If there’s anything social media has taught us, it’s that expectation versus reality can sometimes leave us pretty disappointed when it comes to the real thing.
That’s definitely not the case when it comes to playing tourist in Cuba.
From feisty locals chatting on every street corner, to earsplitting salsa music blaring through the streets, here’s five of the most iconic experiences you need to treat yourself to when visiting the charming country.
Vintage car tour
Whether you’re a seasoned travel pro to a holiday rookie, checking out Cuba can be daunting. There’s so much to see and do – and no wifi when you’re on the ground – so how do you know where to book and get started?
After getting stuck in a spiraling black hole of pre-holiday planning (we won’t lie, there may have been a travel spreadsheet involved), it all became too much. Luckily, Be was put in touch with Cuba Holidays who help pull together activities and tours to give you a taste of the city without the organisational nightmare. Cue the huge sigh of relief as we handed ourselves over for a tailor-made itinerary to tick off all the iconic must-dos in Havana – starting with an incredible vintage car tour.
You might have seen them in movies, but nothing can really prepare you for the sight of beautiful old cars cruising through the streets. Locals barely bat an eyelid as these grand old dames, which are often used as communal taxis, cruise the streets. While it’s pretty easy to get around Cuba’s capital Havana on foot, nothing beats sitting in the back of gorgeous old car with the wind in your hair.
Even if you’re not a smoker, there’s something almost charming about Cuba’s affinity with cigars – plus if there’s any where you’re going to try a cigar, it should be here.
At Finca Montesino, a third-generation tobacco producer you get a run through of the process from planting tobacco plants to harvesting, curing and rolling.
Ask nicely and you’ll get one handrolled for you right there and then.
Sunset drinks overlooking El Capitolio
Nothing screams holiday like taking in a sunset with a drink in your hand, so give it a Cuban twist by heading to the rooftop of the iconic Hotel Saratoga and sipping on a mojito.
With views overlooking Fraternity Park and the landmark El Capitolio building, you’ll be able to see why this beautiful colonial-style hotel was Beyonce’s choice when she stayed in Havana.
Check out a salsa club
Salsa lovers, welcome to your spiritual home. Famed for their love of live music and shimmying until the small hours, Cubans are the first to hit the dance floor and the last to head home.
For one of the most iconic salsa experiences, head to the open air dancefloor of Casa de la Musica, located in the quaint historic town of Trinidad.
Boasting live music almost every single night, those with two left feet can head there during the day for a sneaky lesson or two before showing off their skills when the sun goes down.
Tourists might flock to the charmingly captivating urban sprawl of Havana, but those keen to explore a little further afield should head west to the town of Viñales.
Lusciously green and perfect for nature lovers, take in the sweeping landscape of UNESCO World Heritage Site Viñales Valley, before heading to Cueva del Indio, or the Cave of the Indian for a boat trip inside.
Not to be missed: the Mural de la Prehistoria, an enormous 120-metre high mural painted in 1959, featuring of all things, huge snails and dinosaurs.
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