As soon as I find new destination I start googling for places to visit and things to do. Next I start writing them down and trying to put them in best order, so I get direction of my travel and approximately dates for each place.
It was the same for Cuba and yes Cuba was always my dream destination so I was super excited. I found places of interest and soon I figured there was too many of them so I had to narrow it down, but it still ended being too long. This time I went to Cuba, to experience real Cuba, not for resorts and laying on the beach.
So here it is our travel itinerary for 18days –
Days 1, 2, 3 and 4 – Havana
First day we arrived to Varadero airport, took Viazul bus to Havana and found casa for our first night in Havana. In the next few days we walked average 15-20km a day, taking taxi only once on the other side of the port. We explored Old Havana thoroughly, visited Havana Club Rum Museum, spent time on Plaza Vieja, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de San Francisco de Asis,visited flea market on Plaza de Armas, stroll up and down the El Malecon and Paseo del Prado. We admired Bacardi building, El Capitolio, Gran Teatro de la Habana and Hotel Nacional. Another day we spent time on the other side of the port, at El Morro castle and La Cabaña, with Statue of Christ in the back. My favorite were old colourful cars, they come in every colour you can think of, truly amazing! We had some great food and mojitos, next to rhythms of Cuban music. There is a lot to see in Havana. I would say 4-5days minimum for Havana if you want to see most of it.
Days 5 and 6 – Viñales
We shared taxi to Viñales and as soon as we got close to the valley landscape became stunning. Landscape is absolutely amazing! Only thing I knew about it was that here they have tobacco fields and people usually take horseback ridding trips through fields here. We did the same and it was great. I really enjoyed horseback ridding and I recommend everyone to do it! Also Botanical garden is beautiful and there is nice story behind it. Every house has rocking chairs here so the best thing is to buy bottle of rum and just enjoy sunset in rocking chair with mojito in your hand and maybe cigar in the other. Of course for all that you need casa like we had a bit on the hill.
- If we knew before we would take more days for here and take time to visit Cayo Levisa and Cayo Jutia. Also biking or hiking between hills would be amazing!
Days 7, 8 and 9 – Playa Larga
Another shared taxi ride, it was taxi for 9 people this time. I wanted to go to Zapata National park and Playa Larga was closest village to stay in. It’s in Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) and it’s super small, laid back village. We did birdwatching tour to Zapata National Park one day and snorkelling next day. You can also go to crocodile farm close to Playa Larga.
Days 10 – Cienfuegos
Another shared taxi with our friends from before. Perfect timing for short visit of Cienfuegos. There was a real Cuban street party close to our casa and we were the only tourists there, that meant we were quite and attraction there. Street food was amazing and they had cheap home brewed beer, plus they had huge speakers with loud music and they danced their asses off. Great start of our visit, after we explored city by foot. We walked to Plaza de Armas which is beautiful, every single building surrounding it is amazing. Here you have Parque Jose Marti, his monument, Catedral de la Purisima Concepcion, Palacio de Gobierno, Palacio Ferrer and Teatro Tomas Terry. We continued our walk towards an old cemetery called Cementerio de Reina. Last stop was walk all the way to the tip of Punta Gorda, to amazing building Palacio de Valle. Also don’t forget to check out Tomas Acea cemetery, go to the Playa Rancho Luna beach, Jagua castle, Martin Infierno Cave and Delfinario de Cienfuegos
Day 11 – El Nicho Waterfalls & Guanaroca Lagoon
Cienfuegos is the best starting point for this day trip. Two hours bumpy ride to Sierra del Escambray mountain range pays off as soon as you get to El Nicho waterfalls. Reino de las Aguas is nature trail that takes you to El Nicho waterfalls, two natural pools, caves and much more. El Nicho waterfalls are for sure a must if you are in the area and also swimming in natural pools is great and well worth the trip. Next stop was Guanaroca Lagoon which is formed by Arimao river just before it flows into the Bay of Cienfuegos. Here we saw tons of beautiful pink flamingos, pelicans and tocororos.
Days 12 & 13 – Trinidad
Trinidad was for sure my favorite city in Cuba, so it’s a must on every trip to Cuba! We only had two full days here, but I could stay here for much longer. Trinidad is one of the best preserved colonial cities in the world. You just walk around the streets and every house looks so picturesque. While walking down the cobblestone streets, you hear live Cuban music on the streets, you see people playing chess and it’s just so charming. You have to check out Plaza Mayor, different churches, museums and you HAVE to spend your nights on stairs at Casa de la Musica. If you fell like going to the club, don’t forget to check club Ayala in the cave. Also don’t miss beautiful Playa Ancon which is close by and take a trip to Valle de los Ingenios. Or maybe just enjoy catamaran trip to one of close by Cayos.
Day 14 – Santa Clara
Santa Clara is most known because of Che Guevara’s Mausoleum. If you are big fan of him or of history it is a nice place to visit or if you have extra day in your itinerary. It is university city and so there is a lot of young people everywhere. They like to hang out in Club El Mejunje which is LGBT cultural centre and Santa Clara had the only official drag queen beauty pageant. Here you can also find Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado, which is on the spot where Che and his troops derailed a train full of Batista soldiers and supplies during revolution.
Day 15 & 16 – Varadero
Our first and last stop on this trip was Varadero. People usually tell you to stay away from Varadero because it’s resort city, but I don’t agree! Good that we didn’t listen to others. Resorts start somewhere around Calle 62, so you still have big area before that where there’s mostly locals and casas. Our casa was like 30meters away from the beach and sometimes we were even alone on the beach. And talking about beach, amazing, beautiful, crystal clear water… You just can’t get enough of it. We loved it, so don’t listen to others, just go and enjoy and stay in casas, of course if you stay in resort there is gonna be a lot of people and you might not enjoy it that much. Make sure you make it to Club Calle 62! Amazing shows and parties!
There is a lot of things to do in Varadero and close by, but it was our last few days so we didn’t bother doing anything.
So this is briefly what we saw and how many days we spent where, I would love to spend more days and explore other part of Cuba! Maybe next time.
For more detailed trip, read other posts and for more photos check my Facebook page here!
If you plan to visit Europe, more exact Italy and France, then check out this itinerary here!
can you tell me how much did it cost you?
Hello Sara. Sorry for late reply. I calculated and we’ve spent around 2500 Canadian dollars plus tickets were around 1100 Canadian dollars for two.
Very good written article. It will be helpful to anyone who usess it, as well as me. Keep up the good work – looking forward to more posts.
I like the way you prepare your trips! Knowing where to go but leave some room for improvisation. Great stories +Your photos are a great addition for having a better idea of Cuba!
Eee Cuba is on my list of places to visit and it looks absolutely buzzing! I just love how colourful and retro it is and it sounds like one of those places where locals love where they live. I can’t wait to go one day
Yes it’s great! I just love colorful cars and houses!
This was very useful to read as most of the things I’ve read on Cuba have tended to focus on Havana and, to a lesser extent, Santa Clara. Great to see other places spotlighted – the waterfalls look beautiful, and Playa Larga looks fun. A great picture of the crab you’ve got there! 🙂
Thank you! Yes usually people write about Havana or resorts, but there is so many nice places around Cuba! 🙂
Cuba is without a doubt one of my favorite countries ever! It’s so diverse and the people are so friendly – it definitely deserves a spot on any travel bucket list.
Agreed, I can’t wait to go back!
A very in depth visit to Cuba, most blog are only about Havana. It’s good to read about other areas too like Trinidad, Viñales and even Cienfuegos!! Great photos and well done on all the kms walked in Havana!
Hehe thanks! Yeah there was a lot of kms. 🙂
What a busy 16 days you had in Cuba ?. I hear you about wishing to stay longer in some places. You never know until you see it, right? Thank you for sharing insights based on personal experience. Varadero is a good example. Often, going just a block or two off the touristy path brings you to entirely different world.
Thank you. Yeah I wish i would have more time at some places, and more time to visit other places that i didn’t had time. Next time i guess 🙂
Cuba looks so colourful and fascinating, would love to visit Havana someday.
Among the places you mentioned in the post, I only knew about Havana, Trinidad and Santa Clara. Viñales and Varadero looks stunning, both the hills and the beach are so tempting to look at.
Yes you should visit it for sure. It’s stunning!
Of all the places you mentioned, I only heard of Trinidad and Havana. Never been to Cuba, but I’m hoping the door doesn’t get closed again now that we have a different President. Havana looks charming!
Hehe, let’s hope they don’t! Maybe hurry up! 🙂
Thanks so much for such a simple and detailed brief itinerary of your trip! I’ll be in Cuba for 16 days as well 🙂
Question: How were you able to travel to these different cities? Was it easy? Did you book your stays in these different cities ahead of time?
Thank you for your help in advance 🙂
It makes me really happy that it’s useful to you!
We didn’t book anything in advance. For travelling between cities we mostly used taxis collectivo. You can usually find them at the main places in the city or casas can arrange them for you. From time to time we used a bus which is better if you reserve a day or two ahead. Especially from Trinidad onwards you have to reserve it couple of days ahead. And for accommodation usually casas owners from different cities know each other and they can help you with reserving the next casa.
Enjoy your trip to Cuba