Havana is the capital of Cuba and the largest city in the Caribbean. Located on the north coast, it has a deep natural harbor, which has helped in the economic development of the city. Over 500 years of highly turbulent history has helped create one of the most culturally diverse and energetic cities of Latin America.
Havana was founded in 1514 / 15 by conquistador Diego Velazquez de Cuellar. The deep natural harbor attracted the Spanish to this location. It grew as a trading port and was frequented by pirates. In 1592, it was declared to be a city by King Philip II of Spain. Today, the city covers an area of 728.26 sq km. It had an approximate population of 2,141,993 in 2009.
Havana is a sheltered harbor that is located on the northern coast of Cuba along a magnificent deep sea bay, which is a part of the Gulf of Mexico. It lies to the south of the Florida Keys at a distance of about 90 miles. Low hills rise gently from the sea. The city has grown and expanded across these hills, and narrow inlets from the sea provide access to the city. These hills rise to 200 meters where La Cabana is located. The hills continue to rise outside the city, especially towards the east and the west. In addition to the narrow inlet of the harbor, the Almendares River flows through the city from south to north.
The city enjoys a tropical savannah climate. The temperature remains moderate to high throughout the year. The highest amount of rainfall is recorded from June to October, while the period from December to April is dry and sunny. The climate is influenced by the warm Gulf Stream, that washes the shores of the city. The hurricanes sometimes affect the climate.
How to reach (transport)
The most convenient way to get to Havana is by plane. The city is served by the Jose Marti International Airport, which is located about 25 kms to the southwest of the city. Regular flights to USA, Canada, South American, and European countries are available. Several domestic destinations are also connected by air.
A few cruise ships also dock at the Marina Hemingway in Havana, though their numbers are few, as ships which dock in Cuba are prohibited from docking at harbors in the USA for the next six months.
Train connections exist with other places in Cuba but the service is poor. You can rent a car, use the bus, metered taxis or the bici-taxis to take you around inside the city.
When to visit
The best time to visit Havana is from November to April when the weather is bright and sunny; and the deep blue shades of the Caribbean can be seen at its best.
Culture (Fairs and Festivals) and Traditions
Havana is an energetic and vibrant city with a happening nightlife and a vast number of attractions. Some of the most important festivals of the city are as follows:
- The ten-day long Havana International Book Fair is held for ten days in February. Books are sold; lectures and discussions too are held. Music, dance, cinema, and theater complete the entertainment.
- Festival del Habano is the International cigar festival celebrated from 24th to 28th February. The event includes a trade fair, visit to the tobacco plantations and cigar factories, Habano Sommelier’s contest, demonstration of how to roll a cigar, etc.
- Another February festival is the Annual Music festival where medieval, Roman, and baroque music are presented by leading performers.
- The City in Movement event is held in April, when dance companies perform traditional and contemporary dances along with discussions and workshops.
- May Day is a major event celebrated with speeches, cultural, and musical events.
- Cuban disco is held from 18th to 26th May, when the musical talent of the country is showcased through performances.
Points of interest (places to visit)
There are several attractions in Havana. These are:
- Castillo de La Real Fuerza, the oldest bastioned fortress in New World, is now a premier maritime museum. It contains several exhibits depicting the maritime history of Cuba.
- The necropolis Cristobal Colon is the most important graveyard of the city and located in its heart. You can see beautiful and grand memorials on the older graves.
- Walking around the Plaza de Armas gives a feel of the city. Several historically important landmarks are scattered around, and vendors and antique sellers add a nice touch.
- La Habana Vieja is the old town which has been designated as a UNESCO World heritage site. Though the buildings are crumbling, it is worth a visit.
Nothing surpasses the joy of a good stay, when you are on a vacation. Havana too lives by this saying and offers you some of the best stay options ever. The best accommodations in Havana are set amidst the greenery of Vedado, though Old Havana offers a livelier and more traditional setting. Some of the notable hotels of Havana are Valencia, San Felipe, Victoria, Conde de Villanueva, Casa de Pepe, Palacio O’farrill, Florida, Santa Isabel, and many more.
Last Updated : October 25, 2013