SANTIAGO DE CUBA
Now that Castro is dead, perhaps things will take a turn for the better in Cuba, repressed and messed up for what seems like 100 years.
There are many great reasons to go, provided you can cope with the black market, the two currencies (such a slap in tourists’ faces), and the desperation facing a lot of the citizenry. The island has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than any other Caribbean nation.
The beaches are stunning. The art and music are both exceptional, and the colonial architecture will charm the pants off everyone – and not just in Havanna.
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s second largest city founded in 1515, has been pushed and pulled by Spanish, African, French, Haitian and Antillen influences. It is a cultural hub, home to many artists, musicians and writers. The fortress of Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, built in 1700 and restored in the 1960s, overlooks the bay just a few miles southwest of the city.
Trinidad is one of the oldest European Cuban settlements, a UNESCO Heritage Site and architectural gem best known for its churches and museums. The centre of town is very well-preserved. Trinidad’s province, Sancti Spiritus, is great for nature-lovers and outdoor exploration. Nearby Topes de Collantes is a nature reserve park known for its hiking, waterfalls, spa mud baths, and postcard vistas. And Caguanes National Park on the northern coast is a haven for more than 200 species of birds.