by Fred Mawer, The Daily Telegraph, January 18, 2017
Best for: The beach, romance, watersports, partying, culture and history, nature, escapism.
The Caribbean ’s most fascinating country: a heady mix of faded Spanish colonial cities, sputtering Fifties Cadillacs, wonderful live music, world-class cigars and an arcane communist system. The recent thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba, and the consequent gradual easing of travel and trade restrictions, is another intriguing element in the complex set-up on Castro's isle. On the downside, often things don’t work as they should or go to plan, and the service in hotels and the food, though improving, are not on a par with other Caribbean destinations.
Holiday options include city breaks to sultry Havana (lots of cultural offerings and great nightlife) and touring, either in a guided group or self-drive. The beautiful tobacco heartlands of Viñales, the crumbling colonial town of Trinidad, and sights related to Che Guevara and the revolution are highlights. Independent travellers can have rewarding, inexpensive adventures staying with Cubans in their homes (find them on airbnb.co.uk or cubacasas.net ) and eating in their houses in private restaurants, called paladares.
Stay-put beach packages are still big business, and many of the beaches are fantastic, including at Varadero, the biggest resort. However, with so much else to enjoy in Cuba, you may regret holing up in an all-inclusive hotel for your whole trip. Consider a Havana/Varadero two-centre stay – other resorts are more isolated.
Book as long ahead as possible for flights and good accommodation: both have been in short supply due to the sharp rise in the demand for holidays to Cuba over the past couple of years.
The world-class International Havana Jazz Festival takes place in December, and Santiago de Cuba’s carnival, the island’s most famous, in late July.
Virgin to Havana; Thomas Cook Airways to Cayo Coco, Holguin, Varadero. Thomson Airways to Varadero and, new for summer 2017, to Santa Clara (for beach packages to Cayo Santa Maria). After a break of more than half a century, in summer 2016 scheduled flights re-started between the US and Cuba, connecting various cities in the two countries.
After a break of more than half a century, flights re-started between the US and Cuba in 2016Credit: STRINGER
Packages available with:
Audley Travel (audleytravel.com); Explore ( explore.co.uk ); Journey Latin America ( journeylatinamerica.co.uk ); Thomas Cook ( thomascook.com ); Thomson (thomson.co.uk); Virgin Holidays ( virginholidays.co.uk ). You will significantly reduce the chances of your arrangements going awry by booking your accommodation and travel through a tour operator specialising in Cuba.
This article was written by Fred Mawer from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.