1 La Habana Vieja
Fortresses, palaces, churches and mansions frame the grand plazas of this Spanish colonial city which has barely changed since the 19th century. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the main focus for tourists to the capital, with buzzing streetlife and iconic sights.
2 Las Terrazas
Part of a Biosphere Reserve in the Sierra del Rosario, Las Terrazas offers birdwatching and hiking amongst tropical forests, old coffee plantations and waterfalls. There’s an orchidarium at Soroa nearby.
3 María la Gorda
Very remote and low key, this dive resort offers pristine reefs, caves and tunnels with an abundance of sea life. Part of the Península de Guanahacabibes, a Natural Biosphere Reserve, it is also popular with keen naturalists and beach lovers.
4 Valle de Viñales
Declared a UNESCO World Cultural Landscape, this beautiful valley in Piñar del Río province is characterized by steep-sided limestone mogotes that rise out of the red earth, surrounded by tobacco fields ploughed by oxen.
5 Bay of Pigs
The site of the botched CIA-backed counter-revolutionary invasion in 1961 is now a prime dive site, teeming with tropical fish. The surrounding Zapata Peninsula is a national park whose swamps and lagoons are home to crocodiles and migratory water birds.
A port on the south coast, Cienfuegos’ wealth from trading can be seen in the lavish mansions and eclectic architectural styles of its 19th-century buildings.
7 Santa Clara
The decisive battle of the Revolution was fought here under the leadership of Che Guevara. A huge monument, mausoleum and cemetery mark his last resting place and commemorate his fallen comrades from both Cuba and Bolivia.
A charming old town, known for its Christmas festivities, Remedios is within easy reach of the northern cays and of Santa Clara to the south. It is a pleasant place to stay for a few days in a boutique hotel or a casa particular.
Frozen in time, with its cobbled streets and tiled roofs, Trinidad has remained unchanged since the sugar barons left in the 19th century. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the leading tourist attractions on the island.
Magnificent 18th-century churches and plazas characterize this colonial city, known for its maze of streets built at odd angles to deter pirate invasion. To the north are several lovely beaches and cays that are home to flocks of flamingos.
11 Coast of Holguín
The beautiful bays and inlets at Guardalavaca have been developed as a major resort. In contrast, Gibara is a quiet and unassuming fishing town, with caves and unspoilt beaches to explore. There are also several Amerindian sites you can visit.
12 Sierra Maestra
Hike to Castro’s secret revolutionary headquarters in the mountains at Comandancia de la Plata, or do a two- to three-day trek up Pico Turquino, the highest mountain in Cuba, for tremendous views.
13 Santiago de Cuba
This is the hottest city on the island, both in terms of temperature and in the vibrancy of its music. Cultural activities reach a crescendo in July for a month of festivals and carnival celebrations. Spruced up for its 500th anniversary in 2015, Santiago is a gem.
The first town founded by the Spanish, but accessible only by sea until the 1960s, Baracoa has an air of self-sufficiency born of isolation. Seafood, coconut and cocoa provide welcome sustenance after a day’s hiking in the surrounding hills and forests.