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Welcome to the OFFICIAL Exclusive Travel guide to Cuba. Despite draconian poverty imposed by the USA, Cuba is still regarded as a Caribbean Jewel. Let us take you on a magical tour of this wonderful Caribbean Island and the lovely people living there.

Colonial estates with falling apart facades. Big, fat cigars, advanced signboards, salsa and sandy beaches, you have actually seen them all in your travel dreams.

With its cigar-smoking rebels, sparkling seas, vintage automobiles, powerful music, and residents who survive on their wits and humour, Cuba will probably take your heart. However thus lots of seducers, this tropical island, shaded a Socialist red on the map, is complicated. It's at when stunning and falling apart; unbelievably abundant in culture, but short on fundamental products and common benefits.

The island's relatively big and packs in a great deal of encounters and experiences, so you'll require two weeks to do it justice. For us, that indicates seeing the highlights and a bit more: the capital Havana; rich Viales Valley; Trinidad and Santiago cities; and the remote east - jungly Oriente is Cuba's best-kept secret and you will not regret stretching your time. Nervous about bypassing urbane Santa Clara and seaside Cienfuegos towns? You'll get more colonial splendour and better beaches on the path drawn up here.

Delays and security issues make domestic flights a bad concept and cars and truck hire is pricey and complicated. Instead, do as a lot of tourists do and take cross-country coaches or hire a car and driver. Load perseverance, flexibility, your sense of humour and your glad rags. Cuba's transmittable magic will knock you sideways.

Havana is entirely stunning. Not quite the starlet it as soon as was, maybe, however the 500-year-old bone structure is still there, in primped-up plazas and fancy mansions. The city is Cuba's political and cultural capital and, more prosaically, has the biggest airport for arrivals. Many flights touch down in time for supper and beverages, and you 'd be nuts not to capitalize. From the airport, Havana is 40 minutes by taxi through a flip-book of socialist billboards. Couple of put on Earth provide remain in such splendour for such fantastic worth - believe Spanish colonial love meets Art Deco. Havana is a city on the up, and you'll find its coolest creative types on the rooftop at El del Frente.

The plundered loot of Spain's Latin American empire was funneled through Havana for more than 200 years, via the so-called treasure fleets. And the silver cascading through the Atlantic-facing city required protection' with forts mainly developed by African slaves to defy those pirates of the Caribbean. Havana's wealth was later boosted by sugar exports, and revenues were invested in handsome bricks and mortar. Now those Old Havana streets are produced strolling, in between UNESCO protected Baroque churches, bougainvillea-draped portals, lofty estates, muscular fortresses and kerbside coffee shop's. The 4 main plazas, Catedral, Armas, Vieja and San Francisco are highlights. In the Museum of Arts, take a guided trip of the Cuban collection. Artsy types can go further with a curator-guide checking out artists' home-studios: possibly see a Cadillac converted into a submarine, or a Che Guevara 'Turin' shroud.

Wherever you're going, get a rickshaw style bicycle taxi for speed. Havana's taxi system and classic automobiles running fixed paths, has broken down rather. Now, you'll pay up to $10 for taxis for journeys of approximately 4km. The hop-on-hop-off distributing red traveler bus is for people with lots of time.

Shimmy along for matinee rumba at tight, sweaty and none touristy El Jelengue de Areito in Centro Habana, a shabby residential zone. After supper, look out for the thumbs-up bulb on Calle 11 marking under-the-radar La Casa de la Bombilla Verde, to hear live nueva trova music. Your next address is the city's Fabrica de Arte Cubano for challenging photography, singer-songwriters, progressive dance and the chance to join Cuban entrepreneurs. Do this lot and you'll have captured Cuba's political, social and cultural zeitgeist.

Viales Valley in the Sierra de los Ãrganos mountains

make your method through Centro by bike taxi for a window onto street life having first bought a cigar factory ticket, readily available from any hotel. Purchase stogies from main 'Habanos' shops just (on the street, you may get fakes made of dried banana).

If cigars aren't your bag, try a farmto-table cooking class at organic paradise Finca Tungasuk in the bushes at Caimito, 40 minutes from Havana. Or make like Rihanna in Havana and hire a Cadillac with chauffeur. Explore the two castles safeguarding the Bay of Havana, then motor to the leafy, artsy El Vedado district, home to wedding cake estates, leading paladares (private dining establishments) and music locations. After snapping the significant Plaza de la Revolucin, step into Christopher Columbus Cemetery for the largest communion of marble angels in Latin America. In the golden hour before sundown, cruise up and down Havana's seaside boulevard, the Malecn, with its hymn to amazing, colourful architectural eclecticism.

Toast your time in Havana with a beverage on the roofing system of the Kempinski hotel; you'll have a great view of curlicued motifs on theaters and museums. In the Old Town, music-crawl the lounges of Calle Obispo: La Lluvia de Oro is a winner for its old-time appearances and live bands.

Christopher Columbus stated of Baracoa: "So much beauty that I can discover no words to explain it" of the town and its lush valley. UNESCO secured Vinales Valley is a vision of velour green mountains rising from palms, tobacco plants and ruddy red soil tilled by oxen and plough. Besides the country air, its greatest draws are the organic food, horse-riding and rock climbing. And you'll see better valley sights than those tipped in the guidebooks on a walk with a guide from the Visitors Centre. Otherwise ask your B&B or hotel to help you employ horses for a directed ride to the pristine Valley of Silence. Swap valley sundowns the next day for tangerine-colored starfish at Cayo, a sparkling white beach that's an easy day-trip with among the travel bureau on the little main strip. Or hire a taxi to take you to the tobacco farm of Hector Luis Prieto. He does an exceptional tour and creole lunch for a bargain rate.


There's no quick fix to reach Trinidad, however it's a must-visit for its pistachio-and cinnamon-colored homes, dreamy palaces, and coppery horses ridden by mangn (extremely attractive) cowboys trotting through town. Vazul's day-to-day bus from Vinales takes about 9 hours (or rent a car). But if you're prepared for a little organised mayhem, you can keep it to 6 or 7 hours by taking collective taxis. Vintage lorries get guests and drive them to a highway restaurant; you could then be moved to another automobile and rerouted to Trinidad. It sounds like a jumbled strategy, but choose it you'll never be stranded in Cuba.

Trinidad was main to Cuba's 19thcentury sugar boom, and its rich sugar barons enshrined egos in stone: palaces decorated with all the finest furnishings, frescoes and chandeliers cash could purchase. You can sleep amidst the grandeur at some of the little city's finest houses. The next day, gain complete immersion by simply roaming. A cluster of music places, all within a stone's toss of each other, makes flirting with each one a cinch. Top dazzler is Casa de la Trova, a conventional colonial home with live bands and an outdoor patio for dancing. If you understand the moves, wait at the edge for a partner to approach. If you're a student, standby, too. It's the only method to enhance and Cubans are accommodating.

Early morning light overflows Trinidad in a golden sheen. Climb the observation tower at the Cantero Palace history museum, where a central water fountain when sprinkled eau de cologne for the women and spirits for society gents. Watch out for the faces of Trinidad's senior folk exquisitely sculpted into deserted door pieces at the gallery of Niebla Castro.

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