Cuba – just the name conjures up mystery, magic and exoticism. This sun-soaked Caribbean home of revolutionary spirit remains a must-see: the stop-start relationship with America means plenty of independent soul survives, yet infrastructure is much improved. Cuba’s most common lures are the sandy beaches near Varadero, rum-soaked salsa bars and Havana’s slightly dilapidated colonial grandeur, with cigars, coffee and Che Guevara not far behind. But be sure to explore all the island, from Vinales’ steep hills to the Isle of Youth’s crocodile swamps, and discover a relentlessly friendly, quirky and seductive country.
Personally, I was most seduced by the town of Trinidad. For all Havana’s 1950s Cadillac-sponsored swagger, it is somewhat touristy. Trinidad, however, is just as easy on the eye – its red roofs swathed in forest – but also abuzz with that genuine local vibe. I sank Cacique beers with new amigos, and watched donkeys trot cobblestone streets. Paradise, Cuban-style.