Only got two weeks to travel around Cuba – Don’t worry here is our two week Cuba itinerary!
Cuba is a magical country that should be on everyone’s travel list. It has something to offer everyone from backpackers on a budget (me!) to those who prefer a little bit of luxury when they travel.
As I said in my last post (read here) there’s the easy and not-so easy way to travel around Cuba and regardless of which way you decide you still need to plan where you want to go and what you want to see. Before we left for Cuba I spent a lot of time researching the places I wanted to visit, how I was going to get there, what each place had to offer and most importantly how long I was going to spend on a bus getting there, the last thing I wanted to do was spend most of my holiday admiring Cuba out the window of a bus. After all this research we decided to stick to exploring the west coast, ok so we didn’t get to see the entire country but we did get to really see the places we visited and experience Cuba and Cuban life. Cuba is a place that shouldn’t be rushed, it’s a place where you need to take it slow and live it to really appreciate how unique it really is.
For most travellers your first stop will be in Havana and there is nowhere better to experience classic Cuba. Getting in from the airport is easy, I spoke about it here and only takes about 30mins. There are hundreds of Casas and hotels in Havana so you won’t be stuck, we stayed in an amazing Casa in ‘Centro’ not far from the Prado. From here is was just a short walk to ‘Havana Vieja’ and the all the other sites that Havana has to offer.
The colours of Havana
Havana Vieja (Havana’s old town) – explore the cobbled streets of this UNESCO World Heritage site while admiring Havana’s eclectic architecture and street art around its four main squares.
The Malecon – go at sunset (maybe with a bottle of rum in hand) and just soak up the atmosphere.
Centro – Cuba is a safe city so don’t be afraid to leave the tourist areas of Havana Vieja and take a walk around the bustling streets of Havana Centro to get a feel for what life is really like in Havana.
Classic cars – look at, photograph, rent or even get a tour in one. They are hard to miss in Cuba and I couldn’t help but photograph nearly everyone I saw.
Cocktails – visit Hemingway’s old haunts ‘El Floridita’ for daiquiris and ‘La Bodeguita del Medio’ for mojitos. If you want cocktails and great views of the city go to the roof top bar of ‘Hotel Ingalaterre’. If cocktails aren’t your thing there are plenty of bars on Calle Obispo and Plaza Vieja like ‘Taberna de la Muralla’ with live salsa music.
History – The Museo de Revolucion is not to be missed for anyone interested in Cuba’s revolutionary heritage.
Beach – Cuba is famous for its beaches so grab the Havana Bus Tour (route T3) to Santa Maria del Mar. The bus runs every hour there and back, the all-day ticket costs 5cucs.
Shopping – Ok, shopping isn’t great in Havana but if you want to pick up vintage books or vintage revolutionary prints than check out the market around Plaza de Armas. This is also a great spot to catch an impromptu music or dance show!
Churros – Dough deepfried in oil and coated in sugar – yum! Find a street vendor and just try them. I’ve been dreaming about them ever since.
You could easily spend a week in Havana but if all you have is a few days you will still be able to get in everything that I’ve mentioned above.
Valle de Vinales
After the madness of Havana hop on a bus (between 3 and 4 hours) to the rural town of Vinales. While it can be done in a day trip from Havana I would say don’t rush it, stay 2 days. Our time in Vinales was one of the highlights of our trip. The town itself is so picturesque, imagine a street of colourful small houses with rocking chairs on the porch and with classic cars or horse carriages passing by while all the time surrounded by tobacco fields and mountains and you get the idea.
Horse riding in the Vinales Valley
Vinales – take a walk down the main street (stopping to buy churros on the way) to the lively main square. Take a seat at one of the bars, order a drink and just sit back and relax.
Parque Nacional Vinales and the Mural de la Prehistoria – It’s a nice walk or cycle from the town (or catch a carriage like the locals) and you pass some beautiful scenery on the way.
Horseback riding – go horseback riding through the nearby Palmarito Valley. Our casa owner arranged it for us. 40cucs for 4 hours. If it’s a hot day you can cool down by swimming in ‘La Cueva de Palmerito’, since it’s a cave it gets pretty dark so bring a torch if you are thinking about it.
Tobacco Fields/Farmers – go visit a tobacco farm and see the cigar making process first hand. Most of the horseback tours that I mentioned above will stop at a tobacco farm.
Rent a classic car (with a driver) – this was a suggestion from our casa owner and we were so glad we took him up on it. The driver brought on tour of the local area, stopping at the ‘Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás’ and Cayo Jutias. The whole day cost us about 40cucs.
Cayo Jutias – go! The island which is joined to the mainland by a little road had one of the nicest beaches that we saw in Cuba with the whitest sand and make sure to try a ‘Coco Loco’ from one of the guys selling them on the beach!
Next stop Trinidad. My main reason for visiting Cuba. To get here from Vinales you have to go back through Havana, we overnighted it in Havana again to break up the journey but from my research the journey is about 9 hours. I loved Trinidad, the first thing I say to anyone who is thinking about Cuba is to go here. It’s exactly the way you picture it, all cobblestone roads with colourful colonial houses and buildings. We were there for 4 days and I could have stayed for much longer. We stayed in a great little casa here and our host didn’t speak English but she was the most amazing cook and she really made us feel at home.
Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, TrinidadTrinidad – just walk the streets that haven’t changed since colonial times in this UNESCO World Heritage town. Go to the top of the ‘Museon Historico Municipal’ for spectacular views of the town but go early in the morning to avoid queues.
Casa de la Musica – Sit on the steps beside the church on Palaza Mayor, drinking fresh mojitos while listening to or salsa dancing the night away at the free salsa show. (You could even buy your own bottle of Havana rum for about 3/4cucs and sit on the steps below the barrier.)
Dance the night away in a cave – So if you want to be a Flintstone head to Trinidad’s Disco Ayala, it’s a nightclub in a cave!
Salsa lessons – This was so much fun, 10cucs per person per hour. Just pop into Casa de la Musica and they’ll arrange it for you.
Playa Ancon – The cycle here is about 60mins or you can just get a taxi like us for about 8cucs (10mins and my first time in a Lada). The beach itself if fabulous and not crowded. You can rent sun loungers 2cucs for the day and there’s a nice little kiosk to get sandwiches and drinks on the beach.
Art – There were so many artists and art galleries in Trinidad displaying the most beautiful work. We picked up an original abstract piece for 50cucs, which is currently taking pride of place in our living room.
Cuba’s most famous stretch of beach. When booking our trip I wanted to finish up somewhere with a nice beach and pool so this is why we went with Iberostar Varadero.
Varadero is all white sand beaches and fancy resorts, not like the rest of Cuba and it might not be for everybody but it is beautiful and relaxing. It was also nice to get spoiled for a little while. The resorts do offer plenty of activities from snorkelling to windsurfing to jeep safaris and day trips to Havana or other places of interest to keep you busy if lying by the pool isn’t your thing.
Varadero’s white sand beach
So there’s my not rushing it two week itinerary for Cuba. There’s a lot I didn’t get to see but then that gives me a good excuse for a return visit.
If you have any questions or if you want to know the names of the Casas we stayed in, feel free to ask and hopefully I’ll be able to help.