Cuba, an island in the Caribbean filled with history and encapsulating sights waiting to be explored. There is no other place you will find as many vintage cars roaming the streets as Cuba. Cuba is truly a beauty and excites any tourist with its diverse plant life and coastlines featuring a lot of beaches featuring turquoise waters. There is no place offering fun diving and snorkelling as Cuba, its waters are calm and rich in wonders which are sure to tickle any imagination. Spend 10 days in this land of beauty for memories you will cherish all your life.
Old Havana – What better place to begin your adventure than the heart of the country which is its capital in the form of Havana. Begin on a historic note with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old Havana. Old Havana is characterised by neoclassical and baroque buildings which have been carefully restored to their former glory. The streets are narrow as is characteristic of all ancient streets you will find in most of the pre-historic civilisations.
Catedral de San Cristobal – One of the most beautiful constructions you will find here is the Catedral de San Cristobal which is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture you will ever come across, and this style of the building is Cuban which is why you won’t find it just anywhere. The cathedral is also known as the cathedral of The Virgin Mary. This beautiful building was in construction for almost three decades, pioneered by the Jesuits then completed by the Franciscans in 1777.
Plaza de Armas – Grab a bite in one of the oldest restaurants in Plaza de Armas which has been in existence for more than 500 years. The atmosphere here is calming featuring shady gardens and encapsulating Baroque architecture. The biggest attraction here is the Museo de la Ciudad or the City Museum in English. Discover the fascinating history of Havana in the museum, it has on display artefacts from the revolution in the Hall of Heroic Cuba. The museum also houses the tomb of Vermay who was a French artist famous till this day.
City Museum – Also in the museum is the Palacio de los Capitanes which has hosted generations of Spanish generals. Another feature of the museum which has fascinating history is the Throne Room. The Throne features a sumptuous chair built for the visit of a Spanish monarch, no Spanish monarch ever visited so off the books we can say no one has ever sat in the chair. You will need a translator to fully enjoy your visit to the museum as the displays are in Spanish unless you are familiar with Spanish.
Plaza Vieja – You cannot leave old Havana without a visit to its public squares. Plaza Vieja is a colourful and vibrant gathering spot for people from all walks of life. The square was originally built for military exercises in the 16th century, it then began to be used as a marketplace. The most beautiful show of architecture in the square is Casa del Conde Jaruco which was originally built in the 18th century. The biggest highlight in the square is the Camera Obscura tower which is 35 metres tall, climb the tower for the best view of Old Havana.
Castillo de la Real Fuerza – Discover The fascinating walls of the Castillo de la Real Fuerza which are the strongest you will ever come across, the walls are 6 metres thick standing 10 metres high. The fortress was built in the 16th century to fight off pirates but upon completion, its purpose changed to be a warehouse to store valuables and provide shelter for the military.
El Capitolio – The El Capitolio is one of the biggest attractions here bordering Old Havana and Central Havana. The structure features Neoclassical and Art Nouveau building styles. El Capitolio is where the government sat before the Cuban Revolution of 1959. It is currently being restored to house the Communist parliament of Cuba.
El Malecon – El Malecon has some beautiful sights featuring restored and well-preserved buildings from the 20th century. Be sure to make a stop at the World Heritage Site, Hotel Nacional de Cuba. From El Malecon make your way to El Morro which stands at the entrance of the bay of Havana. It was built as a strategic point to guard against pirate attacks from the late 16th century to the 17th century. The lighthouse which is built of solid stone was added later during the 19th century and its original lamp still shines till this day. The lighthouse is open to tourists and from here you can enjoy breath-taking views of the ocean and the city of Havana in all its glory.
Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana – On top of La Cabana hill is the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana which was constructed in the 1770s. building this fort cost the Spanish a fortune and it is the biggest they ever built. The fort was used as a prison but was later changed to become the headquarters for Che Guevara after the revolution. Today the fort is a popular tourist attraction housing a couple of museums. One of these museums is Museo de Comandancia del Che which preserves the office of Che Guevara as it was during his time.
National Museum of Fine Arts – The National Museum of Fine Arts is one of the most fascinating museums in the world spreading across two buildings. One of these is the Palacio del Centro Asturiano which was designed by Manuel Bustos in the 1920s. It houses pieces from European Masters, the Egyptians and Roman ages which add to more than 600. Another of the buildings is the Palacio de Bellas Artes which was dedicated to Cuban artist in the 17th century. The building houses must-see paintings, prints and sculptures from all over Cuba.
Gran Teatra de La Habana – If you are a fan of opera houses then you will enjoy yourself at the Gran Teatra de La Habana. The opera house was designed by Paul Belau who was a genius Belgian architect. The opera house has hosted some of the biggest names in history and you will be in luck if you manage to attend a performance in it as the experience is unmatched. Today it is home to Cuba’s National Ballet and Opera. Guided tours are offered for a small amount if you want to fully appreciate the history of the opera house and all its features.
Fusterlandia – Take a break from the buzzing city centre and visit Fusterlandia which is a vibrant village on the outskirts of Havana. This small village is rich in art and colourful creativity. The neighbourhood is filled with works of the local painter and sculptor Jose Fuster, his works include mosaics, sculptures and paintings. The locals know him as ‘Picasso of the Caribbean’ and he even decorates homes of the neighbours. More art is housed at Fuster’s home studio. A stroll through this neighbourhood is like a full-scale art exhibition with a beautiful piece everywhere you turn your head.
Museo Napoleon – If you are a fan of Napoleon or history itself Visit Museo Napoleon for fascinating displays of all things Napoleon. The collection was compiled by Julio Lobo, he hired people to find and purchase Napoleon mementoes and memorabilia. The Cuban government purchased his rich collection when he left Cuba in 1959. The collection is now displayed in Florentine palace for all to witness. The collection features various belongings of Napoleon and surprisingly includes one of his teeth and a lock of his hair. Also in the collection is Napoleon’s death mask, weaponry and portraits of the famous French military leader. The collection contains more than 7,000 pieces.
Cuevas de Bellamar – From the capital head to the city of Matanzas which is a very fascinating destination nicknamed the city of bridges. One of the biggest attractions on the edge of the city is the Cuevas de Bellamar which is one of the largest caves in the world. The cave is 40 metres deep and stretches about 750 metres. The atmosphere in the cave is hot and humid but pleasant. There is adequate lighting in the cave for the best viewing experience, taking your camera in the cave will cost you as much as the admission.
Pharmaceutical Museum – From the cave make your way to the Museo Farmaceutico or the Pharmaceutical Museum in English, the museum was founded by doctors Ernest Triolet and Juan Fermin de Figueroa. They established it as a French pharmacy in 1982 but it has now become a collection of original porcelain bottles and containers including 19th-century laboratory objects and tools. Also in the museum are over a million prescriptions with original formulas for the prescription of natural medication. The museum houses the most important information of its kind outside of Europe.
Museo Memorial E Morrillo – Next visit the Museo Memorial E Morrillo which is one of the most colourful museums you will ever see with a splash of beautiful yellow on the outside. The museum was built in the 18th century and was later renovated in the 20th century, it was declared a national monument in the late 20th century. From the museum head to the Plaza de La Libertad which was commissioned in the early 19th century. Overlooking the plaza is the Sala white.
Castillo de San Severino – Castillo de San Severino is one of the largest fortresses built by the Spanish in the Americas. The fort is on the western side of the Matanzas Bay. The fortress was contracted with the intention to guard the eastern flank of Havana against pirates and protect trade in the area. It was built in 1734 and is declared a national monument.
Playa Giron – From the city of bridges head to the southern Caribbean coastline where you will find Cienfuegos. This city is unique in the sense that it is the only city that was occupied by the French and not the Spanish who colonised Cuba. The city is sometimes referred to as the pearl of the south. Begin your tour of the city at the Playa Giron Museum. Playa Giron which is also known as the Bay of Pigs is rich in history and diversity. The museum houses quite a lot including the anti-Castro attack of 1961. It also has on display tanks and aircrafts used in 1961.
From the museum suit up and go for some snorkelling, the bay of pigs is filled with underwater wonders. You are sure to be met by colourful fish and discover an array of beautiful coral reefs you will find at just 3 metres deep if you are not into snorkelling that much you can also watch the calming turquoise waters and breath the calm air.
Guama – From the Bay of Pigs head to Guama where you will be blown away by the series of wooden huts built on stilts over the water. The area is very religious and features some 32 sculptures depicting native wildlife. This calm heaven is accessed by boat passing though the Treasure Lagoon. While in the calm water head to the Guama Crocodile colony located in the waters of Treasure Lagoon and run by the Ministry of fishing. The colony was set up in the 1960s and today’s houses thousands of animals which belong to two species of crocodile.
Nicho Waterfalls – One of the best sights in the region are the Nicho Waterfalls located about a 1.5 hours drive from the centre of Cienfuegos. The base of the falls features an inviting pool which you would enjoy a swim in on a hot summer day. The forest harbouring the falls is already filled with a lot of hiking trails for easy get around, it also houses many bird species which will look good on any picture.
Cienfuegos Botanic Gardens – Still on a natural note, visit the Cienfuegos Botanic Gardens. The gardens were commissioned at the beginning of the 20th century and they are among the oldest in Cuba. Enjoy a natural paradise stretching 100 hectares with more than 2,000 plant species from all over the world.
Hill of the Cross – Another not so popular but incredibly fun destination is the city of Holguin. The city dates back to prehistoric times founded in 1545 but is only the 4th largest city in the country. Begin exploring the northern part of the city from where you can reach the summit of the Loma de la Cruz known as Hill of the Cross in English. Enjoy a ride in a vintage convertible taxi on your way to the top of the hill. If you are feeling energetic you can climb the 458 steps up the hill. The hill is not so tall standing at 261 metres but has great views. On the top of the hill is a wooden cross which is of great significance to the locals and was once visited by the Pope. Get a cup of coffee at the café-bar located at the top.
Museum of El Chorro – Find out all you need to know about the surrounding at the museum of El Chorro. This museum has all the information about the way of life of the Cubans before colonisation by the Spanish. The civilisation on this island is thought to have been in the 13th century as a burial ground dating that far was recently discovered. All this information is found in the museum including more information about rituals and ceremonies carried out before colonisation.