Museum of the Revolution, Havana
To understand the recent history of Cuba, you’ll need to learn about the revolution and why it happened. Of course, this museum might present a slightly one-sided account of events, but it’s an incredible look at how Cuba became a socialist country.
Bay of Pigs
Perhaps best known as the site of a failed US-backed invasion designed to oust Fidel Castro from power, the Bay of Pigs is now a popular spot for scuba divers. If you prefer to stay above the water, check out the biosphere reserve on the Zapata Peninsula.
Jardines del Rey
This 450-kilometre long archipelago stretches along the northern coast of the island through Ciego de Avila and Camaguey provinces. You can do various watersports at Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, and bird watching, including flamingos, inland.
A couple of hours west of Havana lies the spectacular valley of Viñales. The landscape is dominated by amazing “mogotes” – limestone karst formations which rise steeply from the valley floor. It’s an agricultural area dominated by tobacco farms, and you can learn about how the iconic Cuban cigars are made.
Che Guevara Mausoleum, Santa Clara
The final resting place of the world’s most famous revolutionary is this mausoleum in Santa Clara. You can take a tour of a museum dedicated to Guevara’s life, and visit the building dedicated to him and others who gave their lives for the cause.
Further west than Viñales, this small key is largely untouched by foreign visitors. However Cubans flock here from the surrounding towns and villages, so it’s a great place to hang out with locals and see how they spend their time off.
El Morro Castle, Santiago de Cuba
On the east of the island, Santiago de Cuba feels like it’s a million miles from Havana, and not just because of the journey time. Things are different here, and perhaps the biggest attraction in town is the castle of El Morro.
Ballet at the Gran Teatro de La Habana, Havana
This ornate concert hall is worth a visit in its own right, but if you can catch a ballet then you are in for a real treat. Cuba is an important part of global ballet, and here you can see the best dancers first hand.
Revolution Square, Havana
This large open plaza is home to an imposing tower and a bust of independence hero José Martí. There are also artworks depicting Che Guevara and Fidel Castro on the walls of several buildings around the square, which make for great photo opportunities.
Take a ride on this rickety old train from Casablanca, across the water from Old Havana, to the small city of Matanzas. It’s a wonder how it still moves given the state of it, but it’s great for people watching and seeing life outside the capital city.
La Bodeguita del Medio
This iconic bar lays claim as the birthplace of the mojito, and was once a favoured watering hole of famous writer and booze hound Ernest Hemingway. It’s incredibly touristy and overpriced, but pop in for a couple of drinks before heading off elsewhere.
Fabrica de Arte Cubano
When it comes to contemporary Cuban culture, Fabrica de Arte Cubano is incredibly important. It’s a cultural space that hosts art exhibitions, film screenings, tutorials, and even a disco. Come here to see young trendy Cubans doing their thing.
Comandancia de la Plata
This old mountain camp was home to Fidel Castro and his small band of revolutionaries in 1958, helping them to evade the attentions of government forces. Today you can visit it by taking a trip to the Sierra Maestra National Park.