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An incessant flood of magnificent colour, fascinating people and enchanting Caribbean charm, Cuba is everything it is thought to be and much more. It is a country that is in love with life, and this love is reflected in the bustle of Havana street life, the pastel hues of the Trinidad streets and the silky white beaches and soporific seas of the Bay of Pigs.

From the otherworldly feel of the Cuban moist forests, to the cheerful classic cars which line the roads, Cuba has carved out its own identity against that of its nearby Caribbean neighbours. Cuban music, dance and cinema has been praised and exported across the world, while the history of Cuba as a communist state, a Spanish colony and as a Mesoamerican settlement is a wondrous living tapestry of intrigue which influenced by characters such as Ché Guevara and Fidel Castro.

Cuba is home to an excellent rail service, run by the government. There are some exceptional rail highlights here, include the wonderful Hershey Train, Cuba's only surviving electric line. Also worth mentioning is the simply exquisite railroad style steam train which runs through the astonishingly beautiful Valley of the Sugar Mills.

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Discovering Cuba with Great Rail Journeys

The largest of the Caribbean Islands, Cuba can be found just south of Miami in the USA, and finds itself at the point where the North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico meet. Its capital city is Havana with a little over 2 million residents.

Cuba was home to a range of Mesoamerican tribes including the Guanahatabey, Ciboney and Taíno peoples, until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors of the 15th and 16th centuries. Many of these tribes died from the various diseases brought by the invaders, and the population was instead replaced by Spanish immigrants and the slaves which they brought.

With this new population, the Cuban economy grew thanks to its prowess as a major player in the tobacco and sugar trades. Cuba remained in the hands of the Spanish until the Spanish-American War in the late 19th century saw it transferred to American ownership under military occupation before it gained its independence in 1902. The authoritarian dictatorship of the presiding president led to an army sergeant named Batista overthrowing the government and installing himself in charge, backed by the US government.

The Batista era saw progress and prosperity in a number of fields, but at the sacrifice of civil freedoms and political violence. Revolution was always a possibility and it found its leader in Fidel Castro Ruz, a pro-communist soldier from a law background. Castro initiated a guerrilla war against the regime which resulted in the eventual overthrow of Batista and the instigation of a communist government across Cuba which has lasted up to modern times.

With its strong communist ties, and friendship with Russia, the USA saw Cuba as a threat and a possible American colony which lead to an extended cold war in which Cuba saw much of its possible trade routes cut off by diplomatic intervention by the USA. Some of this is still in place today, giving credence to the claim that a visit to Cuba is a chance to witness history as it happens.

Cuba Traveller's Guide

Cuban culture is an eclectic mix of all the different branches of the Cuban national identity. This is most obvious perhaps in the incredible music produced in Cuba. Cuban music takes its cues from west African and Spanish music, making for a scintillating mix of African percussive and rhythmic techniques with Spanish melody and musicianship. This combination has given rise to some magnificent music forms including the rhumba, the salsa and the delightful Afro-Cuban jazz form.

Along with these music genres, the Cuban people have created some enthralling dance styles such as the flowing, fiery rhumba and the rhythmic and sizzling salsa. Both of these have emerged from Cuba to become majorly popular across the world, with the Salsa achieving particular fame in New York City.

Cuban enjoys a subtropical climate throughout the year. Thanks to its island climate and the surrounding ocean winds, the humidity and heat is never too overbearing and this heat tends to keep up throughout the year. Highs can reach up to 35 degrees and lows can fall to around 10 degrees.

As with much of Cuban identity, Cuban cuisine is an amalgamation of different cultures. Predominantly however, Cuban food is principally Spanish in its nature, featuring a variety of traditional Spanish foods, influenced by the spices which passed through the Caribbean during the height of the trade triangles.

Get in touch with one of our Cuba Specialists

Helping you plan your holiday to Cuba


Jo Jones
Simon Laverack