Cuba: an incomparable country of culture and beauty
If you’re looking for a new and exciting place to visit, check out our product manager, Cassie Stickland’stravel diary of her fantastic journey around her latest holiday in Cuba!
Cuba is a country that cannot be compared to any other – from the iconic capital of Havana to its beautiful beaches and picturesque countryside; there is something in Cuba for everyone! My recent trip saw me travel all over this wonderful country (and to many of the places we include on our Cuban Discovery Tour) so I am delighted to be able to share my experiences. Starting in Havana I split most of my time between Old Havana and Vedado. Old Havana is full of charm and history and Titan’s hotel the ‘Iberostar Parque Central’ is perfectly located off the main square adjacent to the famous National Capital Building or ‘El Capitolio’ as it is known to the Cuban people.
The Paseo del Prado is also a stone’s throw away, along with the theatre named after the famed ballerina Alicia Alonso and the area is bustling with bars, cafes, vintage cars and live music! Vedado is a more modern, affluent part of Havana home to the Hotel Nacional de Cuba (selling the best Pina Coladas in Cuba) and of course the Malecón, the waterfront seawall that plays to host to the majority of social gatherings for young Cubans.
From Havana I headed west to Vinales Valley. While not sure what to expect the drive alone from Havana to Vinales had me staring out of the window for hours at the surprising beauty of the Cuban countryside. Hotel Los Jasmines, where we stay in Vinales on our Cuban Discovery tour, is located on top of a hill with a large swimming pool and a bar/café area overlooking probably the best view in the entire valley! It was while enjoying a coffee here and looking out over the peaceful countryside that I really started to realise that there is so much more to Cuba than just Havana!
From Vinales I headed east back past Havana and onto Cienfuegos and Trinidad. While in Cienfuegos we heard the music of Benny Moré (a famous Cuban singer/songwriter who settled in Cienfuegos) playing everywhere we went from bars, restaurants to sidewalks. Cienfuegos was the unexpected highlight of the trip for me and is a city well deserving of its nickname – ‘La Perla del Sur’ or in English, the Pearl of the South.
What struck me as so different from Havana was that the neo-classical architecture that Cienfuegos is so famous for is surprisingly well-cared for. There is also a thriving local art scene in Cienfuegos and a wonderful artisanal street market down a cobbled street off the Parque Jose Marti which is well worth a browse. Dining wise, try one of the many new private restaurants that have popped up around the city. One of my favourites was called Dona Nora which is located on the main Paseo del Prado but make sure you ask for a table on the upstairs balcony so you can look out over the Paseo as you dine.
The charming UNESCO World Heritage town of Trinidad is a delightful place to spend a day. The cobbled streets are made for exploring and the colourful houses that line the streets almost always have residents sat outside who are great to chat to. Plaza Mayor is the hub of the town with a number of great new private restaurants dotted around it and a number of bars claiming to make ‘the best mojitos in Cuba’! My recommendation though is ‘Café Don Pepe’ which is located a short walk from the main square and provides a huge variety of wonderful coffees (with or without liqueurs) in a tranquil ‘hidden’ shaded courtyard that is just perfection!
In my opinion if you’ve been thinking about Cuba for your next trip then the best option is to grab the mojito by the glass and get yourself out there! All you need to take with you is a sense of adventure, an open mind and a laidback attitude and it will be one of the most rewarding journeys of your life.
Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.
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