Planning a trip to Cuba? Cuba is a magical place, and there are so many wonderful places to visit in Cuba that deciding what to see in Cuba can be tough. Luckily, I have done the research for you! I spent almost a month travelling around Cuba and have picked out the very best places to go in Cuba, so you don’t have to worry about planning your trip. I have created the perfect Cuba Itinerary based on 2 weeks in Cuba, but if you have more or less time in this incredible country you can adjust your Cuba travel itinerary accordingly as I’ve also included ideas for an itinerary for 7 days, 10 days and 3 weeks in Cuba.
How to Travel Around Cuba
Cuba is larger than I thought, and I was surprised at how long it took to travel from place to place. Getting around Cuba is more challenging than in other countries due to the restrictions on tourists using the local forms of transport which are just for Cuban citizens. Options for travelling around Cuba include shared colectivo taxis, train, air, and most usually by bus. For the purposes of this Cuba itinerary, I will assume you are travelling overland, on the Viazul tourist buses.
Viazul buses are designed for tourists to travel in between various places in Cuba, and are relatively comfortable, and air-conditioned. During peak season, it is best to book the tickets in advance if you can, as buses sometimes sell out. You can be book tickets at any of the Viazul bus stations around Cuba, and you used to be able to book online at least 7 days in advance, although the last time I checked the Viazul website wasn’t working. This website tries to keep up to date with the timetables. Check the bus timetables online when you are planning a trip to Cuba, so you have an idea of how long it will take to get to each destination, and when the buses leave. Make sure you leave plenty of time for your journey, as buses often arrive later than scheduled!
Where to Stay in Cuba
When you are travelling in Cuba, the best accommodation options are usually bedrooms rented in people’s homes, known as Casas Particulares. Forget about resorts in Cuba, if you stay at all-inclusive hotels in Cuba you could be anywhere in the world. Staying with local people in their homes is a wonderful way to meet Cubans, and to learn more about life and culture in Cuba. There are some incredible Casas Particulares to choose from, for a whole range of travel budgets. The most basic rooms could cost as little as $15 CUC ($15 USD) per night, or you could pay a lot more for luxurious rooms and whole apartments. Airbnb has plenty of listings for places to stay in Cuba, and if you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
If you are backpacking in Cuba, hostels are still quite rare here. There are some hostels in Havana with dorm beds for less than $6, but outside of Havana, the Casas Particulares are your best bet.
The Best Cuba itinerary for 2 Weeks in Cuba
Two weeks in Cuba is a great length of time to explore the cities, beaches and beautiful nature of Cuba, without rushing around. I have chosen some of the best places to visit in Cuba to enjoy and to get a real feel for the country, away from the resorts and closer to normal Cuban life.
Cuba Itinerary Days 1-3: Havana
Most international flights arrive into Havana, so exploring Havana is a great way to begin your travel to Cuba. Three nights in Havana should be enough time to see some of the highlights of the city and to get into the Cuban way of life.
What to do in Havana
Havana is a city that needs to be explored on foot. Stroll around the old town, admire the crumbling buildings that are still beautiful despite their dilapidated state. Listen to a group of musicians play, find a shady spot to sit and watch the world go by.
Outside of Old Havana, The Plaza de la Revolución has a cool mural of Che Guevara, and take a walk around Centro Havana, with more Cuban life than you can shake a stick out. It feels a world away from the old town, but I loved just seeing people go about their lives, nonplussed about the tourists wandering around. The Capitol Building is impressive from the outside, and you can also take a tour inside as well. There are tobacco factories in Havana too, where you can take tours to see how Cuban cigars are made. The Callejón de Hamel is also worth a visit, for funky street art, and impromptu live music sessions.
There are some excellent museums in the city too, you could check out the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes for art, the Museo de la Ciudad, or the Museo de la Revolución (both closed on Mondays).
Hotel Inglaterra has a great terrace to admire the views, and La Floridita is a mecca for tourists wanting to visit Hemingway’s favourite bar, who are willing to pay the price for a mojito here. If you don’t fancy this, buy a bottle of rum (which will cost you less!) and head to the Malecon for sunset, you are sure to meet some locals to share a drink and some stories.
Top Tip – don’t bother with the open top bus tour, most of the stops are just hotels – you can get around more easily on foot or in a taxi.
Beware of the scammers in Havana though, they are waiting for the fresh-faced tourists who are new in town. No children in Cuba need you to buy milk powder, that is provided by the state, and child malnutrition is practically unheard of. Crime against tourists is rare, although it does happen, the friendly and wily Cubans have many ways to scam you out of a few dollars. It is great to chat with the locals, but just be aware that if you go to a bar with them they’ll expect you to pay for everything, and usually the prices are jacked up as well, so you end up paying much more than you would do if you had stumbled across the place yourself.
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 – Explore the old town, a museum & the Malecon
Day 2 – Hire a classic car, visit another museum & take lots of photos
Day 3 – Centro Havana, Hotel Inglaterra for the views.
Want to take a tour in Havana? Check out these options from GetYourGuide:
Cuba Itinerary Days 4-7: Cienfuegos
Cienfuegos is an underrated city in Cuba, although people still ask if it is worth going to Cienfuegos. In my opinion, most definitely yes!
What to do in Cienfuegos
Granted, there isn’t that much to do in the city itself; the main square is worth a look, and there is a beautiful sunset from Punta Gorda over the ocean. The real bonus of Cienfuegos is what there is to do in the area surrounding the town. Laguna Guanaroca is a gorgeous, peaceful lake where you can take a boat trip to see flamingos and other wildlife on the lake. I loved it here, and would definitely recommend visiting the lake. After Laguna Guanaroca you could go to El Castillo which is an interesting fort built to protect the city from pirates in the bay. The following day, another trip I highly recommend is to El Nicho, a series of stunning waterfalls and natural pools to swim in – you can even take a bottle of rum to drink as you chill out in the water!
From Cienfuegos you can also take a day trip to Santa Clara to see the Che Guevara memorial.
Day by Day Itinerary:
Day 4 – travel to Cienfuegos. Explore the town.
Day 5 – Laguna Guanaroca and El Castillo
Day 6 – El Nicho
Day 7 – Day trip to Santa Clara
Cuba Itinerary Days 8-11: Trinidad
Leave Havana on the morning of the fourth day to travel to Trinidad. Trinidad is one of the best places to see in Cuba as it is simply beautiful. Much smaller, and less hectic than Havana, Trinidad is very popular with tourists, so it can get busy, but it still manages to retain its small-town charm.
What to Do in Trinidad
First of all, walk around this gorgeous town and admire the colourful buildings. The Lonely Planet Guide to Cuba has a great scenic walk around Trinidad and suggests where you can take the best photographs, and with the beautiful architecture and Cuban life continuing around you, you’ll have no trouble finding some fab Instagram spots. The Belltower in the Municipal History Museum close to the main square has the best views of Trinidad and is more than worth the $2 CUC entry fee.
The nightlife in Trinidad is buzzing, and crowds gather around the Casa de la Musica which has live performances at the weekend. You can stay on the steps to listen, or pay a $1 CUC entrance fee to see the stage and dance up there, so practice your salsa! The most popular nightclub in town is in a cave. Yes, a cave. Las Ayalas, more commonly known as La Cueva is a walk uphill from the main square and is popular with tourists and locals alike.
There are plenty of day trips from Trinidad too, the most popular being a beach day at Playa Ancon. However, I preferred the smaller, quieter Playa Maria Aguilar. Another popular excursion from Trinidad is a horse-back riding trip to a waterfall, and a fun stop at a cigar and coffee hut along the way.
Day by Day Itinerary:
Day 8 – travel to Trinidad, explore the town. Enjoy the nightlife.
Day 9 – beach day (and hangover recovery!)
Day 10 – Horse riding excursion, do the photo walk in Trinidad
Day 11 – Bus to Viñales via Havana, or colectivo taxi to Viñales
Cuba Itinerary Days 12-14: Viñales
Viñales is my favourite place in Cuba. A small town, surrounded by tobacco fields and strange rock formations known as mogotes.
What to do in Viñales
Viñales is a welcome respite from the hectic cities. Here you can get close to nature, hiking, climbing and horseback riding to your heart’s content. The sunset walking tour arranged by Villa Reyes is magical, our guide was friendly and informative, and we watched the sunset at a tobacco farm with a mojito in hand. What more could you want? Perhaps a horseback riding tour of the same, which is also possible here!
Hiking to Los Aquaticos, a small community of people who believe in the healing power of water is a good hike, with wonderful views of the valley, and would be interesting to learn about the culture of Los Aquaticos if you manage to find the community. You can also cycle around Viñales to see the Mural de la Prehistoria, a huge colourful painting on the side of a mogote. Speaking of mogotes, if you are a rock climber, Viñales is the best place in Cuba to climb.
If you need some beach time before returning home, then you can take a day trip to one of the Cayos on the coast, Cayo Jutías or Cayo Levisa.
Day by Day Itinerary:
Day 12 – Explore Viñales, take the evening sunset tour
Day 13 – Hike to Los Aquaticos or horse-riding excursion, visit el Mural de la Prehistoria.
Day 14 – Beach day
Variations to this Two-Week Cuba Itinerary
You may wonder why I didn’t include Varadero in this Cuba two-week itinerary. If you like all-inclusive beach resorts, then, of course, spend a couple of days in Varadero soaking up some sun. I didn’t include it in my itinerary as Varadero is very touristy, and about as far away from the real Cuba that you can get. I prefer to suggest more cultural places to visit, and there are beaches to enjoy in Trinidad & Viñales, but if you are looking for a beach holiday in Cuba, then Varadero is for you.
Nature lovers might prefer to squeeze in a visit to Baracoa on the southern tip of Cuba, which is renowned for its beautiful countryside, and unique cuisine – including chocolate which is grown in the region.
If you prefer to travel slowly, just choose two or three of these suggestions for where to visit in Cuba and enjoy exploring each place for longer.
If you prefer to fit more in, then reduce the time you spend in each place and pick other places to visit in Cuba from the three-week itinerary below. You could visit Varadero, or take a flight down to Santiago de Cuba or Baracoa and travel back up to Havana via Trinidad and Cienfuegos. However, be wary about squeezing too much in with just 2 weeks in Cuba, as sometimes the best of Cuba is just relaxing with a mojito and a cigar, and watching the world go by.
Cuba itinerary 7 days
If you only have one week in Cuba, then this 7 days in Cuba itinerary is for you. With a week in Cuba, it is possible to see a combination of culture, beaches and beautiful lush valleys. For me, Havana, Viñales and Trinidad are the absolute essentials for 7 days in Cuba. Pick out your favourite activities from the 2 week Cuba itinerary and adjust the schedule to suit your needs.
Just a Short Trip to Cuba?
If you have even less time, and only managed to get 3 days in Cuba, then stay in Havana. With only three days there isn’t enough time to travel around Cuba, instead, concentrate on Havana as there are more than enough things to do in Havana for anyone to be satisfied! A day trip to Viñales could be possible although it is an expensive way to travel.
Cuba Itinerary 10 days
With 10 days in Cuba, simply pick out the best of the 2-week itinerary and skip some things you don’t fancy, or spend a night less in each stop to make sure you can visit everything. However, when you are thinking about where to go in Cuba, don’t rush things – you want to be able to enjoy everything you do here.
Cuba Itinerary 3 weeks
If you are lucky enough to have 3 weeks in Cuba or even longer, you can expand your Cuba trip itinerary to include more of the southern part of the island. Tourist cards are issued for up to 30 days (and can be extended), so if you have the time then enjoy!
In an extension of the 2 week Cuba itinerary, after spending a couple of days in Havana take a flight to Santiago de Cuba to explore and get a taste of Caribbean flavours (and rum!) away from Havana’s influence.
Don’t miss Baracoa for its unique cuisine, chocolate and stunning coastline. The Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is also one of the best places to visit in Cuba and one of the most biologically diverse tropical island sites on earth, according to UNESCO.
Work your way back north, calling at the distinctly un-touristy Holguín for a growing food scene and a Cuba that really is off the beaten track. Camagüey is another wonderful place to visit, as its narrow streets create a labyrinth that was designed to foil pirates like the famous Henry Morgan. From here you can make your way up to Trinidad, stopping off at Sancti Spiritus if you want to break the journey and spend the rest of your two weeks in Cuba following the above 2 week itinerary.
You may also like these Cuba posts:
Or click here to read all of my Cuba blog posts.
If you would like more information on the best places in Cuba, check out these Cuba travel guides on Amazon:
Products from Amazon.com
Price: $8.99Was: $13.99
Price: $10.55Was: $21.99
Price: Check on Amazon
Price: Check on Amazon
Phew! I hope you enjoyed this epic post to help plan your perfect Cuba itinerary. If you have any feedback please feel free to share it in the comments below – have I missed something? Did I include something you would skip? Let me know!
Like this post? Pin it to read later:
Just to let you know, this post may contain paid or affiliate links, which help to maintain Tales of a Backpacker and give me the chance to keep travelling, and to keep creating awesome content for you!
Tales of a Backpacker is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: December 29, 2019