The most popular Cuban cities to visit are numerous! However you may ask, which are the most popular ones for tourists to visit and why? Check out our guide to 8 of Cuba’s best-loved destinations and start planning!
Havana: # 1 of The Most Popular Cuban Cities
Obviously, Havana remains the main port of entry for most visitors to Cuba. However the international airport isn’t what makes Havana one of the most popular Cuban cities for tourists. In fact reason visitors stick around after arriving is for the sheer depth of important sites dotted about the Cuban capital.
At its heart sits the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Habana Vieja. The old town was constructed by the first Spanish colonists on the island and is still protected by stout defensive walls. Further afield, visitors are able to explore the lively neighbourhoods of Vedado and Miramar. In these areas you can visit the best museums and visit Fusterlandia, and Callejon de Hamel.
Is Havana safe? Compared to most of Latin America it’s in fact one of the safest cities. However as with anywhere you travel in the world common sense is your greatest asset. So relax and enjoy this amazing destination!
Sometimes called the ‘Pearl of the South’, it’s no surprise that Cienfuegos is also one of the most popular Cuban cities for visitors to the island. Cienfuegos is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Furthermore it is unique in Cuba for being founded by French rather than Spanish settlers.
You could be mistaken for thinking you’ve ended up in Paris or Marseilles! With wide boulevards lined with buildings that wouldn’t look out of place in the French capital. Located on the Caribbean Sea with a spirit all of its own, there’s reason enough to spend some time in Cienfuegos!
Another one of Cuba’s beautiful UNESCO World Heritage listed sites, the Valley of Vinales is well worth a visit.
Cuba is famous for its cigars, and much of the tobacco for these famous exports is grown in the lush landscapes surrounding Vinales. In fact it is a great place to see traditional agricultural practices and learn about what goes into producing a single cigar.
The nearby Valle de Vinales National Park is dotted with limestone outcrops called mogotes. The most famous mogote is the colorful Mural of Prehistory. It is a great place for a short hike and to explore caves. In fact they were once used as refuges by slaves who had fled nearby plantations.
Trinidad, One of the Most Popular Cuban Cities
Known for the beauty of its pastel coloured colonial structures and cobblestone streets, particularly around Plaza Mayor, Trinidad is an extraordinary survivor of another era. Without a doubt in the 1800’s Trinidad’s sugar production was the envy of the world. Trinidad offers a gateway into Cuba’s culture via the important story of the Valle de Los Ingenios.
Here, somewhere in the region of 70 historic sugar cane mills lie in various states of disrepair. The most well known one is the 45-metre-high Iznaga Tower which provides a spectacular overview of the whole area.
Santa Clara is one of Cuba’s few major cities not located on the coast. It is still one of the most popular Cuban cities as a result of a number of major attractions. The major attraction is the Mausoleum and Memorial to Che Guevara. Bizarrely, the whereabouts of his body were unknown until 1997. In that year his remains where discovered in Bolivia where he was executed. Finally they were then returned with great pomp to Cuba that year. They were interred with full military honours in the specially-built mausoleum overlooking Santa Clara. Santa Clara is also the site of last battle of the revolution in which Che commanded the victorious troops.
Dating back to 1528, Camaguey’s maze of dead ends and narrow winding streets stems from the need to protect the fledgling city from pirates and corsairs who invaded the city constantly for the next century. In the mid 1600’s the pirate Henry Morgan sacked and burned the city to the ground. Later it was layed out in a way that was intended to confuse any would be pirate attackers to make it hard to navigate their way around.
The winding alleyways and narrow streets are somewhat reminiscent of Genoa in Italy and getting lost and just wandering is half the fun of a visit to Camaguey! You never know what you’ll find in the winding laneways. From ballet schools to boxing gyms to a quaint little local eatery the possibilities are endless. Some of these alleyways lead out onto a series of stunning squares, like pearls on a necklace. The alleyways are where you’ll find many of the city’s colonial-era churches, museums, and parks.
Santiago de Cuba
The second-largest city on the island, Santiago de Cuba lies close to the island’s southernmost point. It’s some 800 kms east of Havana and not far from Baracoa. It’s one of the original seven settlements founded by the Spanish. It was founded in 1515, less than a generation after Christopher Columbus first anchored off the Cuban coast.
Santiago de Cuba boasts the 17th century San Pedro de la Roca fortress. It’s another of Cuba’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s unquestionably one of the most revered Cuban cities because of its links with 1959 revolution. From the balcony of the City Hall Castro declared the revolution against dictator Fulgencio Batista had been won. Fidel Castro and national poet José Martí are interred at Santa Ifigenia cemetery.
Baracoa in the East
Often overlooked because of its location in Cuba’s far east, we couldn’t end our exploration of the most popular Cuban cities without mentioning Baracoa. Still something of a hidden gem, Baracoa is the oldest Spanish settlement in Cuba. Here is where Christopher Columbus first landed on the island in November 1492.
Situated on the idyllic Bay of Honey, Baracoa still retains much of its historic charm. Only made made accesible to the rest of Cuba by road in the 1960s, it’s a the best place in Cuba to relax. You can hike up the Baracoa mountain range to beautiful waterfalls. Here you’ll also find the coffee and cacao that’s cultivated in this region.
Baracoa is a destination to consider visiting if you are going to be spending two or more weeks exploring Cuba.