If you’ve ever wondered where the world’s finest cigars start out, it’s in the lovingly cultivated tobacco plantations of Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province. But those plantations are only part of the area’s magic.
The exotic capital of Cuba and largest city in the Caribbean is a must-see for any visitor. For centuries, it has served as the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. And in 1982, Old Havana, the city’s historic centre, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Varadero beach—some call it the world’s greatest beach—has long been the pride of Cuba, and a magnet for the rich and famous. Today, a broad range of hotels and resorts on this wide, sandy beach offer affordable vacations to please any pocketbook.
Península de Zapata
On the south side of the territory, the Great Natural Park of Montemar, located in the Ciénaga de Zapata Reserve of the Biosphere, is particularly attractive for those who prefer to enjoy the multiple specialties of nature tourism; though there are here many spaces of interest for those who rather go open sea diving or speleodiving in sunken caves.
Cayo Largo del Sur
On the Caribbean side of Cuba lie two idyllic islands—the Isle of Youth and Cayo Largo de Sur—with sugar-white beaches and unparalleled dive sites.
On Cuba’s Caribbean side, Cienfuegos perches on the shores of Jagua Bay like a pearl sitting on an oyster shell. First settled by the French, who dubbed Cienfuegos “The Southern Pearl”, the city is the capital of Cienfuegos province.
The city of Santa Clara is best known as the place where the dictator Batista surrendered to Che Guevara in 1958. The province of Villa Clara is also noted for its production of sugar, coffee and tobacco. A recently built causeway linking the mainland to the offshore islets has helped open the beach areas to tourism.
Trinidad de Cuba
Almost half a millennium of history has left its indelible stamp on Central Cuba’s two major centres, founded in 1514 by the Spanish conquistadors. Today, Sancti Spiritus is a flourishing town bustling with trade in sugar, tobacco and cattle. Trinidad is a city frozen in time—whose ancient palaces and colonial architecture remain unchanged.
Jardínes del Rey
Jardines del Rey (King's Gardens) is the historic name (it dates back from the 16th century) given to the islet-beaches located to the north of the Province and Cuba. Cayo Coco Paradise, one of those islets mostly covered by a natural forest has a 22-km wonderful sandy strip by the seashore. A tourist village along the beach has already entered into operation.
This dazzling white-sand beach with its clear turquoise water is Camaguey’s offshore resort treasure. In Camaguey province, cane fields dot the prairie, but it is largely covered by green pastures, where cattle graze and cowboys (vaqueros) ride.
This rugged mountainous region was pronounced “the most beautiful land eyes have ever seen” by Christopher Columbus when he first sighted it in 1492. But Holguin’s beauty extends beyond the hills and exquisite beaches. Under water are amazing dive sites, and below ground are the world’s second-largest deposits of nickel and cobalt.
Granma province is renowned for its battles and its natural gifts. High in the breathtaking Sierra Maestra mountains, Fidel Castro conquered Batista’s dictatorship. Down in the valley, the longest river in Cuba irrigates the fertile lands. And the towns echo with memories of slaves, conquistadors and peasants.
Santiago de Cuba
Cuba's second largest city, Santiago de Cuba, is the most “Caribbean” of the island’s cities, greatly influenced by immigration and trade from other Caribbean islands. It is proud of its revolutionary heroes, beautiful squares and vibrant musical tradition. And it is known particularly for its carnival.
Abundant tropical forests in the northern part of Cuba’s “far east” are surrounded by imposing mountains where coffee and cocoa grow. The southern strip of Guantánamo province along the Caribbean is semi-arid desert. And on the farthest tip is the US military base at Guantánamo Bay.