Bounded to the north by the Atlantic, and in all other directions by rivers, mountains and forests, Baracoa is still largely isolated, which is one of its prime attractions. It has been called one of Cuba’s most charming travel destinations, thanks to the stunning diversity of local landmarks, like the distinctive flat-topped mountain El Yunque, and vibrant cultural scene, such as the annual street festival each April commemorating the beginning of Cuba’s War of Independence.
Cuba’s largest province, Camagüey is located in the centre of the island between between Ciego de Ávila and Las Tunas. It is a largely rural area. To the north lies the beautiful coastal scenery and abundant wildlife of the Sabana-Camagüey archipelago and stunning Santa Lucía beach. The pristine Jardines de la Reina archipelago cradles the province to the south.
Cayo Largo’s scenery and sugar-white beaches make it one of Cuba’s most sought-after tourist destinations. The tiny key sits in the calm Caribbean waters, at the easternmost tip of the Archipélago de los Canarreos off Cuba’s southern coast. The island is comprised of limestone, formed over millions of years from the remains of marine organisms, much like the ones that form coral reefs.
Cienfuegos is a charming waterfront city situated on the bay of the same name. Its picturesque nautical setting has earned it the title, “the Pearl of the South,” a description that has endured for centuries.
The province of Granma is renowned for its history and breathtaking natural beauty. It is home to the spectacular stretch of the Sierra Maestra mountains, as well as the country’s longest river, Río Cauto. Some of the most pristine coastal marine terraces in the Americas are situated along its rugged southern coastline. The province boasts two national parks, the Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra and the Parque Nacional Desembarco del Granma, habitat of botanical wonders including dwarf orchids and an ancient giant cactus and indigenous wildlife such as the tocororo and zunzun bird species.
Havana, the capital of Cuba, is the largest city in the Caribbean, and one of the most culturally rich urban centres in the world. The city’s appreciation of its glorious colonial past is on display at a dizzying array of castles, cathedrals, mansions and museums. The historic neighborhood of Vieja Habana (Old Havana) is a fascinating UNESCO World Heritage site, with over 900 landmarks, including the Presidential Palace and Cathedral Square.
When Christopher Columbus got his first glimpse of the Holguín coastline in 1492, he pronounced it “the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen.” Spectacular beaches – including the enclaves of Playa Esmeralda, Playa Pesquero and Guardalavaca – make this province along Cuba’s north coast the country’s third most popular tourist destination. Pristine reefs and abundant marine life ensure excellent diving and snorkeling in the warm, clear shallows of the Atlantic. Farther inland, rolling hills and rugged mountains provide a stunning landscape just begging to be explored.
Dubbed ‘the Cuban keys,’ the tiny islands of Jardines del Rey [the King’s Gardens], strung off Cuba’s Atlantic coast, are immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s novel, Islands in the Stream. Mangroves and everglades, flamingos and roseate spoonbills, sun-bleached sand and turquoise waters make this little corner the perfect retreat.
The province of Las Tunas, situated between Camagüey, Holguín and Granma, is famous for its quiet, untouched beaches, rural “cowboy” culture and diverse array of events, including Cuba’s biggest campesino music festival, Latin America’s only magic conference and a month-long sculpture exhibit.
The Zapata Peninsula, which juts out into the Caribbean to the south of the Matanzas Province, is an idyllic playground for ecotourists and scuba divers. Sparsely populated and zealously protected, most of the region lies within the Ciénaga de Zapata Biosphere Reserve (also known as the Gran Parque Natural Montemar), habitat of rare birds, crocodiles and a wide variety of ecosystems. Highlights within the biosphere are the Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata and Laguna de las Salinas, known for its concentration of migratory birds.
If you’ve ever wondered where the world’s finest cigars start out, it’s in the lovingly cultivated tobacco plantations of Cuba’s westernmost province, Pinar del Río. But those plantations are only part of the area’s magic. With its unusual mogotes (rounded limestone mountains) strung along flat plains, Pinar del Río’s spectacular scenery rivals any in the world. These plains, where Cuban cowboys roam and dreamy villages doze, are ringed by mountain ranges crowned by vast stretches of tropical forests.
Santa Lucía, on the northern coast of Camagüey Province, is a wide beach, 21 km long, with fine golden-white sand, bathed by warm, turquoise water that is always calm. Protected by a long coral reef only 2 km from shore, the seabed supports an astonishing variety of marine life. In addition to flora and fauna, there are also sunken ships to explore, including some dating from the 19th century.
Santiago de Cuba has soul. Cuba’s second-largest city is justifiably proud of its heroes, beautiful plazas and vibrant musical tradition. Proximity to Jamaica and other tropical isles has infused the city with a distinctly Caribbean spirit that is seen in its art and architecture, heard in its music, and celebrated in its exuberant festivals – including the Festival del Caribe and the renowned Carnaval.
It’s easy to see why Trinidad has been called “the museum city of Cuba.” The meticulously preserved town offers a window into the past, from its sprawling colonial palaces and plazas to its remnants of sugar mills and slave barracks from another era. Soak up the rich Spanish colonial architecture by taking a stroll through the picturesque cobblestone streets of this very walkable city.
Some call Varadero Beach the world’s greatest beach, and it’s easy to see why. The glistening white sands, cool tropical breezes and tranquil Atlantic waters provide the perfect backdrop for a broad range of resorts, from family-friendly to all-inclusive, and everything in between.
Villa Clara is a land of beaches, tobacco fields and lakes brimming with fish. It is home to the Buenavista Biosphere Reserve, which contains protected ecosystems that include mangroves, coral reefs, active dune zones, keys and reproductive zones for aquatic birds. On its northern coast, the 48 km el pedraplén causeway connects Villa Clara to the Cayerías del Norte, a series of tropical offshore islets, where the popular resort destinations of Cayo las Brujas and Cayo Santa María are located.