For an island smaller in size than the state of Pennsylvania, Cuba looms large on the world heritage stage with nine UNESCO-designated sites—more than Egypt, Vietnam, or all of Indonesia. Fortunately for Zegrahm travelers, we visit more than half of them on upcoming excursions to the Caribbean nation.
The city’s entire old center, as well as its fortifications, was named to the list for its mix of Baroque and neoclassical structures, adorned with wrought-iron balconies and gates, and connected by inner courtyards and arcades. Founded in the early 1500s and seemingly frozen in time since the mid-20th century, Havana’s Cathedral, Grand Theater, stately palaces, large plazas, and streets lined with classic “Yank Tanks” makes Cuba’s capital a must for every world traveler.
Trinidad and the Valley of the Sugar Mills
Guitar-strumming troubadours still roam the cobblestoned streets of this red tile-roofed colonial town, where 18th- and 19th-century mansions and monuments reflect its former glory from the sugar trade. The adjacent Valle de los Ingenios encompasses more than 70 former sugar plantations, many with still-intact factory mills.
San Pedro de la Roca Castle
Set on a rocky promontory overlooking Santiago de Cuba Bay, this massive fortress was built in 1638 to protect Cuba’s second-largest city. The entire complex was granted UNESCO status as “the most complete, best-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture.”
With its dramatic karst landscape dotted by limestone outcroppings that rise up to 1,000 feet, this fertile valley in western Cuba is a veritable living-museum of traditional farming methods, most notably in its tobacco fields. The region’s flourishing music and crafts reflect its rich multi-cultural society; caves along the outskirts contain important rock art.
Founded by French settlers in 1819, Cienfuegos is another important city built from sugar cane and tobacco fortunes. Dubbed the “Pearl of the South,” it features a number of neoclassical gems including the Spanish-Moorish Palacio Del Valle, Tomás Terry Theater, and Ferrer Palace. The city was also the first in Latin America to incorporate the then-modern idea of urban planning.