Leave your expectations at the door, because this is one country that dances to the beat of its own Afro-Cuban rhythms. Decades of hefty embargoes marooned Cuba in the 1960s, but behind closed doors, this Latin gem continued to cherish its traditions and lively spirit. Today, walk the streets of Havana Vieja (Old Havana) and you’ll feel like you’ve been propelled back in time. Cadillacs in every imaginable colour whiz past pristine colonial buildings. Kids kick fútbols (soccer balls) in the alleys, as they would have before the advent of mobile phones. The city’s sherbet facades lay peeling after decades of neglect, yet they exude a raw beauty that is unmistakably Cuban.
Venture out of Havana and you’ll find countless cobbled towns with vibrant casas particulares (private homestays) and a fascinating fusion of Caribbean and Latin cultures. Head west to rural Viñales, where you can tour the famous tobacco farms, sip mojitos and salsa the night away, or kick back on the white-sand beaches of Varadero. Visit with an open mind and you’re bound to be blown away.