Cuba

Despite being pinned up against the wall of chronic poverty by a U.S.-led, decades-old embargo/blockade and being hampered by a staunchly socialistic regime, Cuba isn't nearly the depressing place you'd expect it to be. The country's warm stretches of white sand will warm your toes and the smiles and hospitality of the Cuban people will warm your hearts. While the country is mostly known worldwide for its seemingly endless expanses of beachfront resort getaways, there is an entire other world that provides a sometimes sad but always unforgettable picture of what life on the island is really like. The beaches are amazing, but other island draws include a stop in Santa Clara, home to a mausoleum that houses the body of Che Guevara; a visit to Cienfuegos, home to the Jagua fortress, built more than 270 years ago to protect Spanish colonial interests in the Caribbean; and, Havana of course, the largest city in the region and certainly one of the most remarkable. The city is home to a number of regions that vary in terms of development, but the biggest draw of them by far is Old Havana, one of the country's nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, where it seems as if time has stood still since the Cuban Revolution of 1959 or, in many cases, much earlier. As UNESCO puts it, "the city suffered little damage in the country's wars and revolutions, and stands today much as it was built 100 years ago." The bottom line is that there is much more here than meets the eye. Never underestimate the value of a trip to Cuba, where everyone is welcome (but where not everyone is allowed to go - sorry Americans, take it up with the White House!) and you'll leave with a better understanding of culture and history of this amazing vacation destination and its even more amazing people. ~ WBB Staff Writer


The Indefinable Magic of Cuba

Any reason is a good reason to visit Cuba. Perhaps the legendary music is the island’s greatest draw or maybe it’s the colonial architecture and wonderfully preserved history that offers the appeal. There is plenty of rum and loads of cigars to keep visitors happy, not to mention endless stretches of soft white sandy beaches. For many, the country’s post as one of the last standing ‘real’ communist bastions – despite decades of pressure from the west – is of great interest. And of course, there are the people. A colorful melting pot of cultures from Spain, Africa and Asia, among other locales, this tiny Caribbean island of eleven million represents diversity at its finest.

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 Full name: Republic of Cuba

 Population: 11.08 million (CIA, 2012)

 Capital: Havana

 Largest city: Havana

 Area: 110,860 sq.km. (42,803 sq. mi.)

 Major languages: Spanish

 Major religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant,  Other

 Monetary unit: Cuban Peso

 GDP per capita: US $9,900

 Internet domain: .cu

 International dialling code: +53

 Source: CIA World Factbook