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Country Information

Immaculate beaches, lush green hills, dramatic rainforests and waterfalls; imposing mountain ranges, vibrant cities steeped in history and a defiant Revolutionary chic; the island of Cuba can rightfully claim to be one of the most unique getaways on earth.

The largest and most populous island in the Caribbean, Cuba has been somewhat time warped by its socialist revolution of 1959, and that, combined with the decadence and corruption of previous regimes has made it a sunshine isle of stark contrasts. Vintage American cars roar through the streets of Havana. Horses and carts carrying water and food stumble through the countryside. Graphic revolutionary insignia adorn walls just yards from a decadent colonial palace.

Much of the island’s allure lies in its spectacular beaches and thrilling scenery. Christopher Columbus wasn’t joking when he declared in 1492 the coast of Guardalavaca to be “the most beautiful land I have ever seen.” The beaches there are like something out of a dream, so it should come as no surprise that thousands of holidaymakers head there each year to soak up the sun on the improbably white sands, dip into the warm, turquoise waters and indulge in the five star luxury that many of the hotels and resorts there provide.

While the world famous cocktails may surpass the hearty but occasionally limited food and the travelling around might be slightly more difficult than elsewhere in the Caribbean, Cuba more than makes up for this with its stunning climate, captivating history, generous charm and swinging salsa rhythms.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Hot, sub-tropical climate all year. Most rain falls between May and October and the hurricane season officially runs from July to November, with most storms historically occurring in October and November. Humidity varies between 75% and 95%. Cooler months are January to April when the least rain falls.

REQUIRED CLOTHING

Lightweight clothes most of the year; the high humidity makes it unwise to wear synthetics close to the skin. A light sweater is advisable even during the hottest months for installations with air conditioning (e.g. the Viazul bus which is always frigid) and a heavier sweater or jacket for December through March when cold fronts can drop the mercury to 10 degrees Celsius. Light waterproofs are advisable all year round.

GEOGRAPHY

Cuba is the largest Caribbean island, about the size of England, and the most westerly of the Greater Antilles group, lying a mere 145km (90 miles) south of Florida.

A quarter of the country is fairly mountainous. West of Havana is the narrow Sierra de los Órganos, rising to 750m (2,461ft) and containing the Guaniguanico hills in the west. South of the Sierra is a narrow strip of 2,320 sq km (860 sq miles) where the finest Cuban tobacco is grown.

The Sierra de Escambray and Montañas de Guamuhaya behind Trinidad in the centre of the country rise to 1140m (3,740ft) Encircling the port of Santiago are the rugged mountains of the Sierra Maestra. A quarter of the island is covered with mountain forests of pine and mahogany. Cuba has few rivers of note, the exception being the Río Cauto in the east. The country has 3735km (2321 miles) of coastline and thousands of offshore islands.


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