Cuba, think about salsa, white beaches, mojito’s, old-timers, cigars and colorful streets. You’ll find all of this in this amazing country. If you travel by bus or taxi it’s doable but it will go slow. A rental car is advised, but a bit expensive.
The food: delicious and lots of seafood, but always with rice and cold vegetables. Stay in casa particulars, which will be like an AirBnB-experience, avant la lettre.
- Alejandro de Humbold NP. Eastern Cuba, not so much visited as the typical western route. This is an UNESCO NP where they have the smallest frogs in the world and lots of hummingbirds. You will have to stay in Baracoa, a small city center. You can dance in a bar on live music with locals and drink a mojito (jeeej!)
- Santiago de Cuba. I didn’t like this city. Too crowdie, noisy, dirty and not much to visit. Why on this list then? There is a very nice castle at the sea with stunning views on the mountains. On the other side you have a shipwreck from the Spanish war you can still see in the sea. It’s possible to snorkle to the shipwreck!
- Commandancia de la plata. In the Turquino NP you can do a day hike to this spot, where Fidel Castro and Ché Guevara prepared their plans to take over the power during the revolt. You walk through a green typical Caribbean forest in the mountains. Wildlife, landscape and history all-in-one. Very worth it! You can still see their original hideout.
- Cayo Coco and Guillermo. When you come from nr. 3 or vice versa you can make a stop in Camagüey, a nice town with lots of small squares and colorful places. Cayo coco is a place where you can dive but also has the most white sandy beaches I’ve ever seen (cayo Guillermo), playa pilar.Flamingos are showing off here in high numbers.
4,5. Santa Clara. Between Cayo Coco and Trinidad. Ché Guevaras ashes are kept here, you can visit the main square and the train he derailed.
- Trinidad. We’re arrived in the most touristic town of Cuba, but what a nice place, so beautiful with small streets and all houses colored in every color you can imagine. So vibrant, a must visit! You can do a day hike in the Topes de Collantes NP to a waterfall, you walk through a jungle with lots of birds.
5,5. Cienfuegos. Between Trinidad and Zapata NP. An old city with a nice main square, there’s not much more to see. Very nice diving spots here.
- Zapata NP: A huge NP. 2 options, 1. the forest, with owls, birds, crabs, mountain rats, hummingbirds (also the bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world) and many other species. 2. the wetlands, with many birds and nice views. Like every NP, you need a mandatory guide to visit.
- Peninsula de Guanahacabibes NP. Not visited by many tourists, only by divers. It’s in the far west, a remote place. You can drive along with a guide and you will not be disappointed. You see huge land iguanas, hummingbirds (again), crocodiles (people pay BIG money to see them in Zapata NP, deep in the park, +-500€ pp), here you see them almost for free (10€ pp), rough cliffs and caves. Also a good diving place (Maria La Gorda).
- Viñales: My favorite. Mogotes, strange mountains, round and being cut in half. Tobacco plantations, caves and astounishing views in a very cool landscape. A must visit! From here you can book a boat tour to Cayo Levisa, a white sandy island.
- Las terrazas: Small waterfalls in a green region. You can swim here but the cool thing is that you can stay here in a pile house (a wooden cabin) and gaze at the amazing star shows at night.
- Havana: Big and crowdie, with lots of people selling stuff but it has something (don’t spend more that 3 days though). The pimped old-timers and old squares are beautiful heritage. The old town is the coziest.