Cuba captured the world's imagination
thanks to Christopher Columbus, who in 1492 described the Caribbean's biggest island: "I
have never seen a more beautiful country, with palm leaves so big they can roof a house,
with thousands of shells on the beach, with such limpid water, and always the same
dizzying symphony of bird songs."
Cuba remains the
same wonderful island, replete with breathtaking scenery, idyllic beaches and amazingly
fertile land. But in the course of a tumultuous history, this mysterious and inscrutable
country was indelibly shaped by the mark of human hands.
Its capital, Havana, is a city that moves to the beat of its own
rhythm, halfway between the relaxed pace of a sultry tropical town and a frenzied
atmosphere like that of New York City.
thing that strikes visitors when they get to Havana is its urbanity. Not a false,
superficial urbanity, but one that is deeply rooted in its very walls, its way of life and
its population of over two million inhabitants. Founded in 1514 by Panfilio de Narváez,
under the orders of Diego Velázquez, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for Old
Havana boasts a rich architectural legacy. Such international recognition says a lot about
this historic city, which was once the jewel of the Spanish colonies.
Havana is a city of depth and character, whose seductive charms are
impossible to resist. Discover its grand plazas -- Plaza de la Catedral and its cathedral,
or Plaza de Armas, Plaza de San Francisco or Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro and the
Fortaleza San Carlos de la Cabaña; its neighbourhoods such as Prado and Vedado, and the
Parque Central. Treat yourself to a stroll along the Malecón, a seaside promenade, or
explore the Museo de la Ciudad or the Palacio de Bellas Artes.
Where on earth
Bathed by the waters of the Caribbean Sea, the Cuban
archipelago borders the tropic of Cancer, just north of the main island, and stretches to
the Gulf of Mexico. With a surface area of 110,922 km2 (42,830 mi), Cuba is the largest
island in the Caribbean. Its long, narrow shape -- it is 1,220 km (758 mi) long and
between 30 and 190 km wide (19 to 118 mi) -- gives it close to 6,000 km (3,728 mi) of
coastline, including the shores of the other islands or cayos. Four large groups of coral
reef islets are found around the island of Cuba.