The likelihood is that most backpackers may only have two weeks spare for their trip, especially if it’s a holiday from work, or a tag on to a longer trip. A great two week itinerary taking in lots of hotspots and based on flying in and out of Havana follows.
Day 1 – Havana
Spend your first day exploring the city and visiting the museums. Walk around the historic centre and then make sure you explore some backstreets too to get a feel of the real Havana with all its fantastic but dilapidated buildings. Stop off at the Viazul office near the zoo at some point to book your bus ticket to Vinales. Have your lunch at one of the little local restaurants (paladares) and later on buy a beer from a street seller and enjoy sunset on the malecon before heading to some of Ernest Hemmingway’s old hangouts for a (expensive) mojito or two and some live music.
Day 2 to 4
Grab a cab to the Viazul office for your bus to Vinales at 9am (3.5 hrs). Once you’ve selected a nice casa particular, have a wander around town and stop in at the tourist office to help decide what activities you want to do. Highlights include the caves, tobacco fields and factory, and a day trip to one of the peninsular beaches. Alternatively you can just grab a hiking map and set off on your own. In the evenings be sure to try out some of the bars for cheap beers and salsa dancing.
Take the early Viazul bus at 7:30am to Cienfuegos (8 hrs) and spend the afternoon and following morning enjoying the French architecture and beautiful harbour area, possibly taking a fishing trip too.
Day 6 to 8
Get the 1pm bus to Trinidad (1.5 hrs) and spend the afternoon marvelling at the beautiful buildings of the historic centre. Wander up the hill for some great views over the surrounding areas. Do some shopping, visit one of the many museums, and watch a rumba show. Hiring a bike to cycle to the nearby beach is also a lovely day trip, as well as spending a day hiking in the nearby national park.
Take the 3pm bus to Santa Clara (3.5 hrs) and sample some of the great nightlife available before spending the next day learning all about Che and the revolucion.
Day 10 – 11
Get the early 7:45 am bus to Varadero (3 hrs) for some relaxation and beach parties after a busy few days. You’ll be able to find beach hotels for about $50 a night for a double room, but stay in town for cheaper casa particulares.
Day 12 – 14
Take one of the four buses per day to Havana (8am, 11.25 am, 3.30pm or 6pm, 3 hrs) depending on how much beach time you want and spend your last couple of days enjoying anything you missed on your first day exploring Cuba. You might want to take a rum factory tour, have a wander round the old cemetery, and then treat yourself to a show at the Tropicana.