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Cuba: Where To Go And For How Long

December 10, 2019

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean with diverse regions ranging from white sandy beaches and lush rainforests to large urban areas. When planning a trip to Cuba, it can be hard to know where to go first! Before you explore other parts of the island, here are the top destinations you simply must see (in this order). All are reachable from Havana by car:

Havana 

Cuba’s capital city, since 1592, is the largest city in the Caribbean. Its spectacular coastlines and grand avenues are lined with classic cars, Colonial and Neoclassical architecture, and filled with laughter and salsa music. Just a few of the things that make this historic port city and its bustling rhythms a world-class destination no travel lover should miss.

Cuba: Where To Go And For How Long
El Malecón is Havana’s seawall. A 5-mile-long boulevard that stretches along Havana’s coast providing breathtaking views. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset and be serenaded by local musicians.

Viñales

Viñales is a small town located in the visually stunning, tobacco-growing region of Cuba. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its limestone mogotes (mountains) evoke Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay. Once under water during the Jurassic Period, the Viñales Valley is a truly magical place and a must-see for any seasoned traveler.

Cuba: Where To Go And For How Long
Massive leafy mogotes (steep, dome-like limestone hills) rise from the flat land creating a natural border throughout the Viñales Valley and around the region’s vast tobacco plantations. These mysterious and mesmerizing structures are like sleeping giants and are only found in a handful of places around the world.

Trinidad

Trinidad is breathtaking, slower-paced, and very different from Havana and Viñales. Havana maintains its 1950s allure, while the quaint colonial mountain village of Trinidad is more reminiscent of the 1850s. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad is a labyrinth of colorful cobble-stoned streets with hot salsa nights. When in Trinidad, worries melt away fast.

Cuba: Where To Go And For How Long
Encircled by The Escambray Mountains and the crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea, Trinidad boasts impressive island views.

Cienfuegos

Best known for its architecture and history, the gorgeous city of Cienfuegos is located on the island’s southern coast. Nicknamed the Pearl of The South, settled by the French, and another one of Cuba’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites, Cienfuegos makes a great stop for lunch on your way to Trinidad.

Cuba: Where To Go And For How Long
The Spanish and French influences in Cienfuegos can be seen in the grid layout of the city as well as the elegant Neoclassical architecture and Parisian columns decorating the buildings along the Prado.

How long should I stay in Cuba?

The island of Cuba demands time in order to be properly enjoyed and experienced. The longer you stay, the more you will be able to see and absorb. Here are our top three recommendations for how long you should spend during one trip to the island:

Four Days (3 Nights)

We recommend no less than four days (3 nights) in Cuba, which will provide you with two full days to see much of what Havana has to offer. It will be difficult to get outside of Havana during this short period. Please keep in mind that you will likely not have more than a few hours for activities on the day of arrival and departure.

Due to the time at which most direct flights arrive in Havana, including possible flight delays, delays exchanging money, delays arranging transportation and delays checking into your accommodation, it is difficult to plan many activities on the day of arrival. Typically, you will have at most a few hours of daylight on the day of arrival. Consider this when deciding how much time to spend in Cuba.

On the day of departure, you will want to depart for the airport three hours prior to your scheduled flight to allow for delays checking in and going through immigration, as well as any unforeseen issues. You do not want to miss a flight and get stuck in Cuba with no cash. Accordingly, most travelers will only have a few hours in the morning on their day of departure.

Five Days (4 Nights)

The most popular length of stay is five days (4 nights), which allows for two full days in Havana and a day trip to Viñales, located two and a half hours to the west of Havana by car.

Cuba: Where To Go And For How Long
Becoming immersed in the lush valley of Viñales means spending time with the locals. Families who have lived in the region for generations provide insight into what life there is really like. Cuba Candela arranges visits to a local coffee and tobacco farm where visitors can learn about the lives and customs of the farmers and community members.
Seven Days (6 Nights)

For those looking to see even more, we would recommend adding Cienfuegos and Trinidad to the itinerary over an additional two or three days, bringing your total trip length to seven days. Consider that Trinidad is a five-hour drive to the southeast of Havana.

Cuba: Where To Go And For How Long
Strolling through Trinidad is like stepping into a different era. Some two-hundred miles from the hustle and bustle of Havana, horses gallop along charming cobblestone streets, and colonial churches, impressive 18th century mansions (most of which are now museums) and brightly colored homes all glisten under the island sun.

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cienfuegos, havana, places to go in cuba, travel guide, travel inspiration, travel tips, trinidad, viñales