Cuba is one of the Caribbean’s most compelling cultural centers, and its history can be seen in many sites that remain dotted throughout the country to this day. Cuba is an anomaly, its buildings are often worn and dilapidated but yet shine with a sense of old elegance, and its streets and walkways can be both maddening and enthralling. But more than anything else the country and its people create a magical atmosphere that makes visiting Cuba an experience you will both enjoy and remember. If you’re considering a trip to this Caribbean gem, here are a few things to see along the way.
Havana, the capital of Cuba, is home to a wealth of the country’s historical and cultural sites, and the atmosphere of the city is ripe with them. From the Cathedral de San Cristobal de la Habana with its baroque façade and two towers, to the Plaza de Armas square which dates back to the early 16th century, there is nowhere you can walk in this city without being reminded that you’re somewhere special. Visitors should stroll the streets of Old Havana, where you’ll hear local music playing and be able to enjoy authentic cuisine and drinks. Be sure to also venture from this tourist’s enclave to experience the more contemporary side of the city.
For the ultimate trip back in time, there are few places better than the colonial town of Trinidad, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. The town was built on money amassed from the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, which was home to a sugar plantation whose relics can still be visited today. And 12 km from town to the south lies one of Cuba’s finest beaches, the Playa Ancon.
3. Sierra Maestra
If you’re looking to experience a more rugged side of Cuba, head to the mountain range of Sierra Maestra, which runs westward across the Guantanamo Province to Niquero in the southeast of the country. The range is home to Pico Torquino, Cuba’s tallest peak, and is also the place of the last known siting of the ivory-billed woodpecker, now possibly extinct.
Sierra Maestra – Pico Torquino
Photo credit: Wikipedia – public domain
4. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana
For art enthusiasts the Museum of Fine Arts of Havana is not to be missed. The museum is home to famed Cuban artists from the colonial times up to contemporary generations, including the works of René Portocarrero and Wifredo Lam, as well as the sculpture Rita Lonja.
5. Santa Clara
This town located in the heart of the country distinguishes itself from the historical streets of Havana, the tranquil rustic town of Trinidad, and the tourist packed beaches — Santa Clara is the home of the revolutionary spirit of Cuba, which can still be felt to this day through the cities resistance to censorship. Santa Clara is also home to the Che Guevara monument.
Santa Clara, Cuba – Train Station
Photo credit: Wikipedia – public domain.
Whether you’re a history geek, a beach bum, or have a revolutionary spirit, you’ll find something to love in the beautiful country of Cuba.
About the author: Garth Sheen is a lecturer in Hispanic Studies. He loves exploring Spanish-speaking countries and is also interested in classical civilizations.