There’s no higher method to get a neighborhood perspective on life in Cuba than behind the wheel of a automobile.
Although Cuba’s roads – even the highways – could be in unhealthy situation and signage for drivers is scarce, the open highway will open your coronary heart to an island full of wonders. From a one-day drive out of Havana to idyllic Viñales to the final word two-week grand tour of the entire island, right here are seven of one of the best scenic highway journeys throughout Cuba.
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1. On the highway by way of western Cuba
Finest highway journey for quintessential Cuba
Havana–Viñales; 148km (115 miles)
There are a lot day-trip choices in case you’re spending a while in Havana, however in case you solely have every week or much less on the island, this journey to Viñales is a must-do to find the quintessential Cuba. Secluded pure reservoirs, homegrown native meals and world-class tobacco plantations await, all underneath three hours from the Capitolio Nacional.
Go away within the morning, taking the A4 west, and sip your first espresso on the eco-village of Las Terrazas. Go on for a number of kilometers to admire the nonetheless lake at El Palmar whereas chatting with locals. Again on the highway, drive 18km (11 miles) west till you attain the waterfall in Soroa, then loop to the north earlier than rejoining the A4. When the soil will get redder and triangle-roofed thatched homes begin to seem on the roadside, take a proper on the exit in Ovas – and put together to be amazed by Viñales Valley. Cease on the Mirador del Valle for the photographs of the mogote rock formations in all their splendor.
Planning tip: Save a few days to drive round Viñales at a slower tempo, making time to go mountaineering, biking and exploring its caves.
Set a sluggish tempo to your Cuban highway journey to actually savor your experiences © Gary John Norman / Getty Photos
2. Solar-and-sand highway journey
Finest highway journey for sandy seashores
Havana–Varadero; 140km (90 miles)
Havana’s favourite seashores unfold alongside the shoreline of Habana del Este and northwestern Matanzas Province, and Varadero’s gorgeous 20km-long strip of talc-white sandy seashores are an excellent venue for a number of days’ R&R.
Simply 20km (12 miles) east of Havana’s heart, the Playas del Este – together with Bacuranao, Tarará, Bocaciega, Mégano and Santa María – enable for a full day of rest and sunbathing. Proceed on the By way of Blanca freeway to get pleasure from lesser-visited coves at Canasí and the fittingly named Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port), the place you’ll discover a few of the finest snorkeling close to Havana. There’s greenery aplenty as you traverse the flatlands of Llanura Habana–Matanzas earlier than reaching the bay at Matanzas and eventually the Varadero peninsula. Cease to soak up the view from Mirador de Bacunayagua, at Cuba’s longest and highest bridge.
3. Villa Clara causeway coast jaunt
Finest highway journey for coastal surroundings
Santa Clara–Cayo Santa María; 116 km (70 miles)
This highway journey connects Villa Clara Province’s historic landmarks with the very good coastal surroundings of the northern keys, cruising by a picturesque colonial city courting from 1515 and alongside a 48km (30-mile) causeway.
Begin at Che Guevara’s mausoleum in Santa Clara, stopping on the huge sq. guarded by a bronze statue of El Guerrillero. Subsequent, drive north to the small fishing “capital” of Caibarién – it’s arduous to overlook the large crab sculpture on the city’s entrance. Farther north, park close to Remedios’ central sq. and benefit from the slow-paced great thing about native folks chatting exterior restored colonial mansions – a stark distinction with the luxurious all-inclusive resorts of the keys that lie 60km (37 miles) forward. A few of Cuba’s most spectacular seashores punctuate Cayo Las Brujas, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Santa María, lower than an hour from the mainland on a winding causeway.
Linger a day or extra within the frozen-in-time colonial city of Trinidad © Manuel Romano / Getty Photos
4. Circuito Sur
Finest highway journey for coastal surroundings and colonial villages
Cienfuegos–Sancti Spíritus; 153km (95 miles)
This drive between Cienfuegos and Sancti Spíritus passes alongside the Circuito Sur freeway with the southern shoreline on one facet and the dense vegetation of Sierra del Escambray’s mountain vary on the opposite. Alongside the best way, you’ll go to small, practically abandoned seaside coves, verdant mountains and the Unesco World Heritage–listed Valle de Los Ingenios.
After leaving Cienfuegos’s metropolis heart, take the Circunvalación onto the Circuito Sur and wind your manner southeast. The situation of the two-lane highway will guarantee a leisurely tempo: be careful for potholes, bicycles, mopeds and pedestrians on the tarmac. After passing Playa El Inglés, make a pit cease at pebbled Playa Yaguanabo, which has beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea. Drive on for an additional 25km (16 miles) earlier than reaching the stuck-in-time colonial city of Trinidad. Spend time right here strolling its cobbled streets and visiting its Nineteenth-century mansions by day, and dancing to salsa beats after darkish.
Again on the highway, proceed to the seaside strip at Peninsula Ancón earlier than heading to Sancti Spíritus, considered one of Cuba’s first colonial villages (based 1514). On the best way, cease within the Valle de Los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills) to witness its ruins of dozens of Nineteenth-century sugar mills and slave quarters.
5. A drive on the wild facet
Finest highway journey for wildlife watching
Havana–Playa Girón; 215km (130 miles)
This highway journey winds by way of the core and alongside the pristine shoreline of the majestic Ciénaga de Zapata, the Caribbean’s largest wetlands. Departing from Havana, take the Autopista Nacional (A1) for an hour and a half earlier than taking a proper at Entronque de Jagüey Grande. Stretch your legs on the guests’ heart in Boca de Guamá, the place the little ones will get pleasure from a go to to the crocodile farm, the hummingbird feeding challenge or a ship journey to Laguna del Tesoro. Proceed south and also you’ll encounter a cenote, snorkeling websites, bird-watching trails, and seaside villages with useful native folks and a few of the finest seafood in Cuba.
Planning tip: The cities of Playa Larga and Playa Girón make nice bases for exploring the world or diving within the wonderful websites simply offshore. Casas particulares (non-public homestays) are your finest wager for lodging right here.
The winding curves and steep drop-offs of La Farola aren’t for the fainthearted © Alexandre G. ROSA / Shutterstock
6. Easternmost Cuba discovery
Finest highway journey for numerous landscapes
Santiago de Cuba–Baracoa; 226km (140 miles)
Essentially the most easterly area of Cuba provides quintessential landscapes of rugged mountains, zigzagging roads and epic shoreline. La Farola, which traverses Guantánamo’s part of the Sierra Maestra for 40km (25 miles), is considered one of Cuba’s signature driving routes – but it surely’s not for the fainthearted. Count on slim curves and precipitous inclines.
From Santiago de Cuba, comply with the Autopista Nacional (A1) north for about 12km (7 miles) after which take the primary proper flip for the Carretera Central towards Guantánamo metropolis. After a fast glimpse of the Cuban facet of Guantánamo – with its small buying boulevard and dusty Parque Martí – proceed southeast for a visit alongside the southern coast. Count on a cacti-dotted semi-desert area with ocean-sprayed rocky terraces, stone seashores and intermittent riverside oases.
Simply 16km (10 miles) after Imías, flip left towards the zigzagging La Farola highway. This drive takes in lush forests and impossibly winding curves as much as Baracoa. This city – courting to 1505, it was the primary Spanish settlement on Cuba – was reduce off from the remainder of Cuba till La Farola was constructed within the Sixties. Because of wealthy native traditions, scenic vistas and endemic wildlife, a go to to Baracoa feels practically like a visit to a unique nation.
7. The complete west-to-east route
Finest highway journey for a Cuba grand tour
Havana–Baracoa; 1094km (679 miles)
This grand tour crosses nearly all of Cuba in a single, epic highway journey, beginning in Havana’s hectic streets and ending at Baracoa on the island’s easternmost tip. Enable loads of time to cease in provincial capitals for a style of native life in these beloved cities.
You will drive by way of the flatlands of Occidente (western Cuba to Villa Clara) to the mountainous landscapes of Oriente (japanese Cuba from Camagüey onward). Important stops embrace French-inspired Cienfuegos, historic Trinidad, cultural Santa Clara, maze-like Camagüey and picturesque Bayamo. Alongside the best way, you’ll enter the humid and scorching area of Santiago and Guantánamo, with its mountainous Sierra Maestra and landmarks related to the well-known Fifties guerrillas.
Planning tip: In every place, take time to speak with Cubans; at a minimal, asking for instructions shall be a necessity as signage is almost nonexistent on most roads. The extra you work together with locals, the extra you’ll uncover the quirky corners and secluded pure wonders that make up the guts of Cuba.
Wherever you drive in Cuba, take a sluggish tempo and count on to share the highway © Mark Learn / Lonely Planet
Ideas for driving in Cuba
Roads in Cuba are normally in poor situation, with many potholes and few highway indicators. Count on a sluggish tempo on any highway journey. Cuba is arguably higher explored with a guide-driver so that you could give attention to the surroundings as an alternative of the highway itself. When renting a automobile, make sure that to e book forward; moreover, it is strongly recommended to pay a “guardian” – often called parqueador – to observe the automobile at night time. As road lights are scarce in all places, together with main cities, rely on avoiding the highway after darkish.
Cuba’s ubiquitous traditional American vehicles function as taxis, and these can solely be rented with drivers included – normally for rides inside metropolis limits, although often for inter-city transfers. Many drivers provide day journeys from Havana.