The best places to visit in Cuba
Havana is the best. Despite the decaying air of the city, it is easy to feel the greatness of the Cuban capital. In its heyday, it must have been the most beautiful city in the world. Today it is a vibrant and colorful city, with a great offer for the traveler.
It is also the cultural capital of the country, and a good place to learn about the history of the revolution, watch a live music concert or go out and move your waist. One thing is clear: In Havana it is impossible to get bored!
Most tourists stay in Old Havana, which was the first Spanish settlement and where you will find hundreds of colonial buildings, churches, museums and squares. Although the place is a mandatory visit, it is not my favorite neighborhood due to the high concentration of “heavy” people on the street. Centro Habana, the boardwalk and the bohemian neighborhood of Vedado are other emblematic places that you cannot miss. Check out this article about the best places to visit in Havana, with lots of tips that you won't find elsewhere.
Viñales backpacking in Cuba
If you have little time and can only visit two places in Cuba, I would say: go to Havana and Viñales. If the Cuban capital is famous for its bustle, Viñales offers just the opposite, pure tranquility and contact with nature. This small and tourist town is the perfect place to rest, walk through the tobacco plantations and chat with the friendly locals. This region is one of the most beautiful on the island thanks to the amount of small mountains that emerge everywhere, creating a surreal landscape of great beauty.
Among the most popular activities you will find horseback riding, visits to nearby caves or climbing to the hills. There is a very nice walk through the plantations that you can do on your own and that allows you to see closely how the friendly guajiros (peasants in Cuban slang) live and work. If you want to buy handmade cigars, this is one of the best places to get them at a good price. You can access the tobacco factories and negotiate the price directly with the producers.
Cayo jutías y cayo levisa
Near Viñales, the keys of Jutías and Levisa offer you some of the best beaches on the north coast of Cuba. The key to visiting these beaches without getting ruined is not to sleep there. The accommodation in the keys is quite expensive, but you can go very early from Viñales and return to sleep.
You have several options, from organized tours, shared taxis or renting a motorcycle in Viñales and traveling on your own. Although both places are spectacular, Cayo Jutías is easier, cheaper and more convenient to visit, since it is connected by road. In the case of Levisa, it is necessary to take a ferry that makes the visit difficult and more expensive.
This was the place I flew on my first trip to Cuba and well, since I was there, I decided to stay a couple of days to take advantage of the beach and see if my skin was removed from my skin.
Varadero Beach, Cuba
Although the place is famous for the countless all-inclusive hotels and resorts that monopolize this long beach, few know that there is a small town at the entrance of Varadero. It is possible to stay in a private home for a more affordable price than in resorts and spend a few relaxing days of leisure. The beach is beautiful, the white sand and the turquoise water. However, it has a holiday air that I do not like and personally do not recommend it. There are other much more authentic beaches on the island.
Santa Clara Cuba
Santa Clara is a place of great importance in Cuban history. This city was taken by the revolutionary forces during the Battle of Santa Clara in December 1958, ending the Batista regime.
If you are very interested in the Cuban revolution, you should visit this city. Here you will find several monuments related to the famous revolution, including the mausoleum of Che Guevera where his mortal remains rest, the monument to the taking of the train and the historical museum among others. I did not have time to visit Santa Clara during my travels, but I was able to consult other travelers and they told me that it is a very interesting place. They also told me that once you've visited the museums and the mausoleum, there's nothing much to do. Most travelers recommend a short visit.
Cienfuegos backpacking in Cuba
Located in the bay of Cienfuegos, this city attracts visitors for its fusion of French style, colonial architecture and tropical flavor. The so-called "Pearl of the South" is a beautiful place to spend a day or two. However, if you do not have too many days and do not visit it, nothing happens either. One of the best activities is to walk along the boardwalk, observe the beautiful bay with the mountains in the background and watch life go by.
Trinidad has become one of the most visited places by travelers in Cuba. And the truth, I understand perfectly why. This little town has practically everything. Inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1988, Trinidad boasts its colonial streets, its neo-baroque style square and its famous cathedral.
The advantage of Trinidad is that, in addition to being one of the most beautiful villages in Cuba, it has an excellent location for other activities. The most popular are usually the visit to Playa Ancón, just 15 or 20 minutes by taxi, the fishing village of Casilda and horseback riding through the nearby Valle de los Ingenios. Another thing you can not miss in Trinidad (if you like to go out at night), is to have a party at the famous disco-cave. As the name implies, it is a disc inside a huge cave where good sprees are run to the rhythm of the reggeaton.
Note: this city has become extremely touristy. They are likely to try to charge you extra when buying things, in addition to sneaking other classic tricks and scams. Look at the security section to be prevented.
If you go to Santiago, you can make a stop in Camaguey to visit its historic center. This city is famous for its colorful streets, squares and churches. The most remarkable points are the Plaza San Juan de Dios, the Plaza del Carmen, and the Ignacio Agramonte Park. What I liked most about Camaguey is that being much less touristy than other places like Havana or Trinidad, it has a very calm and relaxed atmosphere. There are not many jineteros and they do not try to deceive you (so much) with the prices.
Santiago de Cuba
After Havana, Santiago de Cuba is the most vibrant city on the island. Here you can breathe a more tropical, more Caribbean and more intense air. The second largest city in the country has a great African influence and that is felt in its music and culture. This is the capital of salsa, carnival and drums.
In addition to dancing salsa and listening to good music, there are several interesting things you can do in Santiago. Cespedes Park, in the center of the city, is a perfect place to have a beer on a bench and observe the life of this Afro-Caribbean city. You can also visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, the Tivoli neighborhood and the Plaza de Marte. Outside the city, you can approach the Castle of San Pedro de la Roca del Morro, a spectacular fort that the Spaniards built to contain foreign invasions. If you are in the area, I recommend you visit Granma Cay, an island with a very relaxed local air.
Baracoa is the perfect destination to spend a few days enjoying the most authentic Cuba. Few travelers arrive at this end of the island, and that is why people are much calmer and friendlier than in other tourist cities. Baracoa beach is not typical of perfect sand, but it has a beautiful landscape thanks to the wild mountains that surround it. One of the activities that I recommend in Baracoa is the ascent to El Yunque, a nearby hill with good views of the region. Keep in mind that you need to be accompanied by a local guide to access the trail.