Timeworn, but magnificent. Dilapidated, but dignified. Fun, yet maddeningly frustrating. Cuba is a country of indefinable magic.
I like writer Brendan Sainsbury’s quote about Cuba, “Cuba is like a prince in a poor man’s coat: behind the sometimes shabby facades, gold dust lingers.” Existing through en economic embargo that has lasted more than half a century, Cuba’s colonial cities haven’t changed much since pirates roamed the Caribbean. The atmosphere and architecture is particularly stirring in places like Havana, Cienfuegos and Trinidad where grandiose squares and cobbled streets tell of opulence and intrigue.
Join Explore Amazing Places and cruise the ocean front Malecon of Havana in a 57 Chevy. Experience history as we stay in the the Hotel Nacional, where ousted president Gerardo Machado took refuge during the Sergeants’ Revolt of 1933. Be welcomed into gorgeous Casa Privadas, “Private Homes” of Cuban artists in the colonial city of Trinidad. You’ll tour Tobacco farms in the beautiful Vinales Valley and enjoy the warm white sands of Playa Ancon. Your Explore Amazing Places experience of Cuba will be second to none.
One of the greatest achievements of the last 50 years is the piecing back together of Habana Vieja. This detailed, meticulous, lovingly curated restoration process has created one of the historical wonders of the Americas, a kind of Latin American ‘Rome’ where the past can be peeled off in layers. Armed with a sharp eye and a lucid imagination, you can walk through Havana’s covered streets and evoke the ghosts of rich sugar barons and sea fairing buccaneers.
During your time in Havana, you’ll stay at the beautiful, Hotel Nacional, considered a symbol of history, culture and Cuban identity. The guns that made up the old Santa Clara Battery are on exhibition at the garden, they were declared part of the World Heritage Site. The Hotel Nacional de Cuba was declared a National Monument and it was inscribed in the World Memory Register. With its privileged location in the middle of Vedado, the center of Havana, it stands on a hill just a few meters from the sea, and offers a great view of the Havana Harbor; the seawall and the city.
Trinidad is one of a kind, a perfectly preserved Spanish colonial settlement, frozen in time. Declared a World heritage Site by Unesco in 1988, Cuba’s oldest and most enchanting outdoor museum attracts many visitors each year. Yet the cobblestone streets, replete with leather-faced guajiros, snorting donkeys and melodic troubadours, retain a quiet air.
You will experience this beautiful town as you stay at unique and luxurious Casa Privadas, operated by local artists and musicians. You’ll be treated to private concerts and enjoy the personal relationships you forge with those who call this sleepy town home as you explore the cobblestone streets, taste the local cuisine and learn about the rich history of the surrounding cane farms.
Located just 12km to the south of Trinidad on Sancti Spiritus’ iridescent Caribbean shoreline lies the a beautiful ribbon of white sand beach called Playa Ancon. Often considered as the finest beach on Cuba’s south coast, Ancon is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the slower pace of Cuban life. You’ll avoid the crowds that you might experience at some of the countries northern beaches and find an untouched, quiet getaway that will allow you to unplug and get back in touch with the beauty that surrounds you.
Embellished by soaring pine trees and protruding limestone cliffs that stand as overseers above placid tobacco plantations, Parque National Vinales is one of Cuba’s most magnificent natural settings. Wedged spectacularly into the Sierra de los Organos mountain range, this valley was recognized as a national monument in 1979, with Unesco World Heritage status following in 1999 for its dramatic steep-sided limestone outcrops, coupled with the vernacular architecture of its traditional farms and villages.