Explore the rich culture and natural beauty of Cuba by visiting these five fantastic places. These destinations will quench your thirst for amazing music, unique art, colonial architecture, tropical beaches, scenic hiking trails and great mojitos.
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Havana (La Habana in Spanish) tends to be the destination that bookends most visits to Cuba and offers plenty to see and explore. Wander Havana’s colonial heritage in the World Heritage Listed Old Town. Cruise the sights in a classic American car and sip cocktails at Hemingway’s favoured watering holes. Take in some live music at the city’s best jazz clubs and rhumba on down to Callejón de Hamel for street art and live dance performances. Breathless yet? See here for more things to do in Havana.
After a few days in Havana, take the pace down a notch with a trip to Vinales Valley (Valle de Vinales in Spanish). The Valley located in the province of Pinar del Rio, is known for its stunning landscapes with verdant tobacco farms and forests, growing in the rich red earth and framed by sharply rising, karst hills known as mogotes. Here you can hike, ride horses, boat through limestone caves, visit tobacco farms and eat delicious farm-to-table meals. Vinales can be visited on a day trip from Havana, but if you have the time or prefer nature focused destinations to cities, spend a night here and soak in the natural beauty.
Trinidad is another historic Spanish town founded in 1514, that like Havana boasts World Heritage status. Cars are banned from the cobblestone streets lined in coloured colonial architecture. Trinidad was once the hub of the sugar trade in Cuba and the nearby Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Mills) is an essential attraction of the area. By day explore the old plantations and sandy beaches, then at night practice your salsa and drink mojitos at the Casa de la Musica.
Cienfuegos is unique in Cuba because it was settled by the French rather than the Spanish and this shows in its architecture and layout. Cienfuegos is known as the “Pearl of the Caribbean” for its beautiful Bay and the elegant beauty of its historic core (which is too World Heritage listed). Cienfuegos’ seaside promenade is the longest in the country and provides a scenic end to your walking tour through town. Drop in for a drink or meal at Palacio de Valle built in 1917 and showing off a strong Moorish influence that it is so kitsch it’s a must-see.
Bay of Pigs
Nearby Cienfuegos you will find the Bay of Pigs. Though it’s infamous for the failed US-backed invasion that took place there in 1961, the Bay’s turquoise waters are abundant in sea-life and coral. This makes it the perfect destination for snorkelers and divers. If you travel in Spring, you might also witness the migration of millions (literally millions!) of land crabs as they make their way from the surrounding forest to the Bay to spawn. Unfortunately, the volumes of crabs crossing the roads are unavoidable and you will also experience the stench of those that didn’t make across safely. Overall the migration is a fascinating phenomenon to witness.
Plan a trip to Cuba
The Cuban government requires that all visitors show proof of travel insurance that covers medical expenses including emergencies, evacuation and repatriation. I recommend Seven Corners or World Nomads for travel insurance, however as the political situation in Cuba is always in flux, double check that your chosen insurer covers Cuba.
Are you travelling to Cuba? Tell us about your plans or drop your questions below in the comments.
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