Cigars, Caddies and Che
Cuba is one of the world’s most distinctive countries. Thumb-thick cigars, Ernest Hemingway, rum, salsa, Che Guevara in his black beret, and Cadillacs that sag on their suspension in the streets are just a few of the icons of this emblematic place.
The City of Columns
Cuba’s capital, Havana, is an all-consuming city. It’s possible to lose days in the historical Habana Vieja part of town, alone. The cathedral here has been described as ‘music set in stone’ and, just a few steps away, you’ll find the Bodeguita del Medio, where Hemingway and Nat King Cole used to drink.
Two hours’ drive east of Havana, there’s Varadero. The first tourists arrived in this beach resort in 1870, so it’s had more than a century to fine tune its offerings. And it shows. Most of the hotels here fall into the 4 or 5-star categories, and their extra-mile attitude has rubbed off on other services in the area. Don’t be surprised to find candle-lit restaurants in caves, and cocktail bars overlooking the sea.
Guardalavaca is Varadero’s counterpart in the east. There are 20 kilometres’ worth of beaches here, all with bleached white sand and waters in every shade of blue. Green is a big part of the region’s colour-coding, too. The Mensura National Park is fleeced with rainforests, waterfalls and hiking trails.
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Guardalavaca, on Cuba’s north-east coast, is a quintessential Caribbean paradise with a touch of faded colonial splendour. Surrounded by green rolling hills and fields of sugar cane, this one-time fishing village is brimming with rusting Cadillacs, cigar shops, and pastel-coloured buildings running parallel to a movie-set beach.
Varadero has a lot going for it. Jutting into the Atlantic Ocean on the north coast of Cuba, the resort comes with a fantastic 20 kilometres of white sandy beach. The country’s elite built extravagant mansions here back in the Thirties, so they’ve always been onto a good thing, but since the hotels joined them this place has become Cuba’s Number 1 beach resort. Oh, and it has the island’s only 18-hole golf course – with seaside views, of course.
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