Countries » Cuba
Think 'Cuba' and you think vibrant colonial architecture, fat cigars, Havana Club Rum and smiling faces; we do anyway. The sub-tropical island was once a top destination for rich and famous Americans, but after the 1959 revolution there was a travel ban on US citizens. An embargo was put in place and the American tourists could no longer pump money into the little island.
Since entry laws were relaxed in the mid 90s, tourism is increasing and there are suggestions the embargo could be lifted. If you want to visit Cuba on your gap year today you'll find friendly locals, stunning nature and vibrant beaches. Adventurous travellers can spend their time snorkelling and diving on the coral reef, while culture vultures can make the most of the museums, art galleries and concert halls of Old Havana.
Make sure you explore your way out of the capital Havana too. Just 6km to the east of the city you'll find the quaint fishing village of Cojimar where Ernest Hemmingway got much of the inspiration for his books, in particular The Old Man and the Sea.
The second largest city of Santiago de Cuba is also a must. It's famous for its July carnival and pumping music celebrations. Some of the most highly regarded of Cuba's musicians have come from the Santiago de Cuba area - including Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer and Eliades Ochoa all from the Buena Vista Social Club.
Of course, the best way to explore Cuba is in one of the 1950s classic cars. Cruising your way along the Malecon is an absolute must.
Cuba has more than 4,000 islands and has one of the largest coral reefs in the world. Some of the dive sites are absolutely stunning...