If you’ve ever wondered about going back in time and experiencing life from a bygone era, then you should probably consider Cuba for your next destination. The island nation is awash with art, culture, beaches, and history. But due to decades of trade embargos imposed by the United States, Cuba has a feel of country and culture uniquely out of time… making it an enticing prospect for travelers looking for something else.
For Americans, the entry requirement to Cuba from the US (which were established after the travel ban was lifted in 2014) can be tricky and a source for concern, especially with the recently announced restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba. These new rules don’t prohibit travel, but will likely make American tourists who “self-identify” their trip to Cuba as one of the 12 approved categories of travel a thing of the past–meaning that you’ll likely need to travel with a specially licensed tour group to travel from the US.
BUT, for those wanting to travel on their own in Cuba, you still have time. It’ll be an estimated 90 days before the new restrictions go into effect, so until then you just need to obtain a tourist visa (which can be provided by a travel agent, handled by an organization you sign to travel with, or purchased at the airport check-in) and complete a form declaring your visit.
So if you’re planning a trip to the magical island that was once known as the “Pearl of the Antilles,” here are 6 places you can visit to truly understand the culture.
The city of Old Havana screams VINTAGE with the incredibly bright streets filled with colorful buildings, old American cars (most of which you may have only dreamt of seeing or driving), and talented street entertainers. Get schooled on Cuban culture by walking through its quaint cobblestone streets, listening to salsa emanating from its bars and cafes, and smoking hand-rolled Cuban cigars. If you’re looking for some history, a popular museum here is the Museum of Revolution, which was also a former presidential palace. Be sure to also check out other museums and galleries or just walk around the old city.
This city is located in the center of Cuba about two and a half hours from Havana, and is where you’ll find the most revolutionary history. A must-see is the Che Guevara Mausoleum, an amazing bronze statue of the revolutionary that looks over the entire city. Although Santa Clara has lots of museums to visit, you may also want to be a part of the exciting excursions the city has to offer. Enjoy fishing? Lake Hanabanilla is a huge freshwater lake where you may catch an incredibly large bass (if you’re strong enough!). If you’re looking for the nightlife scene, Club Mejunje is the place to be.
Located on the Caribbean coast of southern-central Cuba, this pristine city is a must-see for its French architecture. Spend your time here by walking through Punta Gorda, a place to relax and enjoy the view from the edge of the bay of Cienfuegos. Want to perfect your salsa? Cienfuegos Club in Punta Gorda provides beautiful sunset views as you dance the night away.
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is the country’s second largest city and is situated in the east of Cuba. Known for its revolutionary history, there are a number of great museums for you to visit, including the house of Diego Velazquez, the city’s founder. There are also tours available to many other historic landmarks such as the superior San Pedro Fort. The city also has an epic nightlife, so be sure to check it out.
Hike up the beautiful mountains (or gaze from ground level), relax on the breathtaking beaches, or even take a walk around town to explore the town’s sugar refineries and cigar/cigarette factories. Catch a glimpse inside the Iglesia de la Santisima, a 19th-century cathedral that has some amazing architecture.
Just east of Havana is where you’ll find Matanzas. Be sure to visit the oldest tourist attraction, the natural Bellamar Caves. The tour will give you fascinating views of the entire city, including museums and the city’s famous bridges. Lastly, climb up to Iglesia de Monserrate, the church that was built in 1875, and from where you can capture magnificent views.
Have you traveled to Cuba? Let us know about the places you’ve visited in the comment section below!