You will hear conflicting reports about how much time you should spend in Cuba. Some people might suggest a few weeks, and others will tell you that you can see everything there is to see within a week. Clearly this is not true, since it would take the best part of a lifetime to see everything that there is to see in Cuba. Let’s say that you have a week to play with. A week is a good solid amount of time, and you can certainly see much of what Cuba is known for within 7 days.
Your Cuba 7 day itinerary needs some planning though, since you want to see as much as you can without feeling the need to rush from place to place at an annoyingly frantic pace.
You won’t be able to see the entire country though. It’s an island and looks small enough on the map, but to try to cram so much of the country into a relatively short timeframe is rather pointless, unless you want the key memories of your Cuban vacation to be trying to sleep on an overnight bus. When you don’t have an endless amount of time to spend in the country, you’re better off sticking to the west of the island. You’re going to experience so much, and you will be able to do so at an unhurried pace that feels really appropriate for Cuba.
1. Welcome to Cuba
Your seven days in Cuba will obviously start with your arrival. It naturally depends on what time your flight arrives as to how much exploring you can do on your first day. Your plane will land (most probably in Havana, since this is where the majority of international flights arrive), and then you will go through immigration. Your first step should be to visit the cash machine at the airport since you are going to need some Cuban pesos (Cuba is very much a cash-based society, and you will need to check with your bank to ensure that your card will be able to withdraw money while on the island). Unless transfers have been arranged, take a taxi into the city. Some drivers will suggest a flat rate, but it’s better to have the taxi’s meter turned on. When you check in at your accommodation it can be smart to ask about the location of the nearest cash machine, since these can be hard to track down.
2. Time to Explore
Chances are that you won’t be able to really get to know Havana until your second day. You’ll want to start with the best that the city has to offer, so head straight into the heart of Havana’s Old Town. This is the original village of Havana, and the city essentially grew from these busy, sun-drenched streets. To get a general feeling for the area (which will be very helpful during your Cuba 7 day itinerary), start in Plaza Vieja (a central square) and work your way around. If the day is warm (and chances are it will be), take a detour to the Malecón, which is a rather charming waterfront walkway on the edge of the Old Town. Enjoy the ocean breezes, and then get right back into exploring! It can be a great idea to book a walking tour if you want to see the key points of the Old Town.
3. Say Hello to Vedado
Day 3 of your Cuba 7 day itinerary is likely to include more of Havana’s Old Town (and trust us, once you see it, you will want to spend as much time there as possible). But there is more to Havana than this particular area. Make your way to Vedado on your third day (take a taxi since it’s a bit too far for walking from Old Havana). Prior to the Cuban Revolution this was the most affluent part of the city and many of the impressive homes have now been repurposed as restaurants, homestays, bars, and entertainment venues. Take a wander along Calle 23 as the sun goes down to see the hip young things of Havana as they relax before a night out.
4. No Cuba 7 Day Itinerary is Complete Without a Trip to Viñales
Viñales is a stunningly beautiful village that is around 2.5 hours from Havana by road. There are numerous day trips on offer, or you can go as part of a guided tour. The rich red earth here is where much of Cuba’s tobacco is grown (ending up in those world famous cigars). It’s like time has stood still here, and you can even see farmers still using a horse and cart on their fields. It really is a must see on your Cuba 7 day itinerary.
5. Trinidad is Unforgettable
The next inclusion requires a little more travel time, but it really is worth it. Trinidad speaks of colonial wealth that has now faded somewhat. The town was once exceptionally wealthy as it was the heart of Cuba’s sugar production, which fell away when slavery was abolished (so the beauty of Trinidad has a dark past). The town has been extensively restored thanks to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you need to spend an evening dancing at the Casa de la Musica under the stars.
6. The Pearl of the South
It’s time to turn around on your 6th day and make your way back to Havana. But there is one destination en route that requires your attention. Largely settled by French migrants, Cienfuegos is often referred to as the Paris of Cuba… although its nickname as The Pearl of the South is more apt. French influences can be seen throughout the city, from the wide boulevards to the actual street names. Cienfuegos (in addition to Trinidad, Havana, and other Cuban cities) is curious in that it’s a place that has been shaped by its own cultural influences, giving it a distinctive character while still remaining truly Cuban.
7. Back to Havana
And on your final full day, it’s time to head back to where the magic started. Take your last day in Havana to explore anything else you want to see (or places you want to revisit). Have a drink on one of the many places in Old Havana (plenty to choose from on Calle Bishop) or make your way back to Vedado to enjoy a club. It’s just important to give your time in Cuba an appropriate farewell. Naturally, this 7 day Cuba itinerary is just one of many ways to spend a week on the island. But this gives you a chance to experience a few different parts of the island without spending too much time on the road.
If your time is at a premium and you want to keep your travel time to an absolute minimum, consider sticking closer to the west of Cuba, visiting places such as Las Terrazas and Soroa.