Top 10: Cuba calling
Wander around Havana, passing vintage cars from the Fifties with bulbous bonnets; or gaze out over the towering karsts and tobacco plantations of Valle de Viñales. Here are 10 sights you won't want to miss in Cuba...
1. Old Havana
Wandering around the streets of Old Havana is unmissable. Now a World Heritage Site, this atmospheric city oozes history and colour, from the heroes painted on the walls to vintage cars from the Fifties with bulbous bonnets and colourful sun-bleached paintwork.
2. The best beaches
The tranquil resort of Guardalavaca in Holguin lies on Cuba’s northeast coast and has spectacular beaches. Stay at hotels such as the Paradiso Rio de Oro and wander across the sand for a dip in the warm lagoon, which glows and sparkles in the most amazing emerald hue. The beaches in this area have a picturesque backdrop – the Sierra Madre mountains and lots of small, rural farms. This is a slice of the real Cuba.
While in Havana, learn about the revolution at Museo de la Revolucion, which is housed in the former presidential palace of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Over 100 years of Cuban history pores out from the 38 rooms. Tales of heroics, the struggle for power, tyranny and the triumph of the revolution led by Fidel Castro. There’s also the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana – Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana – which houses 47,000 pieces, from colonial art to Cuban plastic arts.
One of our favourite places in Cuba, Trinidad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features cobbled streets and old colonial buildings. Trinidad gets a lot of day trippers so, to experience this town at its best, make sure you stay over when the crowds have left. You can spend two nights in Trinidad as part of our Discover Cuba tour.
5. Hotel Nacional, Havana
Even if you’re not staying at this iconic hotel, the Hotel Nacional De Cuba is worth a visit just to gaze out over the Straits of Florida. Opened in the 1930s, this elegant hotel has attracted celebrity guests including Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra and Alexander Flemming.
6. Tobacco plantations
Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province is one of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes you’ll ever see. The Valle de Vinales is a sea of gigantic limestone karsts and thriving green tobacco plantations. If you’re booking the Discover Cuba tour, add on the Pinar del Rio extension – we promise it’s worth it.
7. Havana’s paladares
Tourists flock to the famous paladares (local restaurants) and our experts in Havana prefer La Guarida, a converted apartment where the Cuban blockbuster Fresa y Chocolate was filmed and signed celebrity headshots hang from the walls.
Located on the south coast of Cuba, Cienfuegos has a beautifully-restored city centre with a French flavour and wonderful colonial architecture. It’s really worth booking a boat trip through the stunning bay and wandering downtown to admire the remarkable cluster of neoclassical structures.
9. Fidel’s hideout
Take a fascinating hike up to Comandancia de la Plata in the Sierra Maestra mountains – Fidel Castro’s hideout during the revolution. The only way to reach the jungle headquarters is on foot and you’ll get to see where Che Guevara made his remote broadcasts. The hideout is situated in the south of Cuba, west of Santiago.
10. Santa Clara
Santa Clara city was where the last battle of the revolution took place and is the final resting place of Che Guevara. In 1958, Batista sent a heavily armoured train to attack the revolutionaries in Santiago de Cuba but Che Guevara and his troops were laying in wait on the outskirts of Santa Clara, ready to ambush. The soldiers on the train quickly surrendered but the battle for the city lasted four days. Today you can visit Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado, where four of the train carriages still remain.