5 essential travel experiences in Cuba

Vinales Valley, photo by Twicepix

Cuba is world famous for so many things (and not all of them related to politics) that a first time visitor to the country has to wonder whether they are actually true, or merely a clever trap designed to catch tourist off-guard. Well, in the case of Cuba, the stereotypes involving rum, salsa and cigars are not inaccurate, but nor are they merely tourist attractions. The people of Cuba live and breathe these things, which, incidentally, make up much of the country’s appeal. And while these fine pleasures are welcome distractions in Cuba, they are not the only things on the list. So if you want to experience the authentic Cuba as far as it is possible for a tourist, here are 5 essential travel experiences in Cuba.

Cuban Salsa

Salsa is the national dance of Cuba, and it originated there in the 30′s. Soon enough the dance style swept the world and millions of people all  around the planet now learn the steps of this infectious dance. If you’ve never danced salsa before, then Cuba is the perfect place to learn – there are dozens of excellent salsa schools in Havana only, and pupils are thought by experienced tutors.

Cuban cigars

Cigar

larddesigns/flickr

Cigars are another typically Cuba product that have spread all around the globe, and those who appreciate the finer pleasures of life might have taken a drag on a cigar or two in their lifetimes. If inhaling the smoke doesn’t sound very appealing to you, then you might be interested in the history of cigar manufacture in Cuba, one of the country’s chief industries. Tobacco plantations like Pinar del Rio, the Tobacco Museum and the Partagas Cigar Factory are great places to visit for those interested in Cuban cigars.

Cuban Rum

Drinking a few glasses of domestic rum is not something that many visitors skip when arriving in Cuba. But enjoying the taste of rum is not all there is to it – Cuban rum has a tradition that is worth examining in more detail. Visit the Rum Museum in Havana, and perhaps even a rum distillery or sugar estate. Rum production in Cuba goes back a few centuries, and there is so much more to it than a glass of (albeit delicious) Havana Club.

Cuban Cabaret

photo by Haydn Blackey on Flickr

La Tropicana cabaret and club set the tone for many cabarets in Paris, New York and Las Vegas, and served as a model both when it comes to the costumes, and the shows themselves. Tropicana used to be known as a mafia hangout after it was opened in 1939, but it also contributed to the spread of Cuban culture worldwide. The cabaret is still in operation today, so make sure to catch at least one of their glamorous shows.

Cuban Hiking

Vinales Valley is one of the most picturesque spots in Cuba, and a place that often gets ignored by those who only stick to cities. Vinales Valley contains the most beautiful countryside in the Caribbean. The karst mountains in the valley offer some truly exciting hiking or rock climbing opportunities, but easier walking trails also abound. Enjoying the green hills and mountains dotted with villages is definitely one of the essential travel experiences in Cuba.

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