Cuba itinerary

Cuba itinerary: One week

The old colonial city of Havana is unmissable. You need a day to see the old city with its palaces, mansions, museums and plazas and a couple of days to get round some of the major sites in the suburbs as well as take in some of the nightlife in music-mad Vedado. Use the capital as a base for day trips out to the countryside or the beaches along the coast. Places within striking distance of Havana include the lush green valley of Viñales and the fields of top-class tobacco in the Province of Pinar del Río, or the beaches to the east of the capital, Playas del Este, Jibacoa and the resort of Varadero.

Cuba itinerary: Two weeks

With two weeks you could spend more time in the western province of Pinar del Río and divers would particularly appreciate a few days at the isolated María la Gorda in the far west. You could stay a night at the eco-lodge at Las Terrazas where you can go walking in the rainforest and visit the colourful orchid gardens at Soroa. With two weeks, you could explore the UNESCO World Cultural Landscape of the Viñales valley with excursions to the
(steep-sided, limestone mountains) and caves before heading up to the north coast beaches. Alternatively head east into the sugar-growing farmlands and forested mountains in the centre of the island. Allow yourself a couple of nights in Santa Clara, last resting place of Che Guevara; visit the Che memorial and the cays off the north coast via the charming old town of Remedios. Trinidad, the UNESCO World Heritage Site with its single-storey 18th- and 19th-century houses and cobbled streets, is a must-see on anyone's itinerary. Allow plenty of time to explore the town and surrounding areas, including the Valley of the Sugar Mills, the Escambray mountains and the beach
at Ancón as well as enjoy the nightlife. The return trip to Havana could take in Cienfuegos for its
colonial architecture and fortress, the Bay of Pigs
and the Zapata Peninsula if you have your own car. The route Havana-Santa Clara-Trinidad- Cienfuegos-Havana can be done by bus.

Cuba itinerary: Four weeks

A month will give you more time to get to know both ends of the island and some places in between. The central towns are often missed because travellers concentrate on one end of the island or the other and skip the bits in between. Nevertheless, colonial Camagüey is well worth a day's exploration. If taking the bus or train the length of the island, make sure you break your journey in this city, preferably on a Saturday, when the streets come alive at night for an open-air fiesta: Noche Camagüeya. From here you can take in a day trip to the beach at Playa Santa Lucía. Another recommended break in the journey is at Bayamo, the jumping-off point for hiking in the Sierra Maestra and a visit to Castro's atmospheric mountain headquarters during the Revolution. Lively Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's second city, is an infectious contrast to the capital, with an Afro-Caribbean culture laced with French influences, and where the climate is hotter and drier. You need up to two weeks to do justice to these eastern parts of the island: as well as experiencing Santiago de Cuba, there are excellent day excursions to La Gran Piedra, a tremendous viewpoint from where it is claimed that you can see Haiti and Jamaica on a clear day, and El Cobre, where the shrine of Cuba's patron saint is built over a working copper mine. An easterly round trip will take in Guantánamo , Baracoa (currently one of the most popular destinations for its beaches and laid-back lifestyle), Holguín and the beaches of Guardalavaca, before returning to Santiago through the mountains or back to Havana. The main towns can be reached by bus or train, but places off the beaten track are difficult to get to on public transport and it is advisable to rent a car unless you like negotiating travel by truck.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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