Havana – Cuba’s Nirvana
The capital of Cuba, Havana is the country’s commercial and financial center. A port city, it is eminent for its fascinating history and sun-splashed shores along with numerous cultural and historical allures that draws huge number of tourists to the city each year. The city spans on a total area of 728.26 km2 to become the largest city in area and third largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region. At an elevation of 59 meters above sea level, the city is home to 2.1 million inhabitants making it the most populous city in the Caribbean. Found in the 16th century by Spanish, the title of city was granted to Havana in 1592. Incorporating of 3 main cities – Old Havana, Vedado and new suburban districts, the modern-day Havana is the 3rd highest income in the country and attracts over a million tourists in a year. Spanish is the official language spoken by most of the natives. As a growing tourist hub, English is also spoken widely, especially by those who are associated with tourism industry.
All flight coming to Havana, land at the city’s international airport – José Martí International Airport which is 15 km from the city center and hosts millions of passengers each year. Havana has a tropical climate which is characterized by hot and sunny summer and moderately cool winters. The climate can classified in two distinct seasons – dry season from November to April and wet season from May till October. While dry season is the peak tourist season in the city, do not let the wet season deter you as it does not rain too long and clouds break soon after a heavy downpour allowing the sun to shine through. The city is prone to hurricane in September and October; hence avoid visiting during these months. Some of the major festivals and events celebrated in the city are - Havana Film Festival, Havana International Jazz Festival, International Havana Ballet Festival, Habanos Cigar Festival, The Havana International Book Fair, Havana Carnival, Havana Festival of Contemporary Music and Cuba Pista Cycling Cup.
Start your Havana tours from the UNSECO World heritage site, Old Havana. Packed with magnificent monumental attractions, the town oozes the charm of bygone days. Make sure that you set aside a complete day in your itinerary to explore the old town. Some of the notable attractions here are - Catedral de San Cristobal, Castillo de la Real Fuerza, Palacio de los Capitanes, Museo de la Ciudad and La Bodeguita del Medio. Once you have soaked in the history of the city, head to the scenic Malecón to dwell in its attractive seafront boulevard. A 7 km long stroll will reveal to you some of Havana's best kept secrets and charms.
Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (an important fort built in 17th century to guard against the constant threat of pirate attacks), Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana (housing a few museums), El Capitolio (a grand building displaying fine blend of Neoclassical and Art Nouveau styles of architecture), Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (City's museum of Fine Arts), Paseo del Prado (most beautiful street in the city), Gran Teatro de La Habana (among world's largest Opera house), Fusterlandia (a charming village), Museo Napoleonico, Plaza de la Revolucion, Museo de la Revolucion, Miramar and Playas del Este are the major attractions one should explore here.
If you are interested in Havana beaches and watersports, then this is the best palace for you in the world. Playas del Este is the most important beach in Havana and can be reached by taking a bus.
While the city can be considered to be expensive in terms of staying and eating, there are a few places where you can have a decent meal without pinching your pocket. Please note that most of the resorts have their in house restaurants so opt for a room with bed and breakfast. The city is exceptionally popular for its nightlife and pubs. There are two types of establishments for drinking in Havana - Western-style CUC bars where the options are plentiful but expensive and the local neighborhood bars where you can enjoy limited but good quality drinks at decent price.
If you are shopping aficionado, there are many things that will awestruck you in Havana. Cuban cigars are popular all over the world, so picking a box is inevitable. There may not be luxury stores or high end brand outlets and shopping in Havana is limited to lane hotels like Havana Libre and Melia Cohiba. Obispo Street is a small shopping street from where you can buy coffee, rum, music Cd's, painting, local crafts and clothes. The old district also has interesting shops and super markets. The biggest and best supplied shopping markets in Havana are located in Miramar district. If you are travelling on a budget then visit the Mercado de la Catedral, Feria del Malecon,Mercado de la Rampa and Mercado de Cuatro Caminos which holds public markets in the city.
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