China is the main tourist exporting market in the world. However, that country isn’t even among the top ten that send more tourists to Cuba. To promote a change in that trend, several travel agencies from the Asian giant, such as CTrip and Caissa Tourism Group, together with Cuban authorities, have subscribed agreements aimed at, among other objectives, doubling in the short term the total amount of Chinese tourists who choose the Caribbean archipelago as an interesting holiday destination.
In its promotional campaigns, Cuba has opted for nature-based tourism, ocean tourism, culture and health as elements that may look attractive to Chinese travelers.
What are the unmissable destinations for Chinese tourists in Cuba? Here we share a diverse list of spots, where it is possible to know some more about Cuban culture while enjoying the country’s natural beauty.
HAVANA, A CITY WITH MORE THAN HALF A MILLENNIUM OF HISTORY
The music video “Mojito”, by artist Jay Chou, was a hit in China. The popular singer visited some emblematic locations in the Cuban capital, such as the Malecón and the Paseo del Prado, which contributed to spreading a little more knowledge about a city with more than 500 years of history.
Havana is the country’s main tourist destination. If Chinese travelers wish to create some memories in its most traditional parts, then they can’t miss the tour of Old Havana’s Historical Center, with its cobbled streets and centuries-old palaces.
Sitting on Havana’s Malecón to watch the sunset is an unforgettable experience; meanwhile, not far from there, lights are shone on the majestic Capitol building, similar to the one in Washington and current seat of the Cuban parliament. Those wishing to enjoy the city’s bohemian scene may stay up until daybreak in bars where one can taste cocktails made with Havana Club rum and smoke Cuban cigars, at significantly lower prices than one would find in China.
Those who prefer the beach will only need to travel 20 kilometers east, to Santa María del Mar and Guanabo. The quality of the sands in these beaches can’t be compared with that of other Cuban destinations, such as Varadero or the country’s northern cays, although the waters will always be warm and the time well spent.
Related article: The Most Beautiful Beaches in Cuba
VIÑALES, A PARADISE FOR NATURE-BASED TOURISM
One of the favorite destinations for Chinese tourists in Cuba is Viñales. It is a colorful town in the province of Pinar del Río that has become the ideal spot for those seeking to do some nature-based tourism.
In 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) granted Viñales the condition of World Heritage Site for its wonderful natural values. Before the coronavirus pandemic, more than 200,000 tourists visited the town each year.
Viñales Valley has a wealth of natural attractions. Among the most striking are the mogotes, limestone mountains with curiously rounded shapes. One unmissable experience is visiting the area’s three most famous caves: the Great Cavern of Santo Tomás, the Cueva del Indio (Indian Cave), where two underground rivers meet, and the Cueva de San Miguel, where cave paintings can be seen.
Another great attraction in Viñales is the “Mural of Prehistory”, a huge 120-meter tall and 80-meter wide painting on the side of a cliff, which is considered one of the largest outdoor frescoes in the world. Additionally, Viñales offers the possibility of visiting tobacco plantations and touring a cigar factory, so has to better know the manufacturing process of the world famous Cuban cigars.
INFINITE BEACHES IN VARADERO
Varadero is the most visited sun and beach destination in Cuba. There, major hotel chains like Meliá, Iberostar and Blue Diamond run 4 and 5-star all-inclusive hotels and resorts, and there are hundreds of private accommodation choices in areas near the beach.
The 22 kilometers of beaches, with warm and crystal-clear waters, are undoubtedly Varadero’s main attraction, but there are also recreational spots, such as the Josone Park, a dolphinarium, an 18-hole golf course and various bars, including a franchise of “El Floridita”, with a statue of writer Ernest Hemingway enjoying a daiquiri. Another attraction is the boulevard, which has several shops and restaurants.
TRINIDAD, THE CITY WHERE TIME STOPPED
Trinidad is the most widely known and visited colonial city in Cuba. It was the third settlement founded by the Spaniards in Cuba, in 1514, and it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.
Walking down its narrow cobbled streets and visiting its churches and villas-turned-museums is a unique experience. Some unmissable sites are the Romantic Museum, located at Brunet Palace, the Museum of History at Cantero Palace and the Church of the Holy Trinity.
Another spot favored by Chinese tourists in Cuba is the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), a wide plain spotted with archaeological sites and neoclassical-style haciendas from the 18th and 19th centuries. A visit to the Valley would not be complete without taking some time to see the Manaca-Iznaga Tower, a 45-meter tall bell tower that was used to watch the African slaves working in the sugar industry in the 19th century.
SCUBA DIVING IN CAYO LARGO DEL SUR
Cuba has positioned itself as one of the world’s best destinations for scuba diving. There are many places where diving enthusiasts can enjoy the experience, both in Havana and in the cays off the main island’s north and south coasts. The tropical weather allows diving all year round to enjoy exotic underwater scenes and spot a wide variety of marine animals.
One of the most spectacular scuba-diving spots in Cuba is Cayo Largo del Sur, a small island in the Canarreos archipelago. The diving area extends for more than 30 kilometers around the cay and the underwater scenery there is impressive, since various coral reef formations can be seen, as well as an abundant variety of sea plants and animals.