When Dave and I visited Cuba last year we fell in love with the island. This guest post from travel blogger Claudia is brilliant because it shows off just how much there is to do there. Make sure you get there quick before consumerism taints its beauty.
Cuba is a gorgeous country that must be visited, and many return after there first time experiencing the island.
Cuba is the kind of place that I would get to enjoy more once the second time around, as after having been there I got the hang of it, and now I feel I understand how things work and have a better idea of how to communicate with Cubans in a way that is mutually beneficial.
I know I will go there again, as there are many places I missed on my first visit because there are so many things to do in Cuba.
A lot of people I know only went to Havana on their trip to Cuba. Their flight lands there and they love it so much that they end up spending a month in just this city!
And it’s true that there are many things to do in Havana. But keep in mind that if you want to use Havana as a base for a visit to Cuba, there are many day trips that will allow to visit a good portion of the country.
Here are five day trips from Havana that I’d recommend:
1. Playas del Este
A first taste of the Caribbean beaches of Cuba, Playas del Este is internationally known as the Havana Riviera, which is only 30 minutes away from Havana.
This 50km stretch of white sandy beaches are lined by palm trees. Luckily the area has not yet been as developed as Varadero or Cancunin Mexico. Santa Maria is by far the best, and the cleanest. Cubans find the winter months between January and April to be too cold to go to the beach, so the area won’t be nearly as crowded during this time as in the summer months.
2. The Hershey Train
In the 20th century, the US chocolate giant Hershey established a train line to connect its huge sugar mill with the cities of Havana and Matanzas.
Following the Cuban revolution, the Hershey’s factory was nationalised and re-named Central Camilo Cienfuegos, after one of the heroes of the revolution.
But the train has remained the same, as well as the railways, the signs, the locomotives and the carriages. The train makes around three dozen stops during your ride.
It takes about four hours to travel from the Casablanca station (near the ferry wharf on the east side of Havana’s harbour) through the Yumur’ Valley and eventually to Matanzas. It simply is a gorgeous ride.
3. Viñales Valley
Perhaps the most gorgeous place in Cuba, and Viñales is an absolute must see. My humble advice is to actually spend a few days here, but it is good to go even just for a day.
The valley is simply stunning: mogotes (isolated hills that have a very rounded shape), traditional tobacco plantations, numerous caves and a pretty and tranquil little town make it a perfect place to relax, whether one decides to hike, bike or ride a horse.
A series of all-inclusive resorts may make independent travellers steer clear of Varadero, but it can actually be visited on a day trip from Havana. This long, sandy beach with clear and warm waters is simply spectacular. More Cubans are going there since the government restrictions that forbade them access were lifted in 2008.
Beaches, cliffs and caves make this area – located about one hour east of Havana – incredible to visit. It has great hiking, caving and snorkelling and diving opportunities: there is something for just about anybody.
Have you ever been to Cuba? Where were your favourite spots?
Claudia is from Cagliari (Sardinia) and is obsessed with travelling. A former human rights lawyer and academic, after devoting her life to the protection of cultural identity, in November 2013 Claudia decided to give in to her biggest passion and started travelling around Latin America, and has hardly stopped since. Blogging came as a natural consequence, for Claudia wanted her family and friends to be updated with her adventures.