Famed for its colourful capital, Havana, unspoilt sandy beaches and lush rainforests, it is easy to see why Cuba is one of the world’s top destinations. However, there is so much more to this Caribbean island…
Being driven around the bustling, cobbled streets of Havana in an ancient, but beautifully preserved 1950s Cadillac, Chevrolet or Oldsmobile, you feel like you have entered a different era.
It’s not just the unusual combination of grey Soviet-era brutalist architecture juxtaposed with gems such as the Gran Teatro (lit up at night it is a marvel).
Nor is it the contrast between the seemingly endless and wide Malecon waterfront, with the blank canvas of the ocean beyond, and warren of sheltered and shady old town streets where crumbling facades defy gravity thanks to the ingenuity of the population and plenty of wooden props.
No, what really makes you feel that you are in a different time to the rest of the world — and certainly the shoving and pushing grim-faced commuters of London — are the people.
“Andale, andale,” farmer Ramon Rodriguez commands his oxen as I hold onto their reins and worry whether the enormous beasts of burden will bolt. I might not know much Spanish but I can recognize cartoon character Speedy Gonzales’ command for “hurry up.”
Later I learn a speeding ox team is unlikely since the males are castrated, which makes them easier to control. I was also clueless to the conversation happening around me as Rodriguez asked a fellow journalist if he, too, was castrated.
I missed that machismo moment while concentrating on keeping the oxen on their muddy, well-beaten path, and being caught on video saying it’s “just a typical day in Cuba.”
But for Cuba’s 4.7 million annual visitors (one-third of them Canadians) leading an ox team through a sugar cane plantation is anything but typical. Most tourists come for the sandy beaches and remain secluded in all-inclusive resorts, ignoring the local culture.
This has been the norm since Cuba began welcoming tourists again almost 30 years ago.
Backroads’ new bike trip in Cuba takes cyclists on a two-wheeled tour through the rural countryside and into Cubans’ homes for an up-close look at this fascinating island, simultaneously stuck in time and in the midst of unprecedented change.
In Cuba, the plan is that few things will go according to plan.
It’s essential that you arrive with an open heart, a curious mind and a supreme level of flexibility.
Expect the unexpected … it’s all part of the adventure!
These nuggets of wisdom — skeptics might call them warnings — were in the pre-departure packet that arrived in the mail a few weeks before my December bike trip in Cuba.
My husband and I, both avid fans of two-wheel travel, signed up for our cycling vacation before the Cuba situation started taking telenovela-like twists involving so-called sonic attacks, a State Department warning, confusing new travel restrictions and a hurricane named Irma.
“Are you sure you want to go?” my mom asked on more than one occasion.
Not climbing back on the bike after breakfast can be a bit disorienting, but Trinidad is not a place you fly in and out of.
It is one of only 5 original Spanish colonial towns in Cuba, and it is by far and away the best preserved. Mostly colourfully painted single storey buildings, it’s heritage is further confirmed by its rough cobbled streets, not very comfortable for either walking or cycling.
Founded in the early 16th century, it was a staging post for expeditions to South America and it was from here that Hernán Cortés launched his invasion of Mexico.
You can spend hours wandering the streets, negotiating the tour groups and touters, and be surprised by something interesting round every corner. I was waylaid my a museum called The battle against the bandits.
The island’s third-largest city is home to a spectacular ballet theatre, an eclectic music scene and multiple UNESCO world heritage sites.
CAMAGUEY, CUBA — The dancers are covered in a sheen of sweat as commands fly from the balcony of the storied Teatro Principal. “Maria, you have to keep your arm lower,” barks Aurora Bosch, a former prima ballerina with the Cuban National Ballet. “Baja, baja, baja.”
The members of the Camaguey Ballet tremble from the exertion of holding poses as the guest critic makes minute adjustments to tilted heads, fluttering arms, and elongated feet in handmade pointe shoes. It is at least 30 C outside the three-storey, neoclassical-style theatre, and it is not much cooler inside.
Bosch has been invited to critique rehearsals of the ballet’s 50th anniversary program, which includes this dance choreographed to “Cabalgando con Fidel”, a song released upon Castro’s death.
A look at our time ashore in Trinidad Cuba with Viking Cruises, as part of Viking’s new voyages Cuba cruises from Miami, Florida.
At first glance, it’s hard to know exactly what to do with your time in Cuba. Sailing aboard Viking Cruises’ Viking Sun on Viking’s weeklong Cultural Cuba itinerary from Miami, guests have two-and-a-half full days to explore this fascinating island nation.
Unlike other cruise ships, Viking Sun doesn’t dock in Havana. Instead, it sits at anchor off Cienfuegos, Cuba – a pretty little town on the southern coast of the island. Viking has always been particularly adept at crafting unique itineraries, and what at first seems like a disadvantage is actually a massive win for the line on many fronts.
From Cienfuegos, Viking offers nine different shore excursion options – all of them complimentary.
Nudging the emerald Escambray mountains, Trinidad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Cuba’s most charming towns. So perfectly preserved are the quaint colonial buildings, the entire town feels as though it’s trapped in a time warp from the 18th century. Stroll the winding cobbled streets here to discover a trove of architectural treasures, from colorful colonial mansions to historic churches and pastel-painted bell towers with panoramic views. Most of the buildings span the 17th to 19th centuries when the town prospered from the sugar and slave trades.
Trinidad is also a great base for day trips to the mountains and the sea. From here, sightseers can hike to waterfalls in the Sierra del Escambray; bike to the pretty Playa Ancon, a palapa-studded beach; or venture into the Valle de Los Ingenios, yet another World Heritage-listed gem.
Cuba, the largest of the Caribbean islands, is located just 160 km off the southernmost point of Florida in the United States. This wonderful island has a rich culture, history, and a captivating mystique. Known for its cigars, vintage American cars, exquisite beaches, stunning coral reefs, lush countryside, superb diving and fishing, and rum distilleries, Cuba, as you’re about to see, is a place that has a lot to offer visitors. Below you’ll find 10 of the best places to visit in Cuba, and if this isn’t enough to whet your appetite then there’s a fantastic 4K Cuba travel guide video at the end.
1. Old Havana (Habana Vieja)
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a well-preserved slice of Cuban history.
Two weeks, four cities. Donovan chronicles his journey in Cuba, across Varadero, Trinidad, Vinales and finally to Havana.
Cold war, communist state, trade embargo. These are the three phrases that come to mind whenever someone mentions Cuba. Thanks to our western-dominated media influence, many people do not have a good impression of Cuba. Not surprisingly, when I informed my family that I was headed to Cuba, they were all worried and asked me why I needed to explore that part of the world.
I was undeterred by other people’s opinions and the deteriorating US-Cuba relations. I had already booked my flights and nothing was about to stop me. My plan was to stay two weeks in Cuba, visiting four different cities: Varadero, Trinidad, Vinales and Havana.
Cuba is undoubtedly a country filled with historic, breath-taking landmarks that are culturally very significant; it has nine cultural and natural sites that hold the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage status and another three submitted for consideration!
With so many beautiful attractions and places of interest scattered throughout the country, we’ve handpicked four must-see spots you should include in your itinerary when booking your holiday to Cuba.
As the oldest city in Cuba, Baracoa is one of the country’s best-kept secrets – its isolated location means that you can get a taste of real Cuba and get to know the local characters for a truly authentic experience.
With its secluded black-sand beach, impressive waterfalls and lush green forests, the city is filled with beautiful sights for any lover of nature.
The first rays of sun shoot out over the silhouetted ridges of the valley, slowly beginning to reveal the bright colors stained across the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trinidad, Cuba. My eyes still adjusting from the sun, I sit on the terrace at my hostel and take in the slight cool breeze which will disappear in a few moments.
I stare out from the mountains to the sea, still unsure of how one place could be so picturesque. As my eyes survey the now awakened streets, I know that I had not yet seen the town in its full glory and felt the need to go higher up, farther out, and seek out the most beautiful places within the city limits.
(VOVWORLD) – Cuba is famous for cigars and historical relic sites. Cuba has had 9 relic sites recognized as World Heritages by UNESCO. These are advantages for Cuba to develop its tourism.
Granma province, 675 km east of Havana, witnessed key events in Cuba’s history. With 4 out of 9 of Cuba’s cultural heritages, Granma promises to become a popular tourist destination. Bayamo, the second town established by the Spanish in Cuba, is considered the cradle of the island nation. Cuba’s national anthem was written and first sung in Bayamo.
On October 10, 1868, Bayamo became the birthplace of Cuba’s fight for independence from the Spanish colonialists. Visitors to Granma should not miss the Sierra Maestra Mountains, especially Turquino Mountain, at 1974 meters the highest peak in Cuba.
Cuba is one of those incredible countries that mixes a strong and vibrant culture, gorgeous cities and irresistible beaches that’ll make you dash for your flip flops and hop over to this gorgeous island. Whether…
See a Cuba tourists never see. Hike la Ruta de la Revolución trek which follows the historic route of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara that started the Cuban Revolution—from landing in Cuba in a foundering boat to their famous hideout deep in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Walk for days on wooded trails and mountain roads—see no cars, only the occasional mule cart. Eat dinner by oil lamp with campesino families in remote rural villages. And finally, be one of the very first to do the La Ruta de la Revolución while it’s “undiscovered” and unspoiled. We didn’t see a non-Cuban until we reached Fidel Castro’s Comandancia de La Plata hideout deep in the Sierra Maestra Mountains.
The following includes:
A Trip Guide to La Ruta de la Revolución Trek (the only online or in print guide, even in Cuba)
Let’s face it! Hype is real, and even though I should be skeptical of it with all the traveling I do, I find myself believing the hype more often than you’d think. Case in point: The Cuban city of Trinidad, approximately 200 miles southeast of Havana along the island’s south-central coast.
Trinidad generates the most hype among visitors to Cuba, as cities go anyway—the resort-infested beaches of Varadero have it beat overall. Of course, I’m not here to talk about beaches (although I will again soon) but to answer this question: Is Trinidad de Cuba overrated?
A Cuban Tourist Trap?
Although the Sancti Spíritus province to which Trinidad is home generates less than half the annual tourist stays of, say, Havana, you wouldn’t know that walking down Trinidad’s cobbled streets.