Cuba Info & Tips: The Land of Cuba, location and Geography

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Cuba lies at the western end of the Greater Antilles group of the Caribbean islands, which began to heave from the sea about 150 million years ago. Curling east and south like a shepherd's crook are the much younger and smaller Lesser Antilles, a cluster of mostly volcanic islands that bear little resemblance to their larger neighbor.

Cuba is by far the largest of the Caribbean islands at 110,860 square kilometers. It is only slightly smaller than the state of Louisiana, half size of the United Kingdom, and three times the size of the Netherlands. It sits just south of the Tropic of Cancer at the eastern perimeter of the Gulf of Mexico, 150 kilometers south of Key West, Florida, 140 kilometers north of Jamaica, and 210 kilometers east of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. It is separated from Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic) to the east by the narrow, 77-kilometer-wide Wind-ward Passage, or Old Bahamas Channel.

Cuba is actually an archipelago with some 4,000-plus islands, islets, and cays dominated by the main island, which is 1,200 kilometers long - from Cabo de San Antonio in the west to Punta Maisí in the east - and between 32 and 210 kilometers wide. Shaped like an alligator, Cuba is a crescent, convex to the north.

Slung beneath the mainland's underbelly is the Isla de la Juventud {2,200 square km}, the westernmost of a chain of smaller islands - the Archipelago de los Canarreos - which extends eastward for 110 kilometers across the Golfo de Batabano . Further east, below the central-eastern portion of Cuba, is situated a group of tiny coral cays encompassed in the archipelago of Jardines de la Reina, whose beautiful beaches delight visitors.

The central north coast, too, is rimmed by a necklace of coral jewels dark green, limned by sand like crushed sugar shelving into bright turquoise shallows, with surf pounding on the reef edge. It's enough to bring out the Robinson Crusoe in anyone, with the trail of a tiny lizard leading up toward the scrubby pines as perhaps the only sign that any living creature has been here before.

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