Academic Travel Abroad: Connecting to Cuba – Again!

Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana

Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana

Yesterday’s announcement by the Obama Administration easing travel restrictions to Cuba from the United States for Cuban Americans has sent a ripple throughout the travel community. It is ATA’s hope that educational and cultural travel to Cuba will also soon be restored. Airline companies are suddenly rushing to find small planes and potential carriers to fulfill the undoubtedly large upcoming demand for travel to the Caribbean island nation.

Here are just a few of the reasons why Cuba is a compelling destination for the intellectually curious traveler:

Cuba’s art and music beautifully reflect the Spanish and African influence on the island throughout its history. From native to contemporary art, galleries have become a popular venue for Cubans to display emerging styles.

Below are some recent articles related to Cuban art;

Cuba’s dynamic musical heritage ranges from Latin jazz to salsa to bolero, where dancing is virtually a Cuban pastime. Cuba is also home to a unique Spanish-influenced architecture ranging from the more urban and contemporary Havana to the colonial town of Trinidad, with cobblestone streets and red-tiled roofs. Read more about Cuban architecture here.

Between towns you’ll find the rolling hillsides of the Vinales Valley, the Valley of the Sugar Mills, and the historical tobacco farms for which Cuba has become famous.

Cuba’s history is portrayed throughout its cities and landscapes with Spanish fortresses, several UNESCO World Heritage sites, Ernest Hemingway’s home, 19th-century French settlements and local horticultural treasures like the Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens.

As soon as political conditions permit, Academic Travel looks forward to re-entering the educational travel market in Cuba. From 2000-2002, ATA operated successful programs in Cuba for several organizations, including National Geographic Expeditions, The Bayly Art Museum, The Florence-Griswold Museum, The University of Maryland, and Vanderbilt University.

Academic Travel Abroad

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Colombia: Coming Full Circle

dsc_06044138As my three-year-old daughter tested her dexterity by leaping from cobblestone to cobblestone in Villa de Leyva’s exquisite colonial plaza, I couldn’t help but remember how I explored this village nearly 15 years ago with a friend who declared that he wanted to have six robust sons.  The well-preserved white-washed buildings graced with evergreen-colored shutters and doors enchanted me and shortly afterward so did the friend, who was now concerned that his daredevil daughter was going to twist an ankle.

Our trip back to Colombia filled me with nostalgia and also pleasantly surprised me about various changes I observed since my last visit two years ago.

  • Bogotá’s Gold Museum was just reopened and the newly renovated building has beautiful displays which showcase the priceless pre-Colombian metalwork.
  • Zipaquirá’s Salt Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral constructed within a salt mine used by the indigenous Muisca culture before the arrival of the Spanish, has invested in tourist facilities such as parking, restrooms, and a cafeteria.
  • There is an increased number of international visitors and additional U.S. airlines serving the capital city.
  • Happily, Villa de Leyva is still as charming as it was fifteen years ago.

dsc_06284162In addition, I discovered that the country’s tourism promotion campaign doesn’t exist in a void.  They are also bringing in consultants from countries known for their excellent tourism to assist in training Colombian guides.  Even before I married a Colombian, the country was already dear to my heart.  The happy, spirited people, the breathtaking landscapes formed by the Andes Mountains and two oceans, the varied cuisine, colorful traditional festivities, and impressive pre-Colombian ruins clearly distinguish it from many other places I have visited.  Knowing how much Colombia has to offer tourists, it was very exciting for me to witness these changes and see that Colombia is on the cusp of becoming the next up and coming destination to visit.  I have no doubt that it will enchant others as it did me more than 15 years ago.

Michelle Korczynskidsc_05484083
Senior Program Manager
Academic Travel Abroad

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