Timeworn but magnificent, dilapidated but dignified, fun yet maddeningly frustrating – Cuba is a country of indefinable magic.
Having been a closed destination for many years, there has rarely been a better time to visit Cuba. Private enterprise is displaying the first buds of a creative spring, while the big-name brands from that well-known neighbour in the north have yet to dilute the cultural magic.
Bereft of modern interference, Cuba’s colonial cities have not changed much since musket-toting pirates stalked the Caribbean. The atmosphere and architecture is particularly stirring in Havana, where grandiose squares and cobbled streets tell erstwhile tales of opulence and intrigue.
HAVANA (LA HABANA)
Visit Cuba’s vivacious capital during its 500th anniversary in 2019, and you can expect exuberant celebrations. An overnight stay in the UNESCO World Heritage city offers ample opportunities to experience its history and enjoy the thriving music, dance and graphic arts scenes, as well as its distinctive culinary traditions. How many cities invite you to tour 16th Century plazas and Art Deco treasures in lovingly preserved vintage American cars from the 50s and 60s.
ANTILLA (NIPE BAY)
The entry to the deep-cut Nipes Bay is a manmade channel passing by the Cayo Saetia National Park. The Holguin province offers unspoiled Cuban communities like San Isidro de Holguin itself, with 18th century churches and sleepy plazas. The Sierra del Cristal range holds lush pine forests and Pico Cristál and Mensura National Parks with the twin Guayabo waterfalls, Cuba’s highest.
SANTIAGO DE CUBA
Founded in 1515, Cuba’s cultural capital is filled with monuments of its colonial and revolutionary history. Its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, as is the fortress of San Pedro de la Roca el Morro nearby. Santiago will reward a two-day stay with highlights including its cathedrals and the museums in the Moncada Barracks, the Velazquez House, the Lucha Clandestina museum and the sprawling Santa Ifigenia cemetery, where both José Martí and Fidel Castro are buried.
One of the later colonial cities of Cuba, Cienfuegos was founded by French nationals in 1819, yet it is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its remarkable concentration of 19th century architecture. The Castle of Jagua at the entrance to the bay actually predates the city, erected in 1745 to protect shipping from pirates. An overnight stay allows visits to the city’s highlights, as well as cultural experiences such as classes in Cuban dance and visits to two other UNESCO Heritage sites: the earlier colonial towns of Santa Clara and Trinidad.
Lesley is Hosting a special Trip to Cuba departing on 4th November 2019. Full details can be found HERE