|Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, and is surrounded by over 4,000 keys and islets, many of which are untouched. The scenery varies from white sandy beaches, protected by virgin coral reefs, to tropical mountains covered with palm trees, coffee plantations and tropical fruit. The lush valleys have clear rivers meandering across a carpet of sugar, tobacco and citrus fruit. Little has changed for hundreds of years. Most of the country population still travels by horse or bicycle and many farmers still use oxen to plough the fields. The people of Cuba are naturally friendly and welcoming to visitors.
Havana has many centuries of old buildings. The architecture is spectacular, with museums, theatres and colonial hotels incorporating a unique combination of European and South American influences. Although neglected for many years several buildings in Old Havana are being meticulously restored to their original splendour and are now hotels. It has an atmosphere all of its own; the streets are bustling with life, there are street markets with people selling a variety of tourist goods, and music everywhere.
The combination of all these elements makes Havana one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Cubans are famous for their music. Salsa, Son, the Bossa Nova and the Rumba all originated in Cuba and you will hear their rhythms played by local bands in many places. As a result the nightlife is very vibrant and great fun, particularly in Havana and Santiago de Cuba, although music and dance is spectacular and generally spontaneous wherever you go in Cuba.
Cayo Largo is a coral island set in an archipelago in the Caribbean sea about forty minutes flight south of Havana. The island has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, wonderful diving and fishing and has only five hotels on a 25km stretch of beach. Facilities on the island include water sports, yacht and boat hire, bicycle, and moped rental. Scuba diving and fishing (both saltwater fly and deep-sea) can normally be arranged through your hotel at the marina.
Pinar del Rio, the western province of Cuba, has some of Cuba’s most breathtaking scenery. The Viñales valley has not really changed in hundreds of years; most of the people in the area are farmers growing tobacco and coffee during the winter, other crops and vegetables during the summer. Close to a spectacular cave system (the largest in Latin America) with underground streams and gorges. The Vinales Valley was once an enormous cave system itself before the top eroded away and is now the site of the strange-looking "mogotes", the almost sheer limestone outcrops smothered in palm trees which are found only in Cuba and two other sites in south-east Asia. The lovely islets of Cayo Levisa and Cayo Jutias are within easy distance just off the north coast, about one hours drive from Vinales.There are two hotels in the Vinales Valley, both offering basic comfortable, accommodation with amazing views of the valley.
Cayo Levisa is one of a cluster of islands off the coast of Pinar del Rio, covered in thick mangrove jungle and with fabulous white beaches, overlooking a coral reef. The only accommodation on the island is in simple bungalows built with local materials. The restaurant serves a mixture of typical local and international dishes, including the freshly caught local lobster. Cayo Levisa is truly a place for getting away from the modern world and back to a simple life.
Trinidad is a wonderful cobbled colonial town built on the foothills of the Escambray Mountains a few miles inland from the Caribbean Sea on the south coast of Cuba. Trinidad’s winding cobbled streets contain old churches, museums and a good choice of restaurants and bars. There is a busy street market selling handmade souvenirs and some antiques. The nightlife in Trinidad is good and offers a choice of reasonable restaurants (by Cuban standards), bars and music clubs, some playing excellent live music with well known Cuban bands.
North and Eastern Cuba There are a number of islands off the North coast of Cuba, connected to the mainland by causeways. All have beautiful white sandy beaches and are ideal as a destination beach resort to Cuba or as part of a round trip to relax. The largest of the islands, Cayo Coco is also serviced by an airport, which has direct flights from other parts of Cuba. Other smaller island are Cayo Guillermo and Santa Maria, if one is prepared to walk a little distance, the beaches are almost deserted. This is particularly true of Cayo Santa Maria, where a ten minute stroll along the beach will find miles of peaceful almost deserted shoreline.
Baracoa is the first town to be built in Cuba shortly after it was discovered by Christopher Columbus. The town was pretty well cut off from the rest of Cuba until the 1970’s when a road was put in connecting it to Santiago de Cuba. The town is friendly and still holds in own character. This area of Cuba is more tropical than the rest and means that the local farmers tend to grow Coconuts, cocoa and other tropical fruit. El Yunque, "The Anvil" is a flat toped mountain overlooking Baracoa. There are plenty of other things to see and do in this area and is well worth including in your visit to the East of Cuba, Santiago de Cuba. Baracoa is about three hours drive from Santiago and around three hour’s flight from Havana or Varadero.
Santiago de Cuba is the second city of Cuba to Havana. The architecture is pretty similar Spanish colonial style, but the atmosphere is almost more vibrant. The music is supposed to be better here, if that is possible. The surrounding scenery in the area of Cuba is very different from the west of the country, huge arid mountains, with lush tropical valleys with their own microclimates.