Havana is definitely one of the cities in the world where you’ll have to spend more than just two days in order to see it all. Its true spirit can especially be felt in La Habana Vieja – the old town. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it features many historic colonial buildings. Other than that, you can find here the capitol, the four main squares, some nice churches, forts, and the famous Floridita bar where Ernest Hemingway used to hangout. And – of course – hundreds of these famous old American cars! 🙂
Without even knowing it, I had booked my flight exactly for the time when Havana was celebrating its 500th anniversary. It was a huge spectacle with free concerts, huge fireworks, and colorful parades. The best time to be there! And, of course, we also went to an after-party…
Vedado is the more modern part of Cuba’s capital and the central business district. It comprises many bars and clubs, cultural venues, part of the Malecon, the Revolution Square, and the University where also Fidel Castro studied law. A bit further outside, Fusterlandia – the Cuban answer to Park Güell in Barcelona – is worth a stop.
Viñales is a small town in the Western part of Cuba. It mostly consists of colorful one-story wooden houses with porches. Many of which are so called Casas Particulares – private residences that have been tailored and licensed to operate as bed and breakfasts. (My travelmate Darijusch and I stayed in these throughout the whole trip.) It is situated in an agricultural area, where crops of fruit, vegetables, coffee, and tobacco are still grown by traditional methods. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the Botanical Garden in this town when you’re around!
The Viñales Valley has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999 and draws more and more tourists every year for its outstanding karst landscape and traditional agriculture as well as the unique architecture, crafts and music. There are many natural sights to be found such as caves or limestone cliffs. Those mountain formations are called mogotes and are only comparable to the landscapes in China and Malacca.
Nearby – about 3 hours by van – is one of the most beautiful beaches of the whole island located: Cayo Jutias. Especially when you walk to the right hand side, you will have the white sand and the clear blue waters all for yourself. What a paradise! 🙂
Also nicknamed “La Perla del Sur”, Cienfuegos is situated at the Southern coast of Cuba. There is no other place in the Caribbean which contains such a remarkable cluster of neoclassical structures. Other than these magnificent colonial buildings, a stroll along the malecón during sunset is a must-do. Oh, and don’t miss the main square in the city center!
Nearby the city of Cienfuegos, Playa Rancho Luna is worth a day trip in order to have a relaxig time at a very uncrowded beach.
Trinidad is famous for its colonial architecture and the cobblestone streets. As it is well preserved, tourism is the major income in this town and you meet many tour groups here. For me, walking around the city center for one day was enough. In the evening we bumped into some really cool other travelers, went for some mojitos, and to the famous cave disco.
On our second day in Trinidad, all of us decided to go on a bike tour together to the Valle de los Ingenios. This area was a center for sugar production in the 18th & 19th century. At its peak, there were over fifty sugar cane mills in operation here, with more than 30,000 slaves working on these plantations. And of course, we did taste some sugar cane juice! 🙂
In addition to its beautiful natural surroundings and colonial appearance, Trinidad is located by the sea with an excellent beach nearby: Playa Ancon. It is 4 km long, with white sand and green-blue water. And that’s where we enjoyed some Coco Loco and Mojito during sunset.
In the very center of Cuba, Santa Clara can be found. The city itself is not very remarkable but the interesting aspect about this place lies in the fact that Santa Clara was the site of the last battle in the Cuban Revolution in 1958. Nowadays, this city is home to a Che-monument, a Che-museum and a mausoleum which houses the remains of Che Guevara and sixteen of his fellow combatants.
One bus ride away, towards the Northern coast, one reaches Remedios – the oldest Spanish settlement. The city center contains many restored colorful colonial buildings. Just a few kilometers further, the small town of Caibarién at the shore can be visited in order to taste great sea food.
Featuring one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, Varadero is also one of the largest resort areas in this area. Luckily, there are also looong kilometers of white sandy beach before all of these hotel resorts start and that’s where we spent a couple of relaxing days before almost ending our trip around Cuba. I even met 6 Polish bikers there who invited me to have breakfast with them at the beach where they were camping. 🙂
Matanzas, located on the way between Varadero and Havana, is also called the City of Bridges or the Venice of Cuba, for the seventeen bridges that cross the three rivers in the city. Known for its poets, culture, and Afro-Cuban folklore, it is the birthplace of the music and dance traditions danzón and rumba.