Friday, October 14, 2016

Cuba Beyond Havana

Cuba Beyond Havana
Janice Schacter Lintz , CONTRIBUTOR

The joys of traveling smart, eating well, and exploring the world.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Havana has become 'THE' place to visit for travelers to Cuba. But leave
the city, to see Cuba's countryside with beautiful landscapes and
magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some of my favorite
destinations are:

Drink and learn about Cuba's coffee history at the 19th century
Buenavista Coffee plantation in the Complejo Las Terrazas's eco-village.
It's about an hour outside Havana, in the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere
Reserve in Candelaria. Afterward, stop by Lester Campa's workshop
(email: to see his politically provocative
paintings and prints.

Drive about two hours toward Viñales Valley but stop at Finca
Agroecologica El Paraiso Carretera (Al Cementerio KM 1 1/2, Vinales Tel:
+58188581), an organic farm and the perfect place to unwind and relax
after a long day. Enjoy drinks and dinner on the terrace while watching
the sunset over the limestone mogotes for a picture-perfect vista.

Visit Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site which is two to two
and half hours outside Havana but just a few minutes from the organic
farm. The jaw-dropping Valley is known worldwide for its exceptional
tobacco leaves. See how tobacco is cultivated, harvested and dried in
wooden outhouses at Alejandro Robaina Tobacco Plantation. (Tel:
+5348797470) The workers hand roll and cut the dried leaves into some of
the world's finest cigars.

Lorne Resnick, an award-winning photographer who recently published,
Cuba, This Moment, Exactly So, recommends visiting the compact town of
Viñales with its small bars, restaurants and shops. Spontaneous dance
parties break out in the middle of the street.

Snorkel at Cueva de los Peces with its simple but unfussy beaches. The
underwater caves ensure amazing snorkeling. The decent into the water is
rocky so wear water shoes prior to slipping into snorkel fins. Snorkel
equipment was available for rent at the beach when I visited.

The nearby Restaurante Ismary (Tel: +53689757) serves overflowing
platters of freshly caught crocodile, crab and lobster for a decadent meal.

Wander through Trinidad, the well-preserved colonial and UNESCO World
Heritage site. The colorful homes make this walkable town irresistible.
Visit the Museo Romantic (52 Calle Cristo, Trinidad Tel: +53 41 94363)
which is housed in a former wealthy, sugar mill owner's colonial home.
Guided tours are offered.

Stop at Casa Templo de Santería Yemayá (Calle Real del Jigüe, Trinidad)
to learn about the Afro-Cuban Santería religion that was brought to Cuba
by former slaves. Along the way, drop in a bodega to see how necessities
are still rationed in Cuba. Each month, residents present their booklets
to receive their family's allotment.

Take a break from the heat and listen to music at the touristy but
classic Taberna la Canchánchara (90 Calle Real del Jigüe, Trinidad)
which serves its namesake alcoholic beverage. The local specialty is a
mix of rum with lime juice and honey for a very sweet drink.

At night, Plaza Mayor, the large courtyard in the center of town
adjacent to Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad (Calle Cristo, Trinidad)
becomes an alfresco party replete with waiters serving pineapples filled
with piña coladas to the hordes of people sitting on the steps.

Trinidad's paladares restaurant don't disappoint but reservations are
definitely necessary with the influx of tourism. Quince Catorce or
Restaurante Museo 1514 (515 Calle Desengaño, Trinidad email: Tel: +5341994255) is a combination of a museum
and restaurant. The tables are laden with china and crystal from nearby
former family estates. The restaurant exudes elegance without being too
fussy. This is of course Cuba, so the music plays and people dance
between tables. The restaurant's specialties include obscene portions of
shrimp and lobster.

Paladar Sol Ananda (45 Calle Real del Jigüe, Trinidad Tel: +5341998281)
is another family owned restaurant that reminds you it's a home by
having beds in the dining rooms. The restaurant with its eclectic Cuban
style food and roving musicians, seems odd at first but by dinner's end,
it seems perfectly normal. Lorne Resnick recommends investigating the
wine cellar downstairs in one of the bedrooms.

Hike the nearby Topes de Collantes park. (Circuito Sur) The trail is
about a 45-minute hike each way and can be a bit steep at points. The
natural swimming hole was really crowded when we arrived. Hike a bit
further down the path and alternatively, cool off in the Salto del
Caburní waterfall. Standing under the cascading water was utter bliss.

Source: Cuba Beyond Havana -
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