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Havana
 
  To Airline   Fare  
  Havana Virgin Atlantic fr £325
  Havana Air France Airlines fr £300
  Havana Air Canada fr £310
  Havana Iberia Airlines fr £410
  Havana Iberia Airlines fr £348
 
Crumbling, withered, exotic and alive; Havana is a living microcosm of the country at large.

There is nowhere in the world like Havana. From the resplendent Spanish colonial architecture of the Old Town, to the spectacular dilapidation of Havana Centro, a city of stalwart survivors and masterful musicians rocks indefatigably to the syncopated beat of the rumba.

Bereft of the consumer-driven trappings of other less colourful metropolises, Havana remains characterful, safe, and packed with a plethora of interesting museums. For history buffs there's the living breathing essence of UNESCO-sponsered Havana Vieja; for beach bums there's the sun-splashed tranquility of Playas del Este.

Weather

Havana, like the rest of Cuba, has two kinds of weather: hot and really, really hot. In July and August most of Havana goes on vacation to escape the sultry heat, which is bolstered by the humidity. The rainy season runs from May to October, overlapping with the hurricane season, which is generally from June to November. Havana can very occasionally be affected by cold winds from the North American interior, causing a day or two of temperatures below the 10°C (50°F) mark. Bring warmer clothes for the evenings if you are visiting at this time of year - it's colder than you think.

There really isn't a bad time to visit Havana. The hot, rainy season runs from May to October but winter (December to April) is the island's peak tourist season, when planeloads of Canadians and Europeans arrive in pursuit of the southern sun. Cubans take their holidays in July and August, crowding local beaches. Christmas, Easter and the period around 26 July, when Cubans celebrate the anniversary of the revolution, are also very busy. New Year's Eve coincides with the anniversary of Castro's troops marching into the city, so make hotel reservations early and plan to dance all night.

A Top Day in Havana

If there's electricity and running water when dawn breaks on Havana, my day is off with a bang. I'll start with a typical Cuban breakfast of teeny cups of sweet, dark espresso, toast and a tropical fruit shake. Cranking on high octane caffeine, I rush to the street to see that my chariot has arrived: a gloriously uncrowded (now there's a fantasy!) camello , one of Havana's infamous giant buses that often crams in up to 350 people. It's a sweaty, lumbering ride to the Capitolio and Havana's heart, but becomes pleasantly bearable once the compañero at my elbow decides to brush up on his English and regale me with tales of old New York. Folks like him - who fled to Cuba rather than from it after the revolution - intrigue me. I'm in the zone, trading witty remarks with the jineteros (hustlers) and cigar peddlers. I finally make my way to the astounding Capitolio or enjoy the view from the top of the Bacardí building. There's always something different happening in Havana if you know where to look - today it's an emerging artists exhibit at the spiffy Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

Hunger comes upon me, so I grab a cajita (little box) stuffed with pork, congrí (local dish of rice, beans and banana) and salad at my favourite take-out place on the edge of the Barrio Chino before doing a little shopping and character research along San Rafael - the chaotic, exotic pedestrian boulevard that cuts through Centro Habana. The heat is oppressive and I'll need a disco nap if I want to make tonight's concert: either X Alfonso at the University or Los Van Van at the Casa de la Música - tough choice.

 
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