14 Days of Bespoke Luxury Experiences
Havana was once the grande dame of the Caribbean. Now wrecked and aged, she provides warmth and elegance for sybaritic pleasure seekers who soak up the atmosphere of her ochre-hued buildings before heading out in hedonistic fashion for rhythms and rumba, salsa and stars, and the finely blended cocktails of some of the world’s best mixologists. After visiting her museums, engorged with the colonial spoils of yesteryear, walk along the Malecón, Havana’s outdoor sofa, to observe Habaneros at play and in love.
Swap the capital’s salt-tinged air for its tobacco-tinged atmosphere in the green lungs of the island’s western peninsula. From the fields of the Vuelta Abajo region sprout the finest tobacco leaves in the world. Recline by the pool of the Hotel Jazmines while you admire the bucolic scenery of the Viñales Valley – Royal Palms, leaf-drying huts, the scarlet flourish of royal poinsettia and the emerald-green of the growing tobacco plant – unroll around the signature small limestone peaks.
After the rural calm of the small colonial town of Viñales, head for the urbane university city of Santa Clara famed for its connections to the 1959 Revolution. It was here that Che Guevara routed the dictator Batista’s troops by derailing a train. After touring this monument, visit the vast Plaza de la Revolución and the imposing mausoleum of Che Guevara. His remains and those of his fallen comrades in Bolivia are entombed in this peaceful chamber.
North of Santa Clara is the small and somnolent colonial town of Remedios. Its appeal is in its sense of abandonment, a fate that it fought soon after it was founded in the 16th century. Offshore are the sugar-fine sands of a collection of islands and beaches known as Cayo Santa María. From luxury hotels to elegant rustic cabañas, this island hideaway provides a paradise of gin-clear waters, sailboat leisure, and tropical submarine life under the warmth of year-round Caribbean sun. From the north coast, drive through rural Cuba to the southern coastal city of Cienfuegos founded by the French and elegantly erected with classical columns and a handsome plaza dominated by a regal theatre. Take the coastal road to diminutive Trinidad, the country’s colonial prize. Cobblestones and squat houses in mango shades unfold along tranquil streets commanded by churches and bars, restaurants and music venues, and palaces of refined and cultivated treasures.