Dear UNESCO Lover,
So, you’re the kind of person who has a travel list. You dream of seeing every attraction that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) deems worthy. You make it a point to visit well-known architectural structures like the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, or the Great Wall of China and you enjoy visiting areas that are best known for their diverse wildlife, like the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. Heck, maybe you think traveling to Tajikistan to see the ancient settlement of Sarazm is worth the sense of elation and accomplishment you feel when you take the tip of your pen and scratch another site off you’re well-wrinkled UNESCO check-list that you keep neatly folded in your pocket.
Well then, this post is for you! Why the special treatment today? The simple answer is that you are about to receive a unique opportunity to scratch four sights off your list, sights that until January 2011 posed a legal issue to visit based solely on the fact that: All can be found in Cuba.
Have no fear my well-traveled American friend, you can soon travel to Cuba legally straight from Miami with insightCuba. Although we still await authorization from the U.S. Treasury Department, once we receive our license you can get strolling around the first UNESCO site on our list.
Old Havana is a pedestrian dream, a city filled with neoclassical and Baroque monuments and gorgeous old houses with wrought-iron gates and balconies. Havana is one of the only capital cities in the world without a set of McDonalds golden arches. The city is comprised of several neighborhoods, but the UNESCO award goes exclusively to Old Havana (Habana Vieja) with its bustling squares like Plaza De Armas, its beautiful cathedrals, and car-free streets like Calle Obispo. It’s easy to see why Old Havana is treasured by UNESCO.
Driving into Viñales Valley is sure to take the UNESCO seekers breath away. Mogotes (limestone formations) reach into the sky and the verdant greenery of the valley is what your dreams are made of on the worst winter day you can imagine. Red clay tobacco fields dot the land and you can see horses, carrying tired farmers back to their villages after a long days work. If a UNESCO award could be given away for the most generous people, those who call Viñales Valley home would certainly be frontrunners.
Castle of San Pedro De La Roca, Santiago de Cuba
The castle of San Pedro De La Roca wins a UNESCO award because it is the most complete example of Spanish-American military architecture in the world. It sits high on a mountaintop overlooking the glittering blue ocean with a dramatic backdrop of the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Not only is this UNESCO-worthy castle worth your time, but the city of Santiago De Cuba (which is only 6 km away), is also worth a visit.
It’s a sizzling city where the local people talk fast and artists linger in the afternoon sun. It’s a place that’s awash with more musical experiences and festivals than one can experience in a single visit. Visiting the Castle of San Pedro de La Roca is a great way to feel the breeze on a hot day and a quiet place to contemplate exactly how unique Cuba really is.
Trinidad is the pretty little sister of Cuba, with its pastel colored houses and labyrinthine streets. It doesn’t take long for visitors to recognize the extra special nature of this area. No one should bypass Trinidad and all of its charm, not even UNESCO. Chock-full of museums, Trinidad is quiet and quaint during the day, but in the evening this sleepy town awakens and promises visitors a chance to show off their salsa skills with the local people.
Above you have the highlights of four brilliant UNESCO sites in Cuba; however a total of nine UNESCO sites exist on the Caribbean’s largest island. Believe me when I say, the other five are equally as fabulous as the first four. Visit insightCuba online and join the mailing list to receive updates on traveling to Cuba and check out www.facebook.com/insightcuba. Trust me, your bucket list will thank you!
Photo Credits: Robin Thom (Canada) and Peter Glogg (Switzerland)