is finally opening up to the world as US and Cuban relations are beginning to thaw, so get your skates on and plan a trip to this beautiful island before it inevitably changes with the influx of investment and American tourists.
This tropical island isn’t like any other Caribbean island; firstly, it is still lodged in a 50 year time-warp thanks to Fidel Castro. Consequently the island is amazingly un-commercial without the ubiquitous brands we are so used to seeing wherever we travel. Instead, vintage cars and crumbling colonnades give it a unique faded charm which needs to be soaked up before it undoubtedly is swept away with modernisation. Secondly, the island is the biggest in the Caribbean so don’t expect to be able to get around it all in a 2 week holiday; travel is all by car so expect long journeys if you want to explore its hidden treasures.
Havana: (Picture Top Left) The wonderfully colourful and shabby capital city rocks to the constant sound of music being played on every corner. Some of the beautiful old town has been renovated but there are still plenty of old crumbling colonial buildings that make this city so unique. Don’t miss the art-deco Bacardi building with its multi coloured marble interior, the decorative Plaza Vieja with its blue and yellow arches, or the Malecon, the esplanade where the city meets the sea.
Trinidad: (Picture Centre Right) known as ‘the City that time forgot’, Trinidad is Cuba’s best preserved city, relatively untouched since its colonial founding in 1514. It is the center of the sugar trade and the money from sugar built elaborate churches and multi-coloured houses. The small town is surrounded by unspoiled beaches and nestled nearby is Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), both part of the same UNESCO Heritage Site. Small galleries show off local artists’ work, the cigar shops offers a wide selection and craft shops display their handmade wares. With rooftop seafood restaurants, local musicians playing the afternoon away, and a cool, laid-back vibe as you walk the cobblestone streets, this is a town not to be missed.
Camaguey: bigger but less touristy than Trinidad, Camaguey’s labyrinthine layout was, so legend has it, designed to confuse invading pirates! Enjoy getting lost in its warren like alleys, safe in the knowledge that all streets seem to lead to yet another Spanish style square and beautiful church.
Sierra Maestro: Hike up to the jungle village, high up in the Sierra Maestro mountains where Fidel Castro’s army hid out. Much of it still remains from when he was resident there plotting the revolution! The now peaceful mountain range of lush vegetation and wildlife has incredible views to the Caribbean coast below.
Vinales: (Picture Bottom Left) This is tobacco country, it’s rural Cuba where oxen still drag ploughs through the fields and you pass more horses and carts on the roads than cars. Pull up a rocking chair and relax in this wonderfully slow, traditional settlement.