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Yes Americans, you can now visit Cuba

by Michael

When we took off in 2011 to travel around the world one of the places high on my list to visit was Cuba. But when I looked into it I learned that over 50 years after an embargo was placed on the island country,  Americans still couldn’t visit this tempting spot located only 90 miles off our shores. This was somewhat surprising since we were allowed to visit North Korea. And for an American not named Beyoncé or Jay Z (who very publicly went to Cuba in 2013 and suffered no consequences for it) if I visited the country I could face 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Fortunately the climate is slowly changing.

There is now an exception to this strict visitation policy. Americans may journey to Cuba with a travel organization that is licensed to do so by the U.S. State Department. The trip must be part of a cultural exchange that involves “people-to-people” interactions. In other words, you’re not going there just to lay on a beach and catch some rays.

cuba havana car building (800x566)

International Expeditions, a world leader in nature travel, now offers trips to Cuba. They take visitors beyond the usual tourist itinerary to meet with Cubans and truly experience their culture. In an interview with Bret Love of Green Global Travel, International Expeditions leader and Cuban native Ana Maria Perez states, “The people-to-people way of traveling truly focuses on that human interaction that allows for Americans to understand Cuba; while also allowing Cubans to see the other side of the coin and comparing their reality to that of the rest of the world. There are priceless experiences from the trips I have led.”

Upcoming journeys focus on: visiting the port city of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; exploring 19th-century sugar estates;  seeking out the bee hummingbird, the world’s smallest bird or the Cuban tody pictured below; and discussing Ernest Hemingway with local scholars at his former home, Finca Vigia. Cultural activity enters into the mix as artists and musicians mingle with the guests.

cuba tody bird (800x533)

With all the focus lately on Cuban culture with musicians like the Buena Vista Culture Club, it’s easy to forget that Cuba boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the Caribbean. Tour itineraries include a journey through the Sierra de los Organos Mountains to the town of Viñales, the center of a large agricultural area in northwest Cuba and a chance to meet families working on organic farms. Spelunkers will enjoy visiting limestone caves that were once hideouts for runaway slaves.

cuba scenery vinales (800x533)

As for me, I’d like to visit for the stunning Spanish colonial architecture and a chance to ride in one of the estimated 50,000 vintage American automobiles that are still driven on the island creating potentially the world’s largest antique auto show. The continuing American trade embargo makes it difficult at best to keep these gems humming but enterprising car owners still manage to do it.

cuba vintage chevy (800x533)

 

Founded in 1980, International Expeditions was a founding member of The International Ecotourism Society and believes that those who feel a deep connection to an environment and its people are more compelled to preserve those wonders. It’s been named been named among the Best Adventure Travel Companies by National Geographic ADVENTURE and one of the World’s Best Tour Operators & Safari Outfitters by Travel + Leisure.

This post has been provided by International Expeditions, offering trips to Cuba and beyond. 

 

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