by Jenny Russel
Located directly south of the U.S. Florida peninsula, Cuba is generally known as either a Cold War hot spot or a source of great tobacco products. However, holidays to Cuba are not just about world-class cigars; they’re also about great architecture, beautiful beaches and fun activities. There is a lot more to this island nation than its tobacco produce or the difficult periods of its history, but it’s up to you as holidaymaker to choose the side of this multi-faceted nation that suits your personality.
Do you prefer beach vacations? Cuba has some of the most beautiful beaches around, and its climate, though tropical, is moderated by northeasterly trade winds to stop you feeling over-roasted. One particularly noteworthy stretch is the Playas del Este on the north coast, which features 10 miles of white beaches with a range of small resorts that are still very like local villages. There are many other excellent choices though, so if you’re going to Cuba for the sand and surf, you won’t be disappointed.
Perhaps you would rather learn more about the history, architecture and economy of this fascinating nation? Havana is the obvious place to go for this, with its wealth of contrasts and surprises. Havana is made up of several areas, ranging from the old town, “La Habana Vieja” founded in 1607, to the neo-brutalist Soviet architecture of the outer ring added after the revolution in the mid-20th century. Markets, libraries, museums and abound near the Vieja and in the Centro region, and you’ll also never be short of a place for a quick drink.
Alternatively, try a smaller town such as Trinidad on the south coast for a taste of colonial times. This type of region is often quieter and more authentic in feel, though you may have fewer obvious entertainment options. The gorgeous architecture, relaxed pace of life and friendly locals may well make you feel this is a price worth paying, however.
If you do choose to investigate the tobacco-growing areas, you will still be able to do a lot more than you might think. Many plantations offer tours and extras that include accommodation with pools or hiking and horse-riding trips. Traveling by horse allows you to see more of the gorgeous countryside, and you will often have a local guide to point out areas of interest.
Check out more travel articles in KRL’s travel section.