Local dishes: Cuban cuisine is a mix of Spanish and African influences. Dishes like Moros y Cristianos (meaning “Moors and Christians”, a combination of black beans and rice), arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) and picadillo (minced beef and rice) are common, as are soups made with plantains, chick-peas or beans. Cocktails are legendary. Try Hemingway’s favourites, the mojito (rum, mint and lime) and the daquiri.

Interesting fact: Cuba is the only island in the Caribbean to have a railway. Good reading: Peter Bourne’s Castro: A Biography of Fidel Castro, Tomás Borge’s Face to Face with Fidel Castro and Beatriz Pagés’ Can Cuba Survive? An Interview with Fidel Castro are just some of the better books on this icon of the 20th century. Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson is considered the best biography of the mysterious Argentine. Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, the story of a British vacuum-cleaner salesman who is invited to become a spy in Cuba’s capital city, is a very entertaining read.

Visas: You’ll need a Tourist Card, which is easily obtained from your travel agent, for a fee of about £15. Non-tourists need to apply direct to the Cuban Consulate at 15 Grape Street, London WC2H 8DR (020 7240 2488).

Public holidays: Liberation Day (1 Jan); Labour Day; National Rebellion Day (25-27 July); Beginning of the Independence Wars (10 Oct). Christmas Day is not a public holiday in Cuba.

Cuba Travel Guide National Geographic’s latest travel stories about Cuba


Just 90 miles off the tip of the Florida Keys, Cuba’s 42,426 square miles of land is home to more than 11 million people and an array of wildlife including tropical birds, frogs, and crocodiles. The largest of the Caribbean islands, this lively country boasts vibrant colors, whimsical buildings overflowing with character, and congenial locals. Since Columbus’s Spanish claim in 1492, Cuba has weathered centuries of history written into crumbling walls, generations of family recipes whispered from parent to child, and age-old cultural traditions still practiced to this day.