Cuba is incapable of doing things by halves. Its port cities are bursting with Latin drama: the salsa, the mojitos, those cigars. Of course, there’s a dramatic history to uncover in its crumbling colonial architecture, too. For the nature lovers? The most biodiverse spot in the Caribbean brings with it Unesco-protected coral reefs teeming with more shark species than you knew existed. World-class diving happens in topaz waters, and there are miles of untouched coastline to explore. In a word, thrilling.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
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What to see and do
Before setting sail from Cienfuegos, it pays to have a look around. The Pearl of the South has some knockout architecture, best enjoyed with a stroll down waterfront Punta Gorda, followed by the neoclassical Paseo del Prado. Rum-infused sundowners at waterside Club Cienfuegos complete a special day.
The largest of Cuba’s coral cays, Unesco-hotspot Cayo Largo is destination one for snorkelling. The prettiest of the reefs is just off Playa Sirena, where you’ll bump into rays and a hammerhead shark or two. Onshore, flamingos and hummingbirds are arresting, but it’s the noble turtle that steals the show, nesting on beaches whiter than your charter’s sails.
And, of course, the capital Havana. Walk towards the first vintage American car you see and enjoy a chauffeured cruise along the legendary Malecón esplanade. Have your driver drop you at Hamel Alley in central Havana. It’s the best spot to imbibe the Afro-Cuban culture through street art and live rumba.
Best mooring locations
Marlin Marina Cienfuegos is the launchpad for your Cuban yachting adventure. While you’re there, be sure to spend some time at Club Cienfuegos, whose ostentatious architecture and white-glove service lend a golden-age atmosphere.
If you drop anchor anywhere, stop between Cayo Anclitas and the Los Jardines de la Reina archipelago. What’s known as the Galapagos of the Caribbean, is an uninhabited wilderness with over 50 diving sites. Otherwise, don’t miss paradisiacal Varadero on the Hicacos Peninsula, where you’ll find Cuba’s most beautiful beaches.
Where to eat and drink
Between food shortages, and the insipid meals of its state-run restaurants, Cuba was known for its dismal dining scene. Things improved dramatically when private restaurants or paladares were first permitted in the ‘90s, though, and now quality cocina criolla is out there. Just up the road from Marina Hemingway in Havana is the venerable old La Fontana. It serves the city’s best barbecue food (careful, as portions are huge) and pairs it with live jazz. Not far away is El Rum Rum, which does a lip-smacking seafood stew. It also has both a wine and cigar sommelier. On the south coast, Cienfuegos’s Doña Nora on the Prado, dishes French flavours with silver service.
Where to get groceries
If you’re looking to load up before setting off from Cienfuegos, the nearest minimarket is Punta Gordo on the Paseo, which stocks dry goods in bulk, depending on availability. For fresh fruit and veg, you’re best off heading to the farmer’s market near Plaza José Marti.
Key annual sailing events
The only sailing event of note in Cuba is the Conch Republic Cup, a one-way, week-long regatta every May, from Florida’s Key West to Havana. American political pressure forced a hiatus in 2003, but the race – which aims to foster good relations between the two countries – started up again in 2016.
Climate and weather
Reliable trade winds blow from the east, with a tendency to the north in winter and south in summer. Wind speed averages at 10 to 15 knots in winter and 5 to 10 knots in summer. Cuba’s tropical climate makes it agreeable year-round, though for consistent blue skies visit in spring. Hurricane season in Cuba runs from June to November, though Cuba experiences the lowest frequency of hurricanes in the Caribbean.
How to get there
The quickest and easiest way to Cienfuegos from Havana’s José Martí international airport is by car, which takes about three hours. If you’re travelling relatively light and want to keep spending down, take the direct trains (seven hours) or buses (five hours). The latter runs twice daily (7am and 10:45am).
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