Cuba is the largest country in the Caribbean and the 17th largest non-continental landmass in the world. It is surrounded by archipelagos; Isla de la Juventud (the Isle of Youth) is the second largest Cuban island. The geography of this country mainly comprises flat land, though there are a few hills to be found, and the coastal area is home to the majestic Sierra Maestra mountain range. Additional mountain ranges include Sierra Cristal, the Escambray Mountains and the Sierra del Rosario.
The climate of Cuba is considered semi-tropical. Temperatures range from a minimum of 21ºC to a maximum of 27ºC. In Havana, the mean temperature stands at around 25ºC. Pleasant sea breezes make coastal areas attractive to tourists from around the world, who fall in love with Cuba’s powdery white beaches and turquoise waters. The rainy season in Cuba runs from May to October, and hurricanes can strike from August to October.
Cuba is famous for many things, including hand-rolled cigars, famous vintage cars and the beautiful city of La Habana, whose old quarter was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Cuba is also known worldwide for its music and dance, with salsa taking over top dance clubs across the globe. Cuban drinks are some of the most popular in the world – think the cool mojito, spicy cubanito (jazzed up with Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce) or Havana Loco, made with rum and seasonal tropical fruit.
Indigenous people inhabited Cuba by around 3000 B.C. and were followed by several settlers, including the Tainos, who were present when Christopher Columbus landed on the island in the late 15th century. The Spanish conquest of Cuba commenced in 1509 and by the 1520s, the Spanish were importing slaves from Africa to work their extensive lands. Cuba eventually became a top exporter of products like tobacco and sugar. By the 19th century, Cuba was an important trading partner with the United States. In the late 19thcentury, slave rebellions and resistance from Cuban landowners brought about the Cuban War of Independence. Some of Cuba’s best-known heroes rose to prominence at this time, including Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo. In 1895, a second War of Independence took place and the Spanish ceded control over Cuba to the United States. In the 1950s, the resistance movement led by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro led to independence from the United States.
Cuba boasts a host of different habitats, including dry forests, verdant pine forests, coastal mangroves and cloud forests. This gives rise to over 6,700 higher-plant species, around 1,000 of which are endangered. Stunning flowers abound, including delicate begonias, oleanders, poinsettias, mimosas and hibiscus. Cuba also boasts hundreds of orchid species. Trees such as the purple jaranda, yellow corteza amarilla and the scarlet flame of the forest tree, meanwhile, add life and colour to serene landscapes. Unique animals include the smallest frog in the world (sminthillus limbatus), the tiny bee hummingbird and vividly hued snails from the polymita genus.
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