It’s the same everywhere in the world. Tourists converge on “must-see” attractions. These sites, monuments and museums certainly deserve to be seen, the proof being that they’re always crowded. On the other hand, there are other sites that are less well known and outside the typical tourist circuit, and yet just as fascinating.
Hands down, this is one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful cities. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982, Old Havana has since been restoring its fortifications, plazas and facades of ancient Spanish colonial homes, which have been converted into boutique hotels, restaurants, shops and art galleries. Take a good look at the neighborhood’s many different architectural styles. And here’s a tip: you can explore the city by Hop-On, Hop-Off bus, but it’s actually a lot more fun to do it from a pink convertible 1958 Cadillac. Not too far from the Capitolio, you’ll find gorgeous, vintage racing cars whose drivers ask for nothing more than to show you Havana’s beautiful attractions.
And just over here you’ll find the playa, a long ribbon of sand that stretches for almost 20 kilometres. Of course, you can catch some rays in lots of different places in Varadero. Golfers can enjoy a game at the course that runs along Xanadú Mansion. The kids will love a stroll through Retiro Josone Park, where stretches of water attract entire colonies of birds. Casa de Al, a house built for Al Capone in 1920, has been converted into a restaurant and is always worth a visit. Finally, another site you’re going to want to check out is the pretty municipal museum, which tells the story of this seaside resort.
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It’s remarkably easy to find traces of Ernesto Rafael Guevara, a.k.a. Che, anywhere you go in Cuba. The history of the country is tightly linked to this iconic Latin American figure who, for many Cubans, represents the ideal of freedom. Born in Argentina, Che’s life ended in Bolivia, but Fidel Castro’s closest ideological companion lives on in Cuba.
This national park contains the country’s highest peaks. Diehard Che fans will want to head into the forest from Alto de Naranjo to visit the Comandancia de la Plata, Fidel Castro’s 1950s headquarters from which Che broadcast his radio messages to the revolutionaries.
The Conjunto Escultórico Memorial Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara in Santa Clara, capital of Santa Clara province, was the site of a decisive battle in the revolution. The monument depicts Che’s epic life and includes a museum that houses his personal effects. A mausoleum contains his remains, which were repatriated at the end of the 1990s. Nearby, the Tren Blindado monument shows the train cars and the bulldozer that helped derail the convoy that was en route to deliver arms to the soldiers of then–political leader Fulgencio Batista in 1958. It was the incident that finally brought the dictator’s reign to an end.
Cover photo credits: Bryan Ledgard