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Cuba travel guide

Travel in Cuba and experience crumbling Cuban cool, coloured by 500 years of rollercoaster history

Stretching 1,250km east to west, Cuba is the Caribbean's largest island, and ringed by beautiful beaches and idyllic waters just like its neighbours Jamaica and the Caymans. But Cuba also has a political past that sets it quite apart from, well, anywhere else in the world.

Its people have resisted both Spanish and US attempts at domination, but since the fall of the Soviet Union, Communist Cuba has been out on its own. This has created a country with economic woes but a strong cultural identity, and an appealing time-warp feel: old Buicks rust on Havana's crumbling streets, expert musicians play traditional tunes, the landscapes are undeveloped and spectacular.

Times are changing here – modernisation is creeping in – but the island will always dance to its own rhythm.

Wanderlust recommends

  • Cruise around old Havana – In a vintage car or simply stroll between the Cuban capital’s best bits
  • Stay with a local family – Traditional-style casa particulares are the Cuban version of a homestay
  • Roam the Viñales Valley – Nestled between the small town of Viñales and Pinar del Río, wander these uninhabited mountains, dense woodlands and mysterious stone stairways
  • Cycle the tobacco fields – Experience the beguiling countryside of western Cuba
  • Feel the rhythm in Trinidad – Cuba’s cool colonial music capital awaits
  • Dive off Maria la Gorda – Sublime sub-aqua encounters

Wanderlust tips

While you're in Cuba, sign up for Spanish or dance lessons – both can be easily arranged and can bring Cuba to life.

If you're planning on cycling, take your own helmet and padded cycling shorts.

Take your own plastic bags to use at markets etc – bags are rare in Cuba.

Bring your own snorkelling gear. If diving, do not touch or damage the coral.

And finally, however persuasive, do not give to beggars.

I wish I'd known...

Wanderlust web intern Thomas Rees on the things he wished he'd known before he arrived:

"The privately owned, collective taxis can be flagged down at most of Havana's intersections. They can be a little cramped but are an excellent and affordable way to see the city. You might even befriend a few of the locals in the process!"

"If it's musical friends you're after, be sure to pack a few guitar strings, they're hard to find in Cuba, and might earn you a few freebies from the wandering trovadors who serenade passers-by on balmy evenings in the capital."

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