Cuba is no stranger to festivals, and each month brings a succession of diverse events that will add extra interest to your next trip to the island. Here are some of the best ones to look out for.
Festival del Habano
Every year around February or March cigar fans from around the world descend on Havana for the cigar festival. It’s getting bigger and bigger each year, with famous brands such as Montecristo, Cohiba, Partagas, Romeo y Julieta, and H Upman in attendance. You can visit cigar factories and tobacco plantations, as well as attending rolling demonstrations, tastings and seminars focused on Cuba’s most famous export.
Festival de la Trova Longina
Everywhere you go in Cuba you’ll find a casa de la trova, where musicians get together to play the traditional trova style of music. This festival takes place each January in the city of Santa Clara to honor Cuban musician Manuel Corona, who was born nearby. If you come to town for the festival you should also visit the mausoleum of Che Guevara on the edge of the city.
Memorial Guillermo Barreto Festival
Barreto was one of the most famous percussionists in a country where there are many amazing musicians. The drummer was incredibly popular in the ’50s, playing as a featured artist at the Tropicana Club in Havana at the height of its fame. The festival honors his legacy with performances, competitions and speeches.
Santiago Álvarez Memorial International Documentary Festival
This documentary film festival takes place in Santiago de Cuba each March, in honor of Cuban filmmaker Santiago Alvarez. The program focuses on independent journalists who communicate a different point of view to mainstream media.
Muestra Internacional de Nuevos Realizadores
Another film festival, this one focuses on upcoming talent and contemporary cinema from Cuba and abroad. Film directors are invited to speak and there are seminars and workshops for filmmakers. The event takes place each April in Havana.
Each May the great and good of the Cuban music industry come to release new records and perform in venues across Havana. Each year the festival has a different theme, be it a musical genre or a country of honor.
Head to the central city of Camaguey from June 24-29 to take part in the annual carnival. It has been running since the 1700s, and it’s an incredibly traditional affair. Floats and musical groups parade through the narrow streets of the city before a statue of St Peter is burned by revelers.
Festival Internacional de Rap
Since the 1990s this hip-hop festival has taken place in August in the neighborhood of Alamar in east Havana, widely regarded as the home of Cuban rap music. Artists mainly touch on social issues such as racism and injustice, and some use controversial lyrics to criticize the government. Despite the dangers of offending the powers that be, the festival continues to go from strength to strength.