The largest island in the Caribbean, located between Cancun and Haiti, Cuba has seen a huge rise in popularity recently with a surge of interest from travellers wanting to visit before the country restores closer ties to the USA. With the potential that Cuba may just lose some of its old-world charm, now’s the time to visit and experience this beautiful island’s unique character.
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The image of Cuban culture seems forever entwined with the faded colonial charm of Havana. A city apparently paused in time, Havana still has the power to enthral even the most jaded of travellers.
Fill your days meandering the historical centre of Habana Vieja, thread your way past resplendent colonial-era buildings, stroll around fine art galleries, historic museums or explore coastal forts such as the 16th-century El Morro Castle.
Away from the capital, head to the picturesque town of Trinidad - a treasure box of resplendent 18th and 19th-century buildings. In the old historical centre, donkey carts still trundle through hushed streets filled with pastel coloured houses, elegant museums and crumbling churches.
You’ll also discover cultural treasures in towns such as Santa Clara - home to the mausoleum of Che Guevara, while the city of Cienfuegos combines a glittering coastal location with elegant colonial splendour.
With over 3,000 miles of coastline and 300 beaches, Cuba is a destination that invites lazy days of sunbathing, swimming and digging toes into powder-soft sand.
For many this image is best represented by Varadero - Cuba’s most popular all-inclusive beach resort. Located 2 hours north of Havana, Varadero has its’ own airport with direct flights available from the UK. It is famous for its dreamy white beaches, bathtub-warm waters and water sports activities, with the option to hire out paddle boats, kayaks and catamarans.
For a little more seclusion, it’s worth leaving the mainland behind and escaping to The Cayos - a string of photogenic keys and islets located in the Jardines del Rey. Sunbathe on dazzling white sands, snooze beneath a palm tree or pull on a snorkel and go diving among pristine coral in crystal-clear waters.
The golden shores of Guardalavaca in the Holguín Province also offer a heavenly location to top up your tan, while adventure-filled days of water sports can be had at Playa Ancón - a curvaceous white beach just outside of Trinidad.
All prices are based on 2 adults sharing. Prices & availability correct at the time offers were generated and are subject to change at any time.
Average temperature: 26 degrees
Time difference: 5 hours behind UK
Flight time: 9-10 hours
Currency: Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) and Cuban Pesos (CUP)
Fun Fact: Cuba has the world’s highest doctor to patient ratio
Top Tip: Cuban currency is not traded internationally, so you can only exchange your travel money once you have arrived. Don’t be tempted to take US Dollars rather than Sterling as Cuba charges a 10% surcharge for all currency exchanges from US Dollars (they do not apply this surcharge to any other currency). The best exchange rate will be in the banks and you’ll get a lower rate at any government exchange facilities or within hotels. Also – try and budget yourself so you spend up all your exchanged currency before you board your homeward flight as you will not be able to exchange it outside of Cuba.
Holiday Flights to Cuba are available from many airports, but Manchester & Gatwick have the most frequent (and best priced) flights into Havana, Holguin, Varadero and Cayo Coco. We recommend searching for travel dates on Monday or Tuesday as they tend to be the most popular flight days, although flights are available on most days.
With around 300 days of annual sunshine and average temperatures of 26 degrees, the sub-tropical climate of Cuba is one of its biggest attractions. Although largely regarded as a year-round destination, holidays in Cuba during July and August can get very hot as this is when temperature and humidity soars and September & October are generally the wettest months. For near-perfect conditions, time your trip between November and May when the weather is usually warm and dry.
Leave Cuba’s beaches behind and you’ll find a country of rugged mountains, jungles filled with banana palms, untouched tropical rainforests and a dazzling variety of flora and fauna.
Gain a glimpse of Cuba’s epic natural beauty in the Valle de Vinales, located in the Pinar del Rio province. In this designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll discover a majestic landscape of soaring limestone karsts and traditional tobacco plantations that still rely on centuries-old harvesting methods. While you’re here, be sure to take a tobacco plantation tour to see the cigar-making process - and even have a go at rolling one yourself!
Meanwhile, the isolated region of Peninsula de Zapata offers superb opportunities for bird-watching with over 150 species to look out for including parrots, heron, rare bandicoots and the Cuban Trogon. As one of the largest wetlands in the Caribbean and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Peninsula de Zapata is one of Cuba’s true natural wildernesses.
The beating heart of Cuban entertainment and nightlife undoubtedly resides in Havana. Swing your hips until the early hours in a crowded salsa club, sip Mojitos and watch live jazz in a basement bar, and wander along the Malecón (Havana’s buzzing coastal promenade) to see local musicians strum guitars and beat drums beside the crashing waves.
For a change of scene, spend the night at the opera or ballet in the grand surroundings of Gran Teatro. Or catch a glitzy feather-boas-and-sequins cabaret performance at the world-famous Tropicana. Music lovers might also want to book late deals to Cuba in December to catch the Cuba Jazz Festival.
Away from the capital, check out Palenque de los Congos Reales in Trinidad for Afro-Cuban music and dance performances or catch traditional live Trova at Casa de la Trova in Santiago - an atmospheric 19th century-bar famous for spawning some of the country’s most respected musicians.
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