Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and is characterized by colonial-era architecture, vintage American cars and world-class rum. With historic elements scattered throughout the country, it is normal to feel like stepping into another era the moment you step foot in the country. Once you start exploring, you will realise Cuba has more than historical heritage – verdant mountains and beautiful landscape, pristine beaches and colorful corals, soulful music and sizzling salsa, Cuba has everything, and more.
Capital Havana is the heart of the country. This historical roller-coaster of a city is a playground for the history buffs – especially, the UNESCO world heritage listed Old Havana area (also known as Habana Vieja). The area is dotted with colourful architecture, historic palaces, museums and squares. Some of Havana’s must-visit sites include Plaza Vieja – a 16th-century public square, Calle Mercaderes – a cobbled, car-free street lined with museums, shops and restaurants, Museo de la Revolución – the former Presidential Palace turned museum featuring early-20th-century architecture, El Capitolio – a historic government building and Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro – a sea-side fortress with amazing sunset views. From Havana, you can visit Viñales Valley – a UNESCO world heritage listed region that feels like worlds apart from the Cuban capital. Known for its verdant landscape of pine tree and tobacco plantations, the region offers great hiking, rock climbing and horse riding opportunities. Located about 150km north-east of Havana, Varadero is another destination that can be reached easily from the capital. It is the country’s best resort destination and famed for its 20 kilometres long white-sand beach which is lined by several all-inclusive resorts and hotels.
Cuba’s second-largest city Santiago de Cuba is the country’s cultural powerhouse and has a deep-rooted history with the Cuban revolution. People visit the city for its striking colonial architecture and vibrant carnival, which occurs towards the end of July. The 17th-century fortress, Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca is the most iconic monument in Santiago de Cuba. From here, you can go on a trip to Baracoa – one of Cuba’s oldest towns. Located in the country’s south-eastern region, the town features a surreal landscape of verdant forests and cacao and coffee plantations, and offers excellent hiking opportunities.
Cienfuegos – located on Cuba’s southern coast, is a UNESCO world heritage listed city. Mostly known for its colonial heritage and a picturesque bay, this coastal city is often called the “Pearl of the South”. From here you can arrange trips for Santa Clara and Trinidad, located northeast and southeast of Cienfuegos respectively. The city of Santa Clara hosts Cuba’s most popular music festival – Ciudad Metal. Known for its long association with Che Guevara, here, you will discover the remains of the great revolutionary in the Che Guevara Mausoleum. The mausoleum also possesses a 6.7m tall bronze statue of Che Guevara. UNESCO world heritage listed city, Trinidad, on the other hand, is rich in colonial legacy. With its impressive well-preserved Spanish colonial settlement and cobblestone streets, the city feels like it is stuck in time. Located in central Cuba, Camaguey is the country’s third-largest city and lures visitors with its UNESCO world heritage listed historic center. Other than that, the city lacks major attractions.
While other islands in the Caribbean offer somewhat similar experiences, revolving around white-sand beaches and diving or snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea, Cuba stands out with the story of its independence struggle and the resilience of its people, its historical importance, preserved heritage and UNESCO listed sites. It is a great destination for history buffs and nature lovers alike.
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean.