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The 10 BEST Things to Do in Cuba

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Overview

Revolution, socialism, Che Guevara, vintage cars, cigars, and the Buena Vista Social Club. All things that come to mind when you think of Cuba. You can find them all in Cuba, but this country offers so much more. Picture book beaches, huge cocoa plantations, lush tropical forests, people are dancing in the streets, colorful colonial buildings, and music everywhere.

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Cuba is incomparable and absolutely unique. We've written down all our favorite places with our insider tips for you. There is much to discover – vámonos!

1   La Habana Vieja

Habana Vieja, Havana's Old Town, is fascinating, vibrant, slightly rocked down, and magically appealing. A mix of colorful architecture next to crumbling ruins, and brightly polished vintage cars next to horse-drawn carriages. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. Full of charisma and spirit with a dash of African, Native American, and European influences. Let yourself drift through the alleys, discover the many beautiful squares, marvel at the imposing buildings, visit traditional restaurants, and swing your glass and hips to typical Cuban music in one of the many unique bars.

Before diving into Havana's legendary nightlife, enjoy the sunset on the Malecón overlooking the sea or from the rooftop terrace of Hotel Raquel (order drinks downstairs at the bar).

2   Valle De Viñales

The Viñales Valley, located in the west, is one of the most impressive landscapes in Cuba. This absolutely impressive appearance owes to the Mogoten, up to 400 m (1312ft) high boulders. Created because the limestone was washed out by underground waters and the enormous underground caves collapsed over time. For the locals, the mountain range is called Sierra de Los Organos (= Organ Pipe Mountains). The valley floors are used for the cultivation of fruit, vegetables, and tobacco.

For outdoor enthusiasts, there are fantastic opportunities here, from hiking to horseback riding, climbing, zip-lining, to caving. The valley is also wonderful to explore by bike. Perfect for a beautiful day trip from Havana, or you can stay overnight in the small town of Viñales. There are only a few hotels and restaurants, but there is a dance club.

3   French Cienfuegos

A Cuban city cannot be more French. It is a beautiful boulevard for strolling, the wide promenade Paseo del Prado, and a triumphal arch in the city square, the José Martí Park. Et, êtes-vous d'accord avec nous? The French influence is definitely visible.

Walk along the promenade Paseo del Prado to Punta Gorda, the former aristocratic district of Cienfuegos. It is home to one of the most amazing buildings in all of Cienfuegos: the Palacio de Valle. The mix of Gothic, Arabic-Spanish, Moorish and Venetian elements gives the building something absolutely whimsical! You can enjoy the sunset, including dinner, at the Palacio de Valle or directly across the street on the rooftop terrace of the Pelicano.

4   Artsy Trinidad

Trinidad is a magical, cozy, colorful city. All the beautiful colorful houses with their terracotta tile roofs, the birds chirping, the traditional music flowing throughout the city, and the clatter of hooves on the cobblestones – delightful.

Around the Plaza Mayor you'll find stately colonial buildings, all restored and converted into museums. From the tower of the Museo Nacional de la Lucha you have a great view of the city. Climb the Cerro de la Vigia and enjoy the fantastic view over Trinidad. For sunset, everyone meets at the Plaza Mayor, on the Spanish Steps in front of the Casa de la Musica.

For sunset, everyone meets at the Plaza Mayor, on the Spanish Steps in front of the Casa de la Musica. You will never see this staircase empty. Be sure to visit the disco Ayala / La Cueva because it is in a cave! Locals and tourists dance together here (don't forget your ID).

5   Stunning Beaches

Every beach in Cuba is so beautiful and has its own unique and distinctive charm. About 7.5 miles (12 km) south of Trinidad, Playa Ancon is located on the Ancon Peninsula and is one of the most beautiful beaches on Cuba's south coast. A coral reef off the coast and a 2.5 miles (4 km) long white sandy beach with crystal clear sea in paradisaical shades of blue.

Or how about spending a few days in Guardalavaca? A paradise for divers and snorkelers. You can also enjoy jungle adventures, sailing trips, and tours to Santiago de Cuba. West of Guardalavaca, the Bahia de Naranjo includes a large coastal strip and three islands, including Cayo Naranjo. Chorro de Maita is another option for a side trip from Guardalavaca, with its Indian burial ground and a replica Taino Indian village.

6   Topes De Collantes

In the Escambray Mountains is the Topes de Collantes National Park. Its beautiful landscape and fantastic air make it a perfect place for hiking. Different routes lead through the jungle, from easy to challenging. You will walk among eucalyptus trees, through ancient caves, past rushing rivers, and you can refresh yourself in lakes.

The most popular hike in the area is the trek to Caburní Waterfalls, a limestone cascade with a lake. The Sendero La Batata hike leads to a cave with an underground stream in which you can swim. If you continue past the cave, you will reach Hacienda Codina. Formerly: coffee plantation, today: restaurant and center for esotericism, yoga, mud baths, and an extensive collection of orchids.

7   Revolutionary Santa Clara

Santa Clara is a vibrant and revolutionary city. In addition to the Universidad Central Marta Abreu, one of the most prestigious universities in the country, a large active artistic scene exists here. A city of trends and creativity. Nowhere else can you find drag shows, the first publicly known homosexual nightclub, the production site of satirical political cartoons, or the best rock festival in the country: Ciudad Metal. And unlike other cities, the colorful nightlife here is created for and by locals.

8   Dancing Santiago

Cuba's second-largest city is located in the east of the island and is strongly influenced by African and Caribbean culture. It is the wild, passionate, noisy, and musical capital of Cuba and, by the way, is considered the birthplace of almost every Cuban music genre from Salsa to Son – everything first played through Santiago's streets and alleys. The best place for Son concerts is Casa de la Trova, where the Buena Vista Social Club once performed.

Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, also called Castillo del Morro, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is one of the best-preserved Spanish fortresses from the 17th century. You can visit not only the fort but also its pirate museum. From the battlements, you have a breathtaking wide view of the sea and the southern coastline of Cuba.

9   Colorful Baracoa

Fascinating, idyllic, leisurely, and colorful – Baracoa's character is simply enchanting. On the other side of the Cuchillos del Toa mountains, Cuba's oldest and most isolated town exudes a pristine atmosphere. Residents are mainly on foot, bike, or horseback – a haven of tranquility. Baracoa is known for its chocolate and culinary kitchen. Be sure to visit a cacao plantation and feed your way through the city's menus.

10   Alejandro de Humboldt Park

Be sure to book a tour through the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park. It is one of the most biologically diverse tropical island locations on earth.

You'll encounter an incredible number of different animals and plants, reportedly even more than on the Galápagos Islands. Among them is the bee elf – the smallest bird in the world. If you are lucky, you will hear and see Cuba's national bird, the Cuban Trogon or Tocororo.

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