Cuba is a part of an archipelago of islands in the Northern Caribbean, and is located approximately ninety miles south of the Florida Keys. It is situated right in the middle of an area that includes the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Haiti.
The principal island of Cuba is 461 miles long and with a total land mass of 40,543 square miles. When you add in the smaller islands in the chain which make up Cuba, the country has a total land mass of 42,803 square miles, making it the sixteenth largest island in the world. Isla de la Juventud, or Isle of Youth, is the second largest island in Cuba with a total area of 1,180 square miles.
The terrain is Cuba is quite diverse. Though primarily flat lands and tropical forests, the country has four significant mountain ranges. Pico Turquino, the highest point in Cuba, soars to an impressive 6,480 feet, and is part of the Sierra Maestra Mountains. The other three ranges on the islands are the Guaniguanico, the Guamuhaya, and the Sagua-Baracoa. The ecosystems inside Cuba are considered to be extremely well preserved and offer over 8000 varieties of flora, but are perhaps best known for the abundance of Royal Palm trees.
On October 28, 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba and named it "Juana," to commemorate Prince Don Juan, son of Queen Isabella. The name Cuba was eventually adopted by the Spanish. Initially the Spaniards believed Cuba to be rich in gold, though that was eventually proven false, and the island slowly evolved into an agricultural nation, with its main crop being tobacco, bananas, and sugar cane.
Today over two million tourists visit Cuba each year, attracted by the warm sunny climate, beautiful beaches, and a architecture rich in culture and history. Varadero Beach and Cayo Coco are both considered to be two of the most beautiful beach destinations in the world. Havana, which offers numerous shop and a beautiful bay are also popular with visitors to the country.
After the country's embrace of socialism in the fifties, the economy of Cuba suffered tremendously. Even today it is a country in a constant state of flux, still trying to find its place within the free world. Whatever the trials and tribulations, Cuba is a destination so beautiful, so vibrant with history and color; it is well worth the visit.
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