The capital of Cuba and its spiritual heart. The home of Cuban cigars and Havana rum, if that’s not enough to get your sprinting here then the political culture available at every street corner should do the trick. The old town, a UNESCO world heritage site, is in great condition with European style buildings, pastel colours, jazz musicians, cafes and bars it’s a great place to spend a few days. The artisan market, and outdoor market should suitably fill your backpacks with any thing Cuban you can imagine.
Exploring the town of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is like stepping back in time. The beautifully restored buildings and cobblestone streets in the city center imbue a quaint colonial feel. Much of the architecture dates from the 17th to the 19th century when Trinidad prospered from both the sugar and slave trades.
A tiny town with a huge influence over the rest of the country, Vinales is where the very best tobacco is grown for the biggest cigar brands. Cohiba, Montecristo, Cuaba – they all use the leaves grown in this valley.
From the mountains surrounding it to the little dance club behind the main square, Viñales epitomises regional Cuban life.
In a country where the right to roam isn’t quite as hallowed as the right to free health care and education, the trek up Cuba’s highest mountain, Pico Turquino , is a rare privilege. Guides are mandatory for this tough two- to three-day 17km trek through the steep broccoli-green forests of the Sierra Maestra that acts a kind of history lesson, nature trail and bird-watching extravaganza all rolled into one. Revolutionary buffs should make a side trip to Fidel’s wartime jungle HQ on the way up.
The Argentinian Cuba, Camaguey is slap bang in the middle of the country and is the 3rd largest city. The true beauty here is the lack of tourists. It has a flourishing art scene, so check out some of the galleries. Walking through the city, this is what you expected Cuba to be, old couples sitting on steps, staring at you with a warm smile, kids running around chasing tyres with sticks and with icecream available for less than $1, you may never want to leave!
Located on a striking stretch of coastline indented with picturesque horseshoe bays and glorious beaches, Guardalavaca and its surrounding area, in the east of Cuba, are popular alternatives to Varadero.
Set in an attractive bay surrounded by the impressive Sierra Maestra mountains, Santiago de Cuba is a vibrant, cultured city that used to be the country’s capital. The impressive citadel, Castillo del Morro, is one of the main attractions in the whole country, let alone the city.
One of the highlights of eastern Cuba is beautiful Baracoa, the oldest city in the country. It was founded in 1511 in the province of Guantanamo and construction began on the first church here around that time. Cut off from much of the outside world until the 1960s when the La Farola highway was built, the city still has a remote feel. Today, visitors come here for the charming colonial architecture and lush countryside where waterfalls and pretty beaches provide a cool counterpoint to the steamy jungle. The flat-topped peak of El Yunque presides over all this tropical beauty, beckoning hikers to take the guided ascent to its 589 meter summit. The hillside is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve where rare birds and plants thrive.
One of the few parts of Cuba that has never been truly tamed, the Zapata swamp is as close to pure wilderness as the country gets. This is the home of the endangered Cuban crocodile, various amphibians, the bee hummingbird and over a dozen different plant habitats. It also qualifies as the Caribbean’s largest wetlands, protected in numerous ways, most importantly as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve and Ramsar Convention Site. Come here to fish, bird-watch, hike, and see nature at its most pure.
When beach towns and resorts all start to seem the same, Santa Clara, in the province of Villa Clara, will add some depth to a Cuban itinerary. Rich in cultural attractions, Santa Clara is a vibrant university town and the famous site of the last guerrilla battle led by Che Guevara in 1958. His body was laid to rest here, and his mausoleum and monument, the Memorial Comandante Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, are the town's big attractions.