Cuba is the perfect travel destination for the curious traveller. There is so much to learn and experience and it is a challenging place. Its puts your empathy into a test while pleasing you with colours, aromas, tastes and some of the purest nature on earth. Following is a list of place to visit in Cuba – they offer a good collection of cultural and nature activities. But don’t forget – in Cuba like in any other country, you can learn the most from talking to its people.
Places to Visit In Cuba: Valle de Vinales
Valle de Vinales is famous with the mogote hills and best soil for tobacco that makes the landscape colourful and picturesque. The best agriculture region in the country, green and full of small tobacco farms. A visit to one of these farms gives you a chance to glimpse the Cuban farmers’ lives from up close. It is stunning how old-school is their farming and poor living conditions. Read about my visit to one of the tobacco farms in Valley de Vinales.
In the valley, you can also visit the Santo Tomas Cave – the second largest on the American continent. You can visit the valley on a one-day trip from Havana.
Havan is an iconic city. Havana Vieja (Old Havana), although already busy with tourists, offers a great combination of activities. I enjoyed the most the drink on the rooftop terrace of Hotel Ambos Mundos where Hemingway lived between 1932 and 1939. See the 25 photos of Havana to inspire your wanderlust!
A classic is a ride in an old American car from the 1950s that ends for a drink in Hotel Nacional.
Cienfuegos is a UNESCO heritage site. The town has an amazing collection of architectural styles and is an example of urban planning by the French settlers in 1819. Try the pina colada cocktail in El Palatino while listening to the lively rhythms of the Cuban music. You will find the bar in front of the Park Jose Marti, it is a favourite spot for locals and tourists alike.
Escabray Mountains is the second-highest mountain in Cuba. It offers the traveller a fresh air and a short rest from the heat of Trinidad which is a short drive away. We did board a Russian army truck that brought us up to the Guanayara National Park. To me, this park seemed like a jungle! The guide gave us interesting details about the flora and fauna her. The most amusing of which was the story of the “tourist tree” (its name comes from the tourists’ skin that changes into intense red on the beaches of Cuba).
The Old Town of Trinidad is pedestrian and this helps to keep the original atmosphere from the past. Beautiful architectural pieces, colourful and well maintained are all over the place. My favourites are the Romantic Museum and the Bar Canchanchara. Wandering the streets of Trinidad on a beautiful sunny afternoon day is a memorable experience. Enjoy your visit!
Guama, the Laguna de Tesoro and the reconstructed aboriginal village Aldea Taino
Start with the visit to the crocodile nursery and farm. It is a place where you can learn about the Cuban crocodile variety and what’s the difference between them and the American crocodiles. Later, take the boat to the Laguna de Tesoro. An aboriginal village reconstruction shows what the life of the native people was before the Europeans came to the island.
The village is beautiful and tranquil. Make sense that there is a honeymooners’hotel built by the government here. Small beautiful bungalows looking like a part of the landscape and facing the lagoon are spread amongst the vegetation.
There is a day-trip tour to Guama from Varadero.
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba has a interesting Afro-Cuban culture and an atmosphere filled with music, myths, and rituals. Best attractions to be visited are Diego Velázquez’s sixteenth-century merchant house and the elegant Governor’s Residence.
On this tour you can learn more about young years of Castro and where Communist Cuba began.
Soroa is also known as the “Rainbow of Cuba”, named after the Salto de Arco Iris waterfall. Here you will find the largest orchid farm in Cuba with over 6000 plants and 700 different varieties. It is a real tropical heaven! Take your time, sit on the terrace and enjoy the stunning views a cup of Cuban coffee.
Varadero is what I call: go-to-Cuba and not-see-Cuba. Don’t do the mistake to go ONLY to Varadero and not to visit other parts of the country! It is a mass tourist trap with more than 50 all-inclusive hotels. I say trap because blind sighted with beautiful sunsets, swimming pools under palm trees and beach serenity you forget that THIS IS NOT CUBA. The entertainment and food are on an acceptable level, although that depends on the hotel. It can be good to relax for a few days after exploring the rest of Cuba. But don’t limit your list of places to visit in Cuba to only Varadero.
Pinar del Rio
Pinar del Rio was a good surprise. It is not much popular with tourists – and this was all the beauty of the place to me. It’s not as colourful and clean as Cienfuegos or as old as Trinidad. But you meet the real life of Cuba on its streets. Walking, you almost feel like a local. Wander around and you will find secret gardens, houses with a past grandeur and street coffee shops.
Advice: There are hand-made leather shoes and bags that you can buy all over Cuba. In Pinar del Rio their prices are lower as the tourists are not that many here.
See my photo diary on Pinar del Rio.
From all top 10 places to visit in Cuba, Valle de Vinales is my favorite place. Absolutely unpolluted nature, still authentic culture and simple lifestyle – this valley is one of the few places on Earth that are still pristine.
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