CIEGO DE ÁVILA is more like the suburb of a larger town than an urban centre in its own right. A friendly though pedestrian place set in the plains of the province, it is surprisingly young for a provincial capital – only established in 1849 – and its youth is its sole newsworthy feature. With no tourist attractions, and precious little nightlife, Ciego de Ávila is often bypassed by visitors en route to the northern cays, but the town is not without charm and an afternoon here, on your way to the showier parts of the province, will reveal Cuba at its most modest and unaffected. Refreshingly, Ciego de Ávila also has much less of a problem with hustlers and jineteros than bigger towns.

Much of Ciego de Ávila has a close-knit, slow-moving feel, its streets lined with whitewashed modern houses where families hang out on their verandas, old men relax in rocking chairs, and entrepreneurs sell corn fritters and fruit juice from peso stalls.