Exploring Cuba can be bewitching and bewildering, and you can’t cover the whole country in a single trip. Our Havana Grand Tour concentrates on the capital’s main sights, while our other suggested routes focus on getting the most out of the country when you venture beyond Havana.
You could cram this tour of Havana’s major sights into two days, but allow yourself three and there’ll be plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere – and a mojito or two – along the way.
1 Plaza de Armas
The oldest and most animated of Habana Vieja’s squares is where Havana established itself as a city in the second half of the sixteenth century – and it’s been the barrio’s heartbeat ever since.
A microcosm of all that is changing in Havana, this pedestrianized thoroughfare is brimming with a lively mix of street vendors, open-fronted bars, neighbourhood hairdressers, secondhand bookstalls and artists’ ateliers.
3 Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
The country’s most spectacular museum houses its largest art collection: revel in the history of Cuban art (and Cuba itself) seen through Spanish colonial portraits, Cuban painting and sculpture and Revolution-inspired work.
4 Plaza de la Revolución
Visit when the plaza is brimming with patriotic Cubans waving a sea of flags against a backdrop of sculptural tributes to Che Guevara, José Martí and Camilo Cienfuegos, and you’ll have yourself the ultimate revolutionary photo opportunity.
5 Casa de la Musica Miramar
Arguably the best of the city’s music venues, hosting a consistently good programme of shows by Cuba’s most popular musicians.
6 La Guardia
The atmospheric beauty, on-point menu and slew of celebrity guests all keep this as Havana’s number-one paladar.
7 Gran Teatro Ballet
Watch some of the world’s finest prima ballerinas give mesmeric performances in an ornate building on the Parque Central; Carlos Acosta regularly takes to the boards here, too.
Inland Cuba has natural treasures galore, and you could easily dedicate two weeks to trekking through the country’s glorious forests, breathtaking mountains and verdant countryside.
1 Las Terrazas
A rich variety of birdlife flits through the fertile mixture of semitropical rainforest and evergreen forest on the slopes of the Sierra del Rosario mountain range.
The jewel in the crown of western Cuba is the landscape in this striking national park, where rich red earth and lush tobacco fields contrast with the almost eerie Jurassic rock formations.
3 Cuevas de Bellamar
Venture over 50m below the surface and along hundreds of metres of atmospheric passageways in these awe-inspiring underground caves.
4 Topes de Collantes
This beautiful national park in the steep forested slopes of the Sierra del Escambray mountains has some excellent hiking trails.
The idyllic campsite here is tucked away down in the folds of the Jatibonico Sierra and framed by a halo of royal palms and banana groves alive with wildlife.
6 Pinares de Mayarí
Few venture into this beautiful and isolated pine forest, with a placid lake, majestic waterfall and intriguing Pre-Columbian caves hidden high above sea level.
Cradled by lush green mountains smothered in palm and cacao trees, and threaded with swimmable rivers, the Baracoan countryside is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the great outdoors.
8 Sierra Maestra
Even if you fall short of Pico Turquino, Cuba’s geographical summit, a trek through the verdant peaks of the Sierra Maestra takes in stunning views, cloud forest vegetation and the mountain bases of Revolutionary rebels.
Once outside the cities, the roads in Cuba, even the motorways, are remarkably free of traffic, making it a fantastic country to cycle around. This week-long tour is based on a pace of between 40 and 90 kilometres a day. Flip the order around to avoid the headwind.
1 Playas del Este
A gentle start to the tour allows you to get used to cycling in the humidity with a short hop from the capital to the nearest beaches, where you can cool off and relax before the longer leg tomorrow.
2 Matanzas via the Yumurí valley
It’s around 80km from the beaches to the provincial capital of Matanzas, a tatty but culturally interesting city on a bay with a colonial past – but the real pleasure is cycling through the idyllic Yumurí valley on the approach to the city.
An easy ride along a coastal road leads to the country’s largest beach resort, where there’s an abundant spread of excellent casas particulares and paladars.
4 Península de Zapata
Head south, down through Matanzas province, via the forgotten, picturesque village of San Miguel de los Baños through the sugar cane fields and citrus orchards to the northern tip of the Península
5 Playa Girón
This leg of the tour takes in most of the Península de Zapata’s sights and ends up at the Bay of Pigs, where a modest beach and museum mark one of the key events of the Revolution.
Around 85km from Playa Girón, either along a coastal track and then a ferry at the Castillo de Jagua or along country roads, is the laidback, bayside capital of Cienfuegos.
Follow the Circuito Sur along the coast to Trinidad, Cuba’s most intact colonial town. With beaches just down the road, mountains not much further away and a glorious nearby valley,you can do some day-tripping if you have any energy left before popping your bike on a bus back to Havana.
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