Holidays in Cuba are a fantastic choice if you want to experience a bit of culture, history and Caribbean charm, all against the backdrop of stunning sandy beaches. In fact, there are so many attractions in the country it can be hard to know where to begin, so we've compiled a list of five of the best to help you start planning your break.
Havana's Old Centre
The old centre of Havana is a delight to explore, as it's peppered with a host of colonial buildings that are remarkably well preserved. The Spanish founded the city in 1519 and just 30 years later it was one of the most important shipbuilding centres in the Caribbean. The neoclassical and Baroque architecture of the houses lining Havana's streets mean you'll discover something new at every turn. However, there are a few monuments you shouldn't miss.
Plaza de la Catedral, which, unsurprisingly, is home to the city's cathedral, is one of the most picturesque squares in the city and you'll be able to fully admire the ornate facade of the place of worship from the plaza. The Palacio de los Capitanes Generales on Plaza de Armas is another striking building you'll see in Havana, with its rows of archways and idyllic internal courtyard. In the centre of this green space is a statue of Christopher Columbus and the building itself is now home to the City Museum.
The Vinales Valley is the home of the country's cigar making industry, so spending a day or two exploring here will give you a fascinating insight into one of Cuba's most famous exports. Traditional agricultural techniques are still in use on many of the remaining tobacco plantations and this, combined with the formation of the surrounding hills and mountains, has resulted in the area being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Touring the valley is a must if you want to appreciate its unique cultural heritage, while a trip to one of the cigar factories in the nearby city of Pinar del Rio is a wonderful way to round off an afternoon learning more about this iconic industry.
No trip to Cuba would be complete without spending a few days basking in the glorious sunshine on one of its stunning beaches and there is nowhere better to do this than Varadero. This is one of the most famous resorts in Cuba and, as well as being home to a beautiful stretch of sand, the area also boasts a golf course and numerous hotels and restaurants. So, even if you get tired of topping up your tan, you'll still have plenty to keep you occupied.
To the south of Varadero is the Zapata Peninsula - a vast area of wetland that has been declared a Biosphere Reserve. If you want to seek out some of Cuba's wildlife, this is the place to come. Alligators inhabit the swamp's waters, while a wide range of birds make their home here, including the tiny bee hummingbird. Other creatures to look out for include manatees and the rare manjuari fish.
If you are keen to learn more about Cuba's history, Trinidad is a great place to visit. The city is home to numerous museums where you can delve into the country's past. On the Plaza Mayor - the city's central square - you'll find the Museo Historico Municipal and the Museo de Arquitectura Trinitaria. The Antigua Convento de San Francisco de Asis, with its distinctive bell tower, is another must-visit monument. This convent has been here for centuries and you can enjoy fantastic views across Trinidad from the top of its bell tower.