Cuba lies in the northwest of the Caribbean Sea, 90 miles south of Florida, at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico. Almost the size of England, it is by far the largest island in the Caribbean – in fact, at 744 miles long by an average 60 miles wide, it’s as big as all the rest put together.
To Columbus it was also the best: he called it “the most beautiful land yet seen by human eye”. Cuba means different things to different people. For some, the name stands for revolution and communism, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
For others, it conjures up retro images of 1950s American cars and glamorous cocktail bars.
The island’s history as a haven for gangsters and gamblers has given it a reputation as a macho country – think Ernest Hemingway, deep sea fishing and dusky maidens rolling cigars on their thighs. And then there’s its colonial heritage: all those crumbling Spanish buildings and sugar plantations.
The Cubans’ love of music is legendary, and many towns have a regular weekly party night, when everyone gathers in the streets to eat, dance and make merry.
The towns themselves have kept most of their beautiful old buildings (mainly, it has to be said, because there weren’t enough funds to knock them down and build new ones), and many of them are now being renovated from their former crumbling, dilapidated state. The faces and facades alone make for a photographer’s dream.
Snorkellers and scuba divers are lured by the coral reefs that surround most of the island, attracting a wide variety of fish, in perfect viewing conditions.