If you land during a local celebration of some sort you’ll find something very special about being greeted at Havana’s airport by a troupe of dancing girls, clad in sequins and feathers, moving rhythmically to the strains of salsa and handing out glasses of rum punch.
But as you will quickly find out, there’s plenty more of this sort of entertainment to be found on this, the largest of the Caribbean islands. But don’t choose Cuba’s fascinating and bustling capital for a restful holiday. The best plan is to combine a frenetic few days in Havana with a stay at one of the country’s beach resorts such as Varadero or Jibacoa. Virgin Holidays offers multi-destination holidays to Cuba, meaning you won’t even have to do all the planning.
With a long-standing music and dance heritage, the island is a vibrant mix of old and new — just take a look at the Fifties American cars you will see everywhere. The Malecón, Havana’s main promenade, is still the place where local youths and their girlfriends meet to dance and flirt. Ernest Hemingway’s favourite watering holes, El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio, act as magnets for curious tourists and the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where it is said he wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, is still there. It is not very difficult to imagine the grand old man sitting in the corner with his drink in a bid to beat writers’ block.
Start in the Plaza de Armas and take a stroll down the Calle Obispo, Old Havana’s most important thoroughfare, and you can peer into some of the city’s oldest homes, as well as shops which appear to have been left almost unchanged since the 19th century.
Visit the Capitolio, a replica of the US Capitol building in Washington, then go to the back of the building to visit the Partagas Tobacco Factory, the biggest of its kind in Cuba, where more than 200 cigar rollers produce five million cigars a year.
And even if you do not stay there, make a point of visiting the old Hotel Nacional, one of the atmospheric accommodation options offered by Virgin Holidays, which was built in the Thirties and has been one of Havana’s major landmarks ever since.
But there’s much more to Cuba than just Havana. In all there are no fewer than seven wonderful cities, some dating from the 15th century, just waiting to be discovered.
And get out into the countryside — perhaps on the way to one of the island’s top seaside resorts — where you can take a look at the fields of sugar cane and tobacco plantations and start to appreciate Cuba’s rich heritage. And when it’s time to relax on the beach, it doesn’t get much better than those resorts of Varadero and Jibacoa, both close to Havana and both with golden sands, blue sea and a variety of accommodation options. You will find both featured in Virgin Holidays’ programme but book early if you want to get the best deals.
Virgin Holidays expert tip
A sunset in Varadero cannot be missed. Get to the beach around 6-7pm and see the sun turn sea and sky from glistening gold to fiery orange.
Visit virginholidays.co.uk/cuba to book, or find your nearest store.
*This content was commissioned and approved by Virgin Holidays