With direct flights operating between the US and Cuba since 2016, this once no-go area is becoming more and more popular as a destination for the intrepid traveller. With so much to see and do, planning a trip to Cuba can become overwhelming for the first time visitor, so before you travel, it can be a good idea to have a few destinations in mind, around which you can improvise the rest of your itinerary.
Once you have booked your flights and researched hotels and bed and breakfasts for vacation in Havana, you are well on your way to enjoying a Cuban experience – all that is left is to decide exactly what you want to see and do.
Here are just a few suggestions of sights, entertainments and attractions not to miss on your Cuban break…
Visit Habana Vieja
The old town area of Havana houses around 1,000 historically important buildings dating from colonial times, including cathedrals and palaces. With architecture from across 500 years of development on show, a stroll through Habana Vieja is an experience in itself. Cobbled squares and narrow streets characterise this part of town, where boutique stores and fashionable bars and restaurants now abound – the perfect place to find a pick-me-up after a day’s exploration.
Cuba’s highest mountain
The trip to the top of Pico Turquino takes a two or three-day trek through the Sierra Maestra forests and must not be attempted without a local guide. Adventurers who take on the challenge will be rewarded with amazing bird and wildlife watching opportunities, while history lovers may wish to detour en route to visit the onetime headquarters of the late Fidel Castro’s communist regime, hidden in the nearby jungle.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The town of Trinidad dates from the 16th century and received its special status in 1988 as a nod to its amazing colonial streetscapes, many of which remain unchanged since the days when this was the centre of the local slave and sugar trades. Beautiful pastel-painted buildings line the cobbled streets, making this an amazing place to wander and explore. The hilltop situation affords a slightly cooler climate.
Zapata Peninsula nature reserve
Sandy beaches slope into a sea of coral reefs at the edges of this area, making it a popular spot for scuba divers, while inland, a mix of swamps and forests provides the perfect habitat for a collection of Cuban wildlife. Watch out for the Cuban crocodile, among other amphibians, which wallow in this, the largest of the Caribbean wetlands. The site is designated by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve, and activities on offer include fishing and bird watching – ornithologists headed here can hope to see the superb local hummingbird.
Valle de Vinales
Perfect for a biking break or road trip, the Valle de Vinales offers visitors an insight into Cuba beyond the city limits, and is the best place to head for in the Pinar del Rio province. Take the main road through the rolling tobacco fields towards the mountains in the west, with their impressive mogotes rock formations creating an amazing backdrop to your holiday memories, and keep an eye out for some wonderful wildlife along the way.
The Malecon, Havana
This superb sea wall stretches for eight kilometres, from the Havana Old Town to Miramar, and is the centre of the city’s al fresco nightlife. As the sun goes down, this Cuban strip comes to life, attracting young people from across the city, who gather here to socialise and flirt, maybe heading on somewhere or simply sitting and staying to soak up the amazing atmosphere. Be alert for thieves, however, who have been known to target tourists.
Amazing Cuban islands
The Jardines del Rey, or King’s Garden coastal area is made up of hundreds of small islands, with the most important enjoying causeway links to make it easier to explore. The Cuban Keys (or Cayos as they are known locally) are characterised by wonderful white sand beaches and warm, turquoise waters, perfect for a relaxing Cuban beach break. Pink flamingos make their home in the local lagoons, while a nearby nature reserve provides a home to more wonderful wildlife.
The Cuban experience is unforgettable
Whatever it is that appeals to you about Cuba, once you arrive you will find there is so much more to explore. From the cigar-rolling torcedors to the Salsa dancing street entertainers, Cuba and its residents won’t fail to surprise and delight – we know you will want to return to the intriguing country that is Cuba!