The long-awaited Christmas holidays are very close: many activities close for a long time and many decide to treat themselves to a nice trip, perhaps to some exotic destination. How many of you in fact dream of being caressed by the rays of the sun in this cold December and immerse yourself in the crystal clear waters of some Caribbean island?
If you want a holiday like this Cuba is definitely the perfect destination, thanks to a very favorable climate, the tropical, which never lets the temperature falls below 15 degrees, and the beauty that the island reserves. The Cuban winter is very much like our summer, and cities like Havana and Santiago, in turmoil at any time of year, will thrill you with their unique atmosphere, the warmth of the population, the wild Latin rhythms and Cuban traditions all to be discovered.
From Havana to Santiago via Playa de l’Este: here’s what to see
Havana, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982, is an amazing city: the streets and alleys of the old town contain the charm of a bygone era. The historical buildings, heritage of the Spanish domination, meet more modern architecture, making it interesting to visit. Even more impressive is perhaps the liveliness of Havana, thanks to the inhabitants of the island, always ready to chat and give some useful suggestions on restaurants and places not to be missed, perhaps adding some anecdotes.
Near the city centre you can also take the Malecon, a wide six-lane artery located in front of the sea on the northern coast of the city. Protected by a huge wall, the road connects the Puerto de La Habana to the Vedado district. But if you don’t want to walk for eight kilometres, then take one of the legendary Cuban Coco Taxis, a sort of little yellow egg-shaped car with three seats, but driven by a scooter. A tip: try the very greasy scones that you can buy directly from the kitchens of the restaurants on the street, you will not regret it. In the evening, then, enjoy a mojito, perhaps at Bodeguita del Medio, the bar and restaurant preferred by none other than Ernest Hemingway.
A visit to Santiago, the place where the Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power at the end of the Fifties began, is also a must. You will be surprised and fascinated by the climate of this city: walking through its streets you are constantly accompanied by music of all kinds. The rhythm pervades the streets, there are places where Cuban players perform live, private clubs where you can listen to good jazz and street performers. It is here, in fact, that the most important music festival on the island takes place. Not only that: the fortress overlooking the hill and the long stairways where the inhabitants play endless games of domination will make you love Santiago.
The Cuban beaches, as beautiful as postcards, are the dream for every traveller in search of relaxation, but also that of all snorkeling enthusiasts. Playa de l’Este, just outside the capital, is incredible, Varadero boasts the second most important coral reef in the world, the beach Maria La Gorda is unique, known to all divers for the famous black coral and Playa Las Coronadas is the one where they landed Castro and Guevara. These are just to name a few, but the truth is that they are all wonderful. Even if it’s winter though, don’t forget to buy sunscreen or you’ll risk a nice burn.
New Year’s Eve in Cuba: what to do during Nochevieja
Unlike Italy, in Cuba Christmas goes rather unnoticed: no big celebration or concert to celebrate this anniversary. Nochevieja, New Year’s Eve, which also coincides with the eve of the Revolution, is definitely more heartfelt. The obligatory stop on Cuban New Year’s Eve is Plaza de la Catedral in Havana. Here you can eat and drink until dawn and enjoy the circus shows, dancers and musicians that accompany the festivities at the end of the year. Please note, however, that this is also a party in the square you must have a ticket, usually also available at the reception of your hotel. In addition, try to stay away from the edges of the streets: in Cuba, to sweep away the bad memories of the past year, the inhabitants traditionally throw a bucket of water from the window.
During the New Year’s Eve, you may see some Cubans walking around with a suitcase in their hands and greet the people they meet: don’t worry, this is a custom characteristic of the island, a good omen to make during the year a trip to a distant country. The fireworks are a must: in Havana the fireworks display held in the port area is really in style and you can admire it from the area of La Cabana. Immediately after the last night of the year, January 1st, there are the actual celebrations of the Día de la Liberación, during which the anniversary of the victory of Fidel Castro in 1959 is celebrated.
Tips for a trip to Cuba
First, if you are planning a trip to Cuba, you must take out travel insurance in advance. Since May 1, 2010, all tourists leaving for this destination have been required to take out a health insurance policy. It would be better to opt for comprehensive and reliable insurance in terms of compensation. I relied on Assivia to choose a formula that would protect me even in the event of loss or loss of luggage and the cancellation of departure.
In addition to travel insurance, it is good to start with some money in your pocket, changing in advance your euro in Cuban Peso (CUP). Also note the emergency numbers, you never know: 106 to call the police and 105 for firefighters. If you want to call home to tell even before returning your memorable trip, or for a problem of any kind, remember that the international area code is +53. As I said before, the Cuban winter is hot and the temperature is usually around 20 degrees. However, if you are about to visit the Sierra Madre or the other reliefs of the island, it is a good idea to pack not only swimsuits, but also some warm sweaters.
Having said that, enjoy your Cuban Christmas holidays to everyone!