Here are 14 highlights of a beguiling Caribbean nation about to go through a fundamental shift
Wander Old Havana
There are many, many sides to the Cuban capital but it’s the enticing Old Havana (La Habana Vieja), a Unesco World Heritage site, which has the city’s prettiest buildings. And it’s here you should spend most of your time wandering.
For an in-depth itinerary to the city, read our guide to spending a weekend in… Havana
Take a stroll along Havana harbour
The Malecón – the miles-long promenade on the Havana waterfront – was built to protect the city from the water, and is often used by strolling locals. From here, you can see the 17th-century Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro. This castle’s neighbour, the huge 18th-century Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña is the largest fort in Latin America
Drink a mojito in the place where it was invented
La Bodeguita del Medio is one of the best known places to drink in the entire country, partly due its celebrated clientele (past drinkers have included Salvador Allende, Pablo Neruda and Ernest Hemingway), and partly due to its most famous invention, the mojito. James Bond enjoyed one in 2002’s Die Another Day.
Smoke a Cuban cigar
The legendary Cuban cigar looks set to become a lot more commonplace around the world as the geopolitical thaw takes hold. Even non-smokers may be tempted to take a puff in-situ, before the export run begins.
Hotel Conde de Villanueva (Mercaderes, corner of Lamparilla; hotelcondevillanueva.com), with its renowned cigar shop La Casa del Habano (official purveyor of Cuban smokes), is a five-minute walk from the cruise terminal. In February Havana hosts an annual cigar festival (habanos.com).
The beautiful tobacco heartlands of Viñales
Now see where the tobacco is grown. Rent a car and head west down to Viñales valley, Cuba’s most beautiful corner, where striking limestone outcrops rise out of tobacco-growing fields – recommended as a winter-sun destination.
The crumbling, colonial town of Trinidad
This is how Telegraph Travel writer, Ian Henderson, describes the town on the south of the island:
“The town is a UNESCO heritage site for good reason, attracting coachloads of tourists; old houses filled with the finest crystal and porcelain bought with vast profits from sugar and slaves, crumbling frescos and elaborate facades lining narrow cobbled streets.”