Top 5 things to do in Cuba

Paladar, photo by advencap on Flickr

Cuba is the kind of tourist destinations where it is almost a crime to just go and do nothing at all. Although Cuba’s beautiful beaches and many luxury resorts can tempt even the most active travelers to a few days of idleness, there are many activities in Cuba that are equally tempting. Depending on where you’re staying, visiting Cuba can be a very different experience. All-inclusive resorts definitely have enough activities to keep  you busy, but they don’t do much for cultural immersion. However, if you stray away from the resort poolside or if you choose to stay in independent accommodation, there is a wealth of Cuba experiences open to you. Get to know this amazing country by trying out a few of the top 5 things to do in Cuba.

Eat at a paladar

Many restaurants in Cuba are run by the state, and they are not always the best place to get a taste of  fine, authentic Cuban cuisine. Paladares are small private family-run restaurants where you get to see one of the most genuine sides of Cuban culture. These small restaurants are heavily taxed by the government, but regulations have relaxed in the past few years and lots of new paladares have been established all over Cuba. Some paladares are set up at the owners’ homes, while others are more elaborate and have even gained international fame, like La Guarida, Old Gringo or La Fontana.

Explore Habana Vieja

Habana Vieja, photo by advencap on Flickr

Havana has its fair share of new monuments, restaurants and parks, but the real flavor of Cuba is the strongest in the old quarter of the city, Habana Vieja. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it has remarkably preserved, colorful buildings. There are many interesting churches, forts, convents and monuments on the narrow streets and alleys of the old streets, and getting lots in them is definitely one of the top 5 things to do in Cuba.

Visit the countryside

Cuban beaches are hard to leave, but the countryside offers just as many possibilities. The small villages and towns you might encounter are not all touristy, and you might have to rely a bit on your Spanish to communicate with the locals, but seeing the real, unmasked side of Cuba is downright priceless. Vinales is quite popular with tourists and there are lots of facilities for travelers, but it still retains a wonderfully rural charm.

Visit old sugar mills

Once you are in the countryside, don’t miss the chance to visit the old sugar mills, estates and plantations that sustained Cuban economy in the past. Valle de los Ingenios is a lush valley with over fifty sugar mills scattered around, and only a few of them are still functional – the rest have become interesting historical relics.

Attend a festival

photo by asgw on Flickr

Cuban festivals are a joyous occasion for all and sundry, and few people could refuse to participate when faced with so much color and bustle. There are several yearly festivals that always draw a crowd, especially the carnivals and the parrandas. The Carnival of Santiago de Cuba is probably the most popular yearly event in Cuba, celebrated without fail since the 17th century.

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