Cuba Libre like the rum connoisseur you truly are. Then the next morning treat yourself to some of Cuba’s legendary coffee and let the quality caffeine do the work. And when you’re feeling up to it, there’s a whole world of delicious foodstuffs just waiting to delight your senses, like fritura de maiz (fried cornmeal and cheese fritters), pastelitos full of cream cheese or beef and Coppelia ice cream, where the sorbet is so good there’s a line around the corner.
2. The locals
The key to Cuba’s intoxicating enthral lies in the Cubans themselves. Enduringly positive, big dreamers and longtime survivors, the Cuban people are a welcoming and resilient people. Which is saying something, given their complex national history. Enter the country with a little Spanish under your belt, an open mind and your dancing shoes buckled and you’ll be making local friends all over the avenidas.
1. The history
The condensed history of Cuba goes a little something like this: Christopher Columbus, swashbuckling pirates, slave port for the Spanish, North American mafia gambling capital, communism and socialism (but not exactly in that order). It’s dominant national narrative is also inextricably entwined with the names Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Embedded in the national psyche, these important figures played a pivotal role in the Cuban Revolution of 1959.
Castro, a politician and revolutionary, led the country between 1959 and 2008 as both Prime Minister and then President, while Guevara was an Argentinean doctor, author and military leader who took a lead in the revolutionary Cuban guerrilla campaign. Odes to these men are painted on walls, worn on tee-shirts and sung about even today. You just can’t escape the reverance.
Ready to get your salsa on? Explore Cuba with Intrepid Travel
American? We have a licensed Cuba tour just for you!
Feature image c/o Bud Ellison, Flickr