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Havana, the most captivating city in the Caribbean, has any number of treats to offer visitors. Exquisitely dilapidated streets; iconic hotels, from the colonial to the uncompromisingly modernist; a pulsating street life; fleets of classic cars – in various states of disrepair; dough-soft beaches lapped by turquoise waters; the world's tastiest rum and finest cigars; virtuoso musicians jamming on every corner and in every unassuming bar; a vibrant art scene; and warm, good-humoured, highly educated locals who know how to laugh and live in the moment despite the pressures of everyday life in this land of shortages and hardship.

To know this city, even just to pass through it, is to love it, and now, more than any other moment, is the time to visit.

Obama has already lifted restrictions on Cuban-Americans travelling to the country.Go now, before millions of Americans head for what to them is still a tantalisingly prohibited island, while you can still drive with the wind in your hair through blissfully empty highways, with no advertising in sight, just the occasional rousing revolutionary slogan.

Don't miss ...

... a walking tour of Old Havana. The Unesco-protected slice of the city, which is banked by the waters of the port, is being restored to its former glory.

... La Plaza de la Revolucion. Its vast concrete wastelands are flanked by faceless government buildings, but it's notable for the Jose Marti memorial (Cuba's hero of independence) and a bronze statue of Che Guevara.

... El Morro, the pirate-proof fortress that dominates the north-eastern side of the harbour.

... Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas. The best-run museum in Havana is the working tobacco factory behind the Capitolio Building, which offers English-speaking tours (open 9am-11am, 12.30pm-2.30pm, Monday to Friday; buy tickets from the Saratoga, Parque Central or Telegrafo Hotels).

... a visit to the Piano Bar del Hotel Florida, at Calle Obispo, where local salseros strut their stuff on the tiny dance floor to a live band every night of the week.


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