Cuba or the Republic of Cuba is an archipelago that sits south of the US state of Florida and the Bahamas, and north of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. It covers an area of 42, 426 square miles and is the second most populous country in the region. Havana is the capital of Cuba and it also happens to be the largest city in the nation providing a home to diverse nationalities.
The nation of Cuba is most renowned for the communist rule of Fidel Castro who served as a leader of the country from 1959 to 2008. During this time, relationships between the country and the US became non-existent.
Although President Barack Obama began thawing diplomatic ties with the country in 2014, many people still don’t know much about this secluded country.
Here are some interesting facts that will definitely pique your interest in visiting Cuba!
Interesting Facts about Cuba
1. The main island of Cuba is the largest in the Caribbean
Of the 42,000 square miles that constitute this nation, the main island is over 40,000 square miles which is approximately half the size of Great Britain.
The sheer size makes Cuba the 17th largest island on the planet. However, it is not one island alone. There are 400 other smaller islands that make up the Republic of Cuba.
Most of the smaller islets or parts of the country’s territory have become popular tourist resorts due to the pristine beauty that surrounds them.
2. The shorelines of the country stretch for over 3500 miles
Given its size, Cuba has one of the largest coastlines of any country in the world. With more than 250 beaches and 200 bays, you can stay assured that no matter where you are in Cuba, the sea is not far away.
What’s more fascinating is that every beach is unique in aesthetics with white sand, palm trees and clear blue waters for as far as the eye can see.
Cuba’s beaches are constantly ranked amongst the world’s best like Varadero’s beach, which is a two-hour drive from the capital, was ranked 2nd in Trip Advisor’s ‘Traveler’s Choice Awards 2019’.
3. The biggest exports of Cuba are tobacco, sugar, and nickel
Who hasn’t heard of Cuban cigars? With the first cigar factory of Cuba inaugurated in the 1800s, these products have remained the island’s biggest export with millions sold around the world each year.
Cuban cigars are considered the gold standard even to this day and are preferred by true enthusiasts in every part of the globe. These cigars are still hand-rolled by master craftsmen with unique blends of tobacco leaves.
Besides cigars, sugar and nickel are major exports. Cuba is still considered to have the world’s fifth largest reserve of nickel.
4. Cuba is home to 9 UNESCO Heritage sites
Despite being a small island state, Cuba has a lot of natural and man-made architectural wonders, some of which are protected under the UNESCO heritage guidelines.
Two of the sites in the country are of natural importance namely the Alejandro de Humboldt and Desembarco del Granma National Parks.
Seven of the UNESCO Heritage Sites have cultural significance which include Old Havana, Vinales Valley, the towns of Cienfuegos, Camaguey and Trinidad, the Valley of Sugar Mills, the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca and finally the Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba.
5. The country has one of the highest literacy rates and life expectancy in the world
Cuba’s literacy rate stands at 99.8% which is one of the highest in the world. This was thanks to Fidel Castro’s Cuban Literacy Campaign that was aimed at making schools accessible to everyone and eliminating illiteracy from the country.
The initiative worked and today, almost all of the country is educated. On top of that, Cuba’s healthcare is regarded as one of the best in the world with life expectancy in the country being the same as in the US.
6. It is home to the world’s smallest bird
The bee hummingbird, which is known as the smallest of its kind in the world, is native to Cuba. This vibrant little creature can only grow up to 6 cm and is so small that people usually mistake it for an insect.
The best place to spot the bee hummingbird in Cuba is the Alexander Humboldt National Park which is also a UNESCO Heritage Site. Besides this unique species, the country is home to 25 other endemic bird classes that are spread across various islands of the country.
7. Hitch-hikers are a common sight in Cuba
Despite its literacy rates and flourishing tourism industry, Cuba is not a rich state which means that most people don’t own cars. The transport system is also non-existent and the little buses that are around will often be overcrowded.
As a result, you’ll find a lot of Cubans on the roads trying to hitch a ride. It is even legally binding for government vehicles to pick up hitch-hikers. This is the most cost efficient way for Cubans to get to their destinations.
8. Christmas was banned for almost 30 years in the country
In 1959, when Fidel Castro came into power, he declared that Cuba would be an atheist state.
Under his leadership, Christmas was abolished as a paid holiday and remained so for nearly 30 years.
The ban was finally lifted when Pope John Paul II visited the island state in 1997. Even today, Christmas is a normal working day in Cuba and the period during which the celebration was banned is known as Las Navidades Silenciadas (The Silent Christmases).
9. Cuba’s National Capitol Building is a sight to behold
Also known as El Capitolio, the building is a public edifice and one of the most historic landmarks in the capital city. It was commissioned in 1926 by then President Gerardo Machado and was completed after three years, two months and twenty days in 1929. It became the tallest building in Havana after work came to an end.
The architecture of the building is magnificent and legendary at the same time. At one point, the building’s dome was the third-largest in the world.
10. Cuba has some of the tightest regulations on internet use, globally
If you are planning to visit Cuba, don’t count on free internet access everywhere. Following numerous decades of communist rule, the remnants of this era are still evident.
The country is still under an authoritarian regime that heavily regulates internet access. There are designated hotspots for internet connectivity and they are all paid.
Access to many websites is also blocked and the government monitors traffic that flows through the World Wide Web so using a VPN will save you many hassles during your travels.
11. Classic vehicles are still popular in the nation
Although there is a lot that fascinates people about Cuba, there is one thing in particular that catches the eye. It is one of very few places in the world where classic American cars still adorn the roads in large numbers.
This is due to the fact that after the communist regime took over, car exports to the country were restricted. Cubans therefore, had to make do with whatever they had. Today, modern cars are also becoming common but the old classics are still out there in large numbers.
12. Baseball is the most popular sport in Cuba
Baseball has a long history that is surprisingly intertwined with the events that transpired during time in Cuba.
Origins of the sport can be traced back to the 1860s but what’s interesting is that the Spanish banned it after invading the land in 1869. However, this gave a bigger boost to the game’s popularity as it became a symbol of struggle for freedom amongst the locals.
The ban on baseball was lifted in 1874 and by the early 1900s it had become the most popular sport in Cuba, a title it has held to this day.
13. Playing dominoes is a common pastime
If dominoes could be categorized as a sport, baseball could have close competition in Cuba. The locals playing dominoes in the street is a common sight and it is considered as one of the most popular pastimes in the country.
In some areas of Cuba, there are tournaments on various levels but mostly people enjoy sitting with their friends, casually catching up on life and entertaining themselves through the game.
Havana, Cuba is a city that has no parallels
If you are looking to get a virtual tour of Cuba before you visit the city, here is a great video that takes you through a day in Havana. It is a great watch for anyone planning to travel to Cuba in the coming days.
Cuba is a country unlike any other. From picturesque landscapes to marvels of human creation, from diverse people to a rich culture, there is something for everyone to explore in this beautiful country.
If you are planning your next vacation, Cuba can be a very unique travel opportunity.
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Hi I’m Jay. I grew up in Seattle, Washington and live in Los Angeles, California. I have travelled to 23 countries so far and planning to go explore more countries soon! My Favorite trips so far have been to Israel, Japan, Rome, Iceland and Australia. I started this site to share my love of travel with everyone and build a community of like-minded, free thinking, free exploring people.