A country where the clock has stood still for 60 years, where road-side billboards declare "Socialism or Death" and where commercialism is still refreshingly absent. A land proud of its heritage where people greet you warmly on every corner. A place where old classic cars mingle with horse-drawn carts, where the beaches are pure white sand and palms and sugar cane sway in a gentle breeze. Throw in a beguiling mix of revolutionary music, salsa and decaying colonial towns and you have a country you do not want to miss.
best time to travel
The best time to travel to Cuba is from December to May when you can expect dry, sunny days and clear blue skies.
places to go
Habana Vieja, Old Havana, enchanting and captivating, brimming with cool cafes, Bohemian bars and a flourishing art scene. Despite years of neglect and economic hardship, an undeniable energy infused with jazz and salsa permeates the atmospheric colonial streets.
When you see the morning mist lift off the rust-colored tobacco fields, when you see a monolithic mogote (limestone cliff) tower above a farmer driving his oxen and plow, when you see the simple tiled-roof houses with sunburnt paintwork and front doors left open, you know you have arrived in Viñales, a relaxed traditional village in Western Cuba. Stay a while to admire the beauty of the land and enjoy some hiking, horse-riding or cycling.
Cuba's main ecotourism site promotes self-sufficiency and education in rural areas as well as preservation and care of the environment. There is a lively art community with studios and workshops but the main reason to visit is to hike, relax and watch the countless birds.
Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs)
Scene of the ill-fated CIA sponsored invasion by Cuban exiles, the museum tells the story of the Cuban victory. But the main reason to visit are the crystal clear Caribbean waters, home to an incredibly variety of coral and fish which makes for a lovely place to swim.
Founded by French settlers (many from Louisiana), this easy-going town with its elegant classical architecture has been called Cuba's Paris. With a heady mix of elegance and Caribbean spirit, the nickname 'Pearl of the South' is well-deserved.
Topes de Collantes
In the midst of one of Cuba's largest mountain ranges lies the resort of Topes de Collantes. Hike along some of Cuba's best trails and discover a rich flora, isolated waterfalls, jungle-clad forests and remote farmsteads.
Cuba's best preserved colonial town has a distinct village feel. It is a great place to wander around cobble-stoned, traffic-free streets, lined with pastel-coloured houses and mansions whose interiors display Italian frescoes, fine china and beautiful chandeliers. Climb up for a view over red-tiled rooftops or stay a while to enjoy the live-music scene, its sprinkling of museums and the arts and crafts markets.
One of the largest and liveliest cities in Cuba, and certainly its most revolutionary, Santa Clara hosts two monuments to the revolution - the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial and a derailed train which marks a decisive event in the war against Batista.
With its colonial squares and confusingly winding streets of its well-preserved historical center, Camagüey exudes an atmosphere of intrigue. Hidden plazas and crumbling baroque churches, Rococo balconies and pleasant bars and restaurants all add to the appeal of Camagüey, a town rich in cultural tradition and arts.
Comandancia de la Plata
A group of simple wooden buildings mark the hidden headquarters of Castro's revolutionary army, high up in the Sierra Maestra. It is a great place to contemplate all the revolution has brought to Cuba.
Santiago de Cuba
Cuba's cultural capital, with its dusty and sensuous streets, the city where Castro first launched his revolution, is one frenetic and noisy yet magical city. Home to a large Afro-Cuban population the locals are known for both their laid-back lifestyle and their determination to have a good time, resulting in a lively music scene, which gave birth to both salsa and son.
Surrounded by beautiful green mountains covered in palm and cacao trees, Cuba's oldest and most isolated town has an energy all of its own. Wander around the time-worn streets lined with pastel-coloured colonial houses, or explore the gorgeous countryside, nearby fishing villages and beautiful beaches.
Ride the Malecón
Ride along the Malecón, Havana's oceanfront promenade, in a fifty-year-old Chevrolet, to Vedado, the leafy neighbourhood blessed with many of the city’s theatres, cabarets, nightclubs and cinemas.
Be it salsa or son, a mix of Spanish guitar and African percussion, Cuban music will inspire you with its energetic rhythms - we dare you not to get up and dance!
Riding through the tobacco fields with towering limestone cliffs all around is a great way to explore this beautiful area.
With names like Montecristo, Cohiba Esplendido and Hoyo de Monterrey, cigars form a central part of Cuban culture. You can see them being rolled, or explore the cultivation of tobacco in many areas in the country.
Get lost in Camagüey
Hidden plazas and crumbling baroque churches, Rococo balconies, pleasant bars and restaurants and a thriving art scene, sophisticated Camagüey is a great city to get lost in.
After his death at the hands of the Bolivian Army, Ernesto "Che" Guevara's body was interned in Santa Clara. Visiting his mausoleum is a moving experience.
Watch Cubans dance to a high-energy salsa beat and you may feel your feet are dyslexic. But do join in - it is all about having a great night out!
Staying at a hacienda in Topes de Collantes is a great way to learn more about the life of Cuban campesinos.
Fidel's mountain stronghold
Castro and his fellow revolutionaries hid high up in the Sierra Maestra. Take a hike to visit their stronghold La Comandancia and see the sacrifices they made to liberate the country.
Hike the hills
Cuba offers plenty of hiking. Viñales with its limestone cliffs. Topes de Collantes and the Sierra Maestra are but some of the most scenic areas. Getting out on foot is a great way to meet the local farmers.
With white sands and bright blue waters, soaking up the sun on a Cuban beach is a must for any visitor.
With beautiful clear waters and little pollution, Cuba is a haven for snorkelers. Expect plenty of fish, sharks, dolphins, turtles and colorful reefs. Some of the best locations include Cayo Santa Maria, Bay of Pigs, Jibacoa and Cayo Levisa
Food & drink
Cuban food is rather bland and monotonous but mostly fresh and often organic. Typical food includes pork or chicken accompanied by rice, beans and root vegetables. Lobster and other seafood is usually superbly fresh. Rum is the national drink and used in cocktails such as Cuba Libre and mojitos.
Changing of the guards at El Morro
Visit Santiago de Chile and be sure to take a trip out before sunset to see the changing of the guards at El Morro. Watch the pride people take in it and enjoy the views over the harbour and ocean.
National league baseball
Baseball is Cuba's national sport and the country has many talented players. Be sure to join in the carnavalesque atmosphere of a game!
Classic American cars
The US embargo ensured spare parts and imports of new cars were heavily restricted. As a result, many cars date back to pre-revolutionairy days. Riding along in a 1950's Chevy is a real treat!
A cocktail at Hotel Nacional
At the center of Vedado, Havana's landmark hotel is a great place to take time out and enjoy a drink overlooking the ocean.