1. Trinidad, Cuba
Founded in 1514 by Diego Velaquez, Trinidad was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the city was a wealthy slave-trading centre and hub of sugar production and its wealthy landowners and merchants erected fine homes and mansions. The cobblestone streets lined with pastel coloured houses have barely changed since the colonial era; Trinidad feels like an attraction that time has passed by. Unlike most cities in Cuba, Trinidad sits on a hill and is cooled by near-constant breezes.
2. Zapata Peninsula, Cuba
Protected within a huge biosphere reserve, Cuba’s Zapata Peninsula is covered in swampland and forests teeming with wildlife. The coast, in turn, is lined with sandy beaches and coral reef, attracting scuba divers. Much of the population here works as carboneros, eking out a living making charcoal. The area is known for Bahia de Cochinos, site of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Known locally as “La Victoria,” the event is commemorated in two museums.
3. Valle de Vinales, Cuba
The pine-clad mountains that begin a short distance west of Havana and run through northern Pinar del Rio province are a nature lover’s paradise of protected national parks sheltering endangered animals. The mountains grow more rugged westward, where dramatic rock formations called mogotes tower over lush valleys where tobacco plants thrive in the rich red soils and gentle climate. Centred on a village that itself is a National Historic Monument, the Valle de Vinales is rural Cuba at its most quintessential. Huge caverns beneath the mogotes provide a realm of possibilities for spelunkers.