Cuba is an incredible place, with a seemingly endless list of places to visit and things to do, whether you’re interested in museums, quaint towns and villages, stunning landscapes, time-honored train rides, or just soaking up the island’s rich history. Here are some of the best to help you draw up your itinerary.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Habana Vieja or Old Havana is a well-preserved slice of Cuban history. Strolling around the cobbled streets and gazing up at the grand Baroque and Neoclassical buildings, it’s easy to imagine what life in Cuba was like 200 years ago. Extensive renovations are now breathing new life into the historic buildings. Major attractions here include the Plaza de la Catedral, home to the Cuban Baroque Catedral de San Cristobal; the legendary restaurant and Hemingway hangout, Bodeguita del Medio; and the military fortress, Castillo de la Real Fuerza.
Valle de Vinales
The pine-clad mountains that begin a short distance west of Havana and run through northern Pinar del Rio province are a nature lover’s paradise of protected national parks sheltering endangered animals. The mountains grow more rugged westward, where dramatic rock formations called mogotes tower over lush valleys where tobacco plants thrive in the rich red soils and gentle climate. Centred on a village that itself is a National Historic Monument, the Valle de Vinales is rural Cuba at its most quintessential.
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 exude a quaint colonial feel. Much of the architecture dates from the 17th to the 19th centuries, when Trinidad prospered from both the sugar and slave trades. Today, Trinidad is one of the best cities in Cuba to visit, apart from Havana. You can soak up its lively ambiance in the cobblestone Plaza Mayor, the city’s central square. Above the square stands the Neoclassical Church of the Holy Trinity.
A cradle of Cuban culture, Camaguey-the “City of Tinajones”-lies in the heart of cattle country and was laid out with irregular streets designed as a convoluted maze to thwart pirates. The historic centre is full of well-preserved colonial plazas and cobbled streets featuring antique churches and convents, and by colourful 17th- and 18th-century domestic buildings featuring red-tile roofs, lathe-turned wooden window grills, and spacious interior courtyards adorned with the city’s trademark oversized jars called tinajones.