Cuba Itinerary – a fascinating 12 day round trip

The Cuba itinerary with all the highlights for your trip to Cuba! The Caribbean vibes are here in overload and will make you want to cancel your return ticket without a doubt. Cuba is the island we would like to visit more often. Are you ready to dance, discover a unique country or taste some rum? Then Cuba is also the place for you! But let’s not forget about the rich history and captivating culture that will make you want to understand and explore more. Ready for some Cuba fun facts? How to travel in Cuba? What to do in Cuba, and the must do 12 day Cuba itinerary? Get ready and fall in love with Cuba!

We will cover the following topics in this Cuba travel guide to make sure you do not miss out on anything:

  • 3 Cuba fun facts
  • Transport in Cuba
  • Where to stay in Cuba?
  • Road trip; 12 day Cuba itinerary

COMING SOON: Cuba history & fun facts and detailed travel tips. Make sure to subscribe to our blog, in the right menu, to not miss any update.

Cuba Itinerary on a map

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3 Cuba fun facts

Are you ready to visit Cuba? Let’s be real, When you travel in Cuba you will quickly notice that it is an intriguing country with an impressive story to tell. Before we provide you the travel guide to Cuba, we would like to kick off with 3 Cuba fun facts that we are sure will be new to many of you. Soon we will provide more fun facts in a new blog post. Let us know in the comments below if you ever guessed these facts.

  1. WIFI points: you might wonder why in some spots you see big groups of people together. There will be only one answer; generally an Internet hotspot! There are about 1,400 around the country. Cuba did not have internet for years and only since 2015 in public and 2019 access into people’s homes (but expensive). This is absolutely perfect for a tourist to completely disconnect and enjoy the beauty around.
  2. Hitchhikers: surely you will notice many hitchhikers on the highways. And they won’t wait for nothing, government vehicles are legally required to pick up any hitchhikers.
  3. Free Education and Medical care: for Cuban citizens only. Nonetheless, do not underestimate the level of education and medical care. Medical support is one of the biggest export products of the country; more than 30.000 doctors work in healthcare missions around the world. In 2019, more than 97 thousand doctors worked in Cuba (5.91 per 1,000 people, 3 times more than in the USA).

Transport in Cuba

Soon we will provide more information and travel tips, for now, a short summary of transport for this Itinerary for Cuba. Public transport will not be an option for a tourist in Cuba in general as this is for locals only. Luckily there are other options to travel around because a road trip is a must on this magnificent island, especially when backpacking in Cuba. The two options we recommend here are:

  1. Taxi Colectivo: travel in Cuba with a shared taxi which will be cheaper to share the costs. It is a very popular way of travelling and easy to do. We saw some fun groups on the road having a great experience.
  2. Viazul bus: the transportation we preferred and bringing you to all the best places to visit in Cuba. Compared to the taxi you will enjoy big touring car busses drive all around the island between the touristic destinations. You can book online or at the offices close to local stations.

But how do you book either of these? Locals! Online is not always an option or very limited at present time. Mostly you will need to go and visit an office on location to get your bus seat. Certainly, many locals are happy to help out or ask help from the family of your Casa Particulares.

Where to stay in Cuba during your Cuba trip?

‘Casa Particulares’ are the most wanted places to rest your head on a pillow during your trips to Cuba. A great Cuba backpacking experience! Yes staying at peoples homes, unique and making a real connection with the locals. I feel so happy and grateful for thinking back of the Cubans with their incredible hospitality and interesting conversations. Never will you hear from us on this topic to stay in hotels in Cuba except if in a resort area like Varadero.

Also here, online booking is very limited. We however did arrange first nights in Havana through a contact on Facebook. When you travel from place to place your current family will help and always recommend a casa Particulares in the next destination.

Road trip; 12 day Cuba itinerary

Day 1-3: colourful Havana

The city where Cuba is alive in all shapes, forms and especially colours! Do you wonder where to go in Cuba? Visiting Havana is a must! Getting out of the taxi in the city centre for my casa particulares I knew it; this place will wrap its arms around me and capture me for a lifetime! And that came true when hearing the music on the streets, seeing people dancing and oldtimer cars passing by from all sides. Check out our blogpost dedicated to Havana: 15 things to do in Havana that you will love

  • Day 1: On the first day the afternoon was to take it easy after a long flight. Walked around a bit, sat on the main square (Parque Central) to observe the vibrant surroundings and found a perfect rooftop bar for the one and only; Cuba Mojitos! The rooftop bar visited was Ambos Mundos Rooftop Bar, with beautiful views over the old Havana and one of the favourite places of Ernest Hemingway, a famous writer.
  • Day 2: old Havana here we come! First, we want to understand the country and the culture, often possible by knowing history. No better place than “Museum of the revolution” to learn all about Castro, Che and the revolution. The building still has bullet holes of an attack and you can see many items and vehicles used, just like to boat used by Castro and Che to arrive in Cuba. After this we went to several places in old Havana like: Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas, Cathedral de San Cristobal, Castillo de la Real Fuerza, Plaza de San Francisco,  El Capitolio (Capitol building), Calle Obispo (famous street) and in the evening Cuban tradition was served, in “Buena Vista Social Night”. Another famous show is “Tropicana”.
  • Day 3: walking the 7km long boulevard Malécon while dreaming of Havana and feeling sad to leave this magical place already. A famous sight at the end of the walk is Hotel Nacional, with a great history of welcoming famous people and gangster/mafia history. With this walk, you will discover a different Havana, the non-touristic one. Especially walking back through the “inside streets”. In the afternoon it’s time to take the bus to Viñales!

Drive: Havana > Viñales, good to keep a minimum of 3 hours in mind.

Day 4-5: all green in Viñales & tropical in Cayo Levisa

You will enter a new province named Pinar del Rio and stay for both days in a homestay in Viñales. Here you will see a beautiful nature with a lot of greens and wonderful views. It is also an agricultural area where you can taste the very most wanted Cuban cigars in one of the many tobacco plantations.

  • Day 4: first it is time for some beachtime on the island Cayo Levisa. Getting here we had a private driver who took us to the boat in Palma Rubia. From here on it is very easy. What to do here all day? Relax in one of the few accommodations here with beach time, delicious seafood, palmtrees and water activities like snorkeling in one of the bluest waters and prettiest coral reefs.
  • Day 5: there are several options for this day but best would be to do a tour (in group or on your own with the hop on hop off bus) to Valle de Viñales with a beautiful viewpoint near ‘Hotel Los Jazmines’ and national monument in Cuba. Many limestone hills surround the area. It is such a peaceful area where you can go back to basics. Most fun is to visit the UNESCO world heritage site with a guided tour to get the most information and for translation, especially when visiting a Tabaco farm or coffee plantation. Want to do it in a special way? Many tours are horseback riding tours!
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Day 6-8: salsa & outdoor activities in Trinidad

We are going to a place in this Cuba itinerary that exceeded all expectations and where we would easily stay a few days longer, Trinidad – salsa heaven! During these days you will stay in the same accommodation in Trinidad.

  • Day 6: a long drive from Viñales to Trinidad. Extra tip: you could include an extra stop in Cienfuegos. We only did a short break of 2 hours in this city while travelling from Viñales to Trinidad. It is worth a longer visit including a visit to the Bay of Pigs. Once arrived it’s time to explore the colonial town and have the first salsa experience at the main square: Plaza Mayor. All locals will show their moves on the open-air dancefloor.
  • Day 7: that first evening probably gave you incredible energy to experience more of this place. Enjoy getting lost in the streets with colourful colonial buildings, many old-timers cars and incredibly friendly people. Your camera will probably be used a lot today! Enjoy the shops and museums around the main square. Trinidad is also perfect to work on your Spanish skills with a class. Make sure to keep the evening free for a salsa class! Locals can recommend you to many places. Don’t be shy, everyone loves to teach you the moves.
  • Day 8: on this day we went for a horseback riding trip into the lush green area with stops at a sugarcane factory incl. lunch, panoramic views and a visit and swim in a waterfall. Other activities you could do here are a bike tour, visit Playa Ancon for a swim or dive or visit Mirador de La Loma del Puerto with the well known Manaca Iznage tower.

Drive: Viñales > Trinidad, good to keep a minimum of 7 hours in mind.

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Day 9-12: beachtime in Varadero

If you would like to visit Varadero really depends on your own interest; is resort life your thing or not? Varadero is one big area that, in our opinion, does not show the ‘real Cuba’ and is purely functional as tourist area. We do love some relax time after a roundtrip and before returning to work so included it in our trip. If you are not interested you could better extend your time in one of the other places, or include the stop to Cienfuegos as mentioned earlier.

  • Day 9: time to hit the road again for about half a day. Once arrived it is time to relax!
  • Day 10: beach time! Enjoying the all-inclusive options?
  • Day 11: beach time! Or would you like to do leave the resort? From Varadero, you can do several trips which are mostly water activities like kite surf, scuba diving or boat trips.
  • Day 12: it is time to leave this beautiful island. Another last drive will take place from Varadero to Havana. Another option is to depart from the airport around the corner, Varadero itself!

Drive: Trinidad > Varadero, good to keep a minimum of 5 hours in mind.

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Ready to salsa during this must do 12 day Cuba itinerary? Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

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