Cuba has been on my travel list for a few years now. When my buddy Jared and I were backpacking through Central America I tried to convince him we could fly into Cuba for a week, but he was too scared of getting in trouble. If you are American (yes, I'm guilty as charged), then the trick is to fly into Cuba from Central America. Do not try and fly directly into Cuba from the United States, Mexico, or Canada, as TSA officials are prevalent and customs officials will recognize that you should not be there. But if you fly into Havana from somewhere like Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Panama, then you are golden. Plenty of Americans have done it already. It is not the Cuban authorities you need to worry about, but rather the American ones. Cuba is happy just to receive our tourist money, they don't ask many questions.

Classic taxi in Havana
Click photo to enlarge

source: WikiMedia

Now be honest, doesn't Cuba interest you, at least a little? Think of those iconic Havana nights back in the 1920s and again during '50s, when Havana was the Paris of the Americas and one of Frank Sinatra's favorite hotspots... Think about the Havana Conference, one of the biggest ever mob family meetings in history, one that dictated mob policies for the ensuing decades... Think of all the 1950s cars used as taxis still to this day thanks to the US trade embargo...

Now can you honestly still say that you
don't have at least a little interest in Cuba?

As I already regret not seeing North Korea before Kim Jong-Il died, I vowed back then not to make that mistake twice; Without a doubt I had planned to visit Cuba during 2012, before Castro gets any older. Of course here is in 2013 now and I still haven't made it...but I will! The reason I wanted to visit both countries before their leaders died is not due to any form of support or approval towards the respective leaders of those two natiions, but because I worry that as those two countries both exist in such a delicate balance of communism and tourism, there is no telling what could happen once power shifts. Fidel Castro has been the figurehead of the island nation for almost 50 years, although he retired in 2008, I'm sure his continued existence is part of the glue that holds Cuba together.

Havana, Cuba
Havana, capital of Cuba

In the early 1960s, following America's ban on Cuba tourism and the systematic government shutdown of many popular nightclubs and gambling halls associated with illegal activities, Cuba's tourism industry came to a screeching halt. In was not until the early 1990s that the numbers began to improve. Even so, with 80% of pre-embargo tourists coming from the United States, it is hard to imagine Havana ever seeing such glory days ago without a change in American policy.

Nowadays over two million visitors a year grace the Cuban ground, most notably vacationers from Canada, Mexico, and all over Europe. As a matter-of-fact, tourism policies and general attitudes towards tourists have improved leaps and bounds, even more so in the last decade! Yes, truly Cuba is once again -- for the third time, actually -- officially become an up-and-coming tourist destination, with statistics improving every year.

The country even offers a variety of both budget and luxury accommodations. Plus, thanks to its countless museums Havana is home to many random and interesting pieces of history from all over the world. One of the more surprising is the Museo Napoliónico, which includes one of Napoleon’s teeth and the general’s death mask. And it should be no surprise that Ernest Hemingway's former house (and yes, even boat) are now a museum as well.

Varadero, Cuba
Off the coast of Varadero. Click photograph to enlarge.

Yes, Havana has a lot to offer, but there is more to Cuba than just that bustling metropolis. Just east of Havana is Varadero, an upper-class tourist town full of beaches that is home to many resorts, as well as the country's only golf course. The western side of Cuba is the center of the cigar industry, particularly the city of Pinar del Rio. There is Trinidad, a famous World Heritage Site, and Santa Clara, both located in central Cuba. And in the far east of Cuba you can find Baracoa and Santiago de Cuba, two other cities with huge historical importance.

If you find yourself in a small town as the day is drawing to a close, it should be no trouble at all to find a "casa particular" or private house for the night. Cuban people are known for being very friendly and what better way to get a firsthand experience in the culture and local life. Electricity can be spotty however, but as with everything else, there have been great improvements since 2008.

Cuba as it currently stands is a flower about to bloom, an ideal travel blogger's mecca that features just enough tourists to bring the country to life without spoiling or tarnishing it. And 2013 is the perfect year to visit there before the word gets out and the masses start flooding in. Besides, now is also a fantastic time to see the Cuba of the 21st century before it looses its 20th century appeal. After all, those taxis won't run forever! (The new wave has already started and trust me, they are not so iconic-looking ugghh.)

  So, to all you Americans reading this: would you attempt a trip to Cuba without telling the US government?

Published in Cuba

Are you in for an out of this world getaway along with your family? Well, pack up your travel bags, buckle your shoes, and brace yourselves with the wonderful surprises in the 5 featured cities awaiting you! And before leaving the 5 most fantastic cities in the world, make sure to get S.A.F.E.: Sceneries, Accommodations and Lodging, Foods and Beverages, and Entertainment.

Orlando City, Florida: The Magic within “The City Beautiful”

Just when you thought that Orlando is just about Disney, now think again. There is more to this city than be amused with this theme park. Within Orlando, it is stuffed with activities to cherish!


S: Harry P. Leu Gardens and Lake Eola Park

Everyone is entitled to take a wide-eye glimpse to the idyllic landscapes just in Harry P. Leu Gardens. It is filled with nature trails, oak trees, flowers, lakes and so on. If you want an additional fun, take the Lake Eola Park at Downtown Orlando. Escape from the busy streets with this nature park. It also has a lake, Chinese pagoda, Confederate States of America monuments, and many more!


A: Discount Vacation Rentals Online

When it comes to Orlando home rentals, DVRO is the companion of the tourists. It offers satisfaction guaranteed service from the staff plus cheap rates! The company also provides condos and townhouses just near to Orlando, such as Encantada Resort and Vista Cay.


F: Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant and Tommy Bahama’s Restaurant & Bar

Let Orlando feed you with some sumptuous dining options! First on the list is Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant. They serve Northern Spanish cuisines, such as a hundred versions of tapas, paellas, and cazuellas. On the other hand, the inviting atmosphere and recipes at Tommy Bahama’s Restaurant & Bar will smother you with delight! It is very famous for serving the Coconut Shrimp and Pina Colada Cake.


E: Wallaby Ranch and Kennedy Space Center

Dreaming to fly high or navigate the galaxy? Do both of these adventure only at Orlando’s Wallaby Ranch and Kennedy Space Center. Wallaby Ranch enables you to do hand gliding or aerotowing. The company ensures safety and a frenzied ride you will never forget. On the other hand, going to Kennedy Space Center is like an experience of being an astronaut. The space theme park offers you a chance to realistically traverse the heavenly bodies!


Lhasa City: An Escapade in the Roof of the World

Isn’t it interesting to know that this Tibetan city has the highest altitude in the world? This city indeed is worth visiting as you unveil their culture, beauty and sceneries peculiar to other territories.


S: The Potala Palace

This protected site of Lhasa was once a mythical palace depicting the rich culture of the Tibetans. It showcases a great array of precious sculptures, murals, scripture, Buddha figures, and religious jewelry. Making a plus to these is its Buddhist abode that was declared as a cultural heritage site.


A: Casa Lhasa in Playa del Carmen

This is a wonderful villa located very near to the La Quinta Avenida, a center of shopping and dining areas. It also offers various activities found in theme parks, golf courses, and many more! You will also be amazed with the home’s authentic design and complete amenities.


F: Ganglamedo Café Bar

An exquisite food with an equally exquisite ambiance—this is the perfect equation of Ganglamedo Café Bar. Dine in this place and you will know what I’m saying about a diet of mutton, beef and tea. While sipping a cup of café or churning Tibetan, Nepali, or Chinese cuisines, you can also appreciate the Tibetan arts and crafts.


E: The Xinshiji Langma Hall

Let Tibetans show their artistic skills as they dance and sing along at Xinshiji Langma Hall. Seeing the Tibetans’ bravado in performance, you would be enticed and prefer to stay here longer!


Havana City: A Journey to the Caribbean

Have an escapade with the Spanish-speaking capital of Cuba. This leading cultural center of the country is a tourist magnet, with various attractions to watch for.


S: Old Havana

Established in 1519, this significant Cuban attraction is one of the most extraordinary places in Earth. Everything inside Old Havana is a tourist site itself: the cars, music, food, houses, people, history, and the like!


A: Cuban Villa With Pool

This Caribbean-style abode is composed of two floors, with 3 big bedrooms, terrace, balconies, and other great amenities! Not only that, it also has a maid service, free internet, and enhanced security.


F: El Aljibe Farm

Just a few rides from downtown Havana and you will taste the delectable and mouthwatering delicacies of Cuba. Their specialty is the El Aljibe Chicken. You will also feel delighted with the home style and traditional designs of the restaurant.


E: The Havana Tropicana Show

Ecstatic energy and colorful hues will reverberate in your Havana trip as you witness their one-of-a-kind Havana Tropicana Show. It is a combination of graceful dances, glamorous and sensual costumes, amazing performances, and upbeat Cuban music.


Muscat: The Treasured City of Oman

Oman’s capital city stands high among the cities with interesting tourist places to enjoy. The place became a famous place to visit for their several elegant mosques, museums, and many others. Take a tour around this one of the 5 most fantastic cities in the world.


S: Al Qaboos Grand Mosque

Once upon a time in Muscat, Sultan Qaboos edified a Grand Mosque which has now become a tourist site for its enticing architectural design. You can find the world’s second largest hand-woven carpet and one bunch of wonderful chandeliers.


A: Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa

This hotel resort has been receiving positive acclaims both by the tourists and critics alike. It comprises three luxury hotels: Al Bandar (The Town), Al Waha (The Oasis), and Al Husn (The Castle), both offering you the best treats, accommodations and real time desert experience.


F: Al Tanoor
A guaranteed fine dining, plus an Omani atmosphere resonating around the restaurant, this place is perfect for you! Inside Al Tanoor is a peculiar dining place with Arabian tents, pottery, and vivacious hues suiting the sumptuous menu. It offers tempting recipes from Arabia, Persia, India and Turkey.


F:Dune Driving 
The sandy desert of Muscat is your circuit toward a fun and adventurous ride! This road trip has a trek which will achieve your need for speed. Gear up now and traverse the difficult desert through a durable 4WD automobile.


Las Vegas: The Entertainment Capital of the World

No city is more lively than Las Vegas, a placing oozing with anything fun, such as shopping areas, dining options, and many more! Aside from the countless beautiful and engaging establishments like casinos and hotels, this city has various attractions you must never miss.


S: Luxor Hotel

Among the most looked for is the ever extravagant model of the ancient Egypt in the land of competitive Caucasians named as the Luxor Hotel. It does not only speak of accommodation but also of fun and satisfaction to the eyes. It boasts its Vegas version and glass pyramid called King Tuts Tomb. A beam of light that can be seen all throughout Las Vegas is also ejected at night by the modern scenery.


A: Las Vegas Gem

This rental home is a great deal that the whole family can comfortably live temporarily. It has a pet-friendly service (pet fee applies), 4 beds, 3 bathrooms, and a resort style pool.


F: Alize

Fill you stomachs with mouth-watering French cuisines only at Palms Casino Resort’s Alize. For sure, your dining at the restaurant is a “bon appetit.” Be prepared to wolf down their masterpieces of fishes, meats, poultry, and their astounding wine!


E: Le Reve

Derived from the French word “The Dream,” this spectacle will surely tickle the fickle of your imagination as they will bring you a fantastic journey through a subconscious world. The theater show portray each dreams of ours. The design of the arena is a circular exquisite stage with tanks of water around it. The performers will execute provocative choreographies, aerial acrobatics, and mind blowing stunts.


Had you been with these 5 most fantastic cities in the world? Post a comment below and share your experiences.

Published in Miscellany Articles

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