Cuba, an island whose roadside billboards still declare “Socialism or death” and world-class ballerinas and baseball players continue to work for a state salary. Salsa still runs through the veins of every Cuban in this proud nation that seems to be stuck in a time machine. Cuba, warming once again to its closest neighbour, for so long its frostiest foe, the US, has an economy that is on the rise with it’s recent influx of tourism since it’s embargo was lifted in 2014. The island’s breathtaking beaches, forest-covered mountains, colourful houses and cobbled-stone streets make an enlightening experience when you travel to Cuba.
Places to visit in Cuba
Rich in history, branded the birthplace of salsa and with beaches you can only dream of – Cuba has plenty of places to explore. Trinidad, the Spanish colonial settlement that seems to have been frozen in time since the 1850s, with neo-baroque architecture and sugar cane and tobacco plantations, is deemed a UNESCO world heritage site that tourists flock too for an authentic dose of Cuban. The archaeological capital of Cuba, Banes, famous for its well-preserved artefacts from the indigenous Taino people is a place of traditional culture and Varadero, the beach town beside the 20 km stretch of white sands and turquoise waters, is a haven for tourists wishing to dine in all-inclusive resorts with relaxing being the main goal on the checklist.
Best time to travel Cuba
The best time to travel to Cuba is typically between December and May, however, you can almost always except sunny warm weather due to the islands fairly close location to the equator.
Festival-wise, the best celebrations in Cuba take place from July 25th to 27th where the locals take to the streets to celebrate the success of the Cuban Revolution. Expect rallies, speeches and dances. The Cubans celebrate these days as the happiest days in Cuban history.
Capitolio building in Central Havana, Cuba © lazyllama/Shutterstock
Creating an itinerary for when you travel Cuba
Transportation in Cuba is somewhat unorganised and defies logic. It is recommended to plan your trip beforehand rather than trying your luck with spontaneous trips to avoid unpleasant delays. For inspiration, an itinerary combining city, culture and paradise-like beaches is recommended to get the best from your travels in Cuba.
Days 1 – 3: Havana
Havana, the vibrant capital made up of vintage cars, colourful colonial-style buildings, cigars and salsa. Head to Habana Vieja, also known as Old Havana, to eat churros and explore the streets where the decaying buildings are surprisingly pretty and charming. Embark on a classic car tour, where you will be driven to all the hot spots in Havana in a tasteful vintage car. Be sure to check out the Plaza de la Revolucion (Revolution Square) and the infamous Havana Cathedral. The Sinistro cigar factory is quite the icon in Havana and provides tours in which you can roll your own cigars, perfect for a handmade souvenir.
Days 3 – 7: Playa Jibacoa and Varadero
About 60 km from Havana lies Cuba’s best-kept secret, Playa Jibacoa. This picturesque beach is postcard worthy for its soft white sands and clear emerald waters. The beauty of Playa Jibacoa is that it is secluded and rarely known to tourists. Relax, swim and dive the sunken shipwrecks for a few days and enjoy the Caribbean heat. If you want a beach-break that a little more well known, then you can travel a little further to Varadero. Varadero offers the same gorgeous beaches but with more tourists and hotel chains.
The Cuban Revolution is an important part of history that sits respectively in the hearts of the Cuban people. They proudly admire their ‘four horsemen of the revolution’, Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos as heroes who gave Cuba back to the people. The armed revolution began in 1953 and ended in 1959 when tyrannical dictator Fulgencio Batista was successfully overthrown.
Cuban flag hanging on a door in Trinidad, Cuba © Sabino Parente/Shutterstock