But never fear; classic American cars continue to prowl the streets, the night air still throbs with the rhythms of salsa and the cobbled streets throng with talkative locals. And Trinidad too has retained its historic pastel houses and its sugar plantations with their slaves’ quarters and baronial mansions.
And then, of course, there’s Mexico with its world famous Playa Del Carmen and one of the most delicious beaches you’re ever likely to have lazed upon.
London – Havana
You depart from London Gatwick just after midday, to arrive in Havana in the early evening. An airport rep will guide you through into the VIP lounge from where you’ll be taken to your central hotel.
Faded beauty used to be the famous feature of Havana’s old town and its cobbled streets leading to charming squares still have great character, and the buildings lining the main streets retain all the gentility of the colonial days. Classic American cars rumble through the streets with picturesque appeal and, despite the fact that few of them now retain their original, gas-guzzling V8 engines, you simply have to hire one for a tour along the seafront. Walking is another great way to get about in Havana – you’ll have endless opportunities to talk with the voluble locals on your guided tour of Plaza de Armas, Plaza San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja and Plaza de la Cathedral. You’ll take a classic car on the Hemingway Tour to the museum named after the great author and the fishing district of Colimar, as well as driving up El Moro for spectacular city views.
Your second day in Havana sees you visiting the Museo de Bellas Artes, interacting with some local artists in their studios and embarking on an architectural voyage that takes you from the Baroque period to 1950s Modernism.
Stay: Three nights in a junior suite at the Saratoga Hotel.
If Havana has faded gentility, Trinidad has Caribbean colour. Regarded by many as the island’s most picturesque town, Trinidad is a fantasy of colonial houses gaily painted in pastel shades that rejoice in the bright sunlight. The main square is unmissable, especially as it’s lined with colonial mansions that date back to the days of the booming sugar industry. You’ll take a guided walking tour around this UNESCO World Heritage Site and learn about its complex and varied history – including a visit to the local sugar plantations to compare their baronial homes with the hovels of the slaves who once worked the plantation.
Your final day in Trinidad takes you out to Topes de Collantes – a 200 sq km nature park featuring beautiful landscapes and a diversity of endemic flora and fauna species of great scientific – and photographic – interest.
Stay: Three nights in a house room at Finca Kenia.
Playa Del Carmen
Now the Mexican coast awaits. You’ll fly from Havana Airport to Cancun and then drive to your hotel, about 20 minutes south of Playa Del Carmen. This is the perfect place to enjoy the Mayan Riviera, with its white sand beaches stretching away to the horizon, its welcoming waters and its obligingly shady palm trees. Your resort offers scuba diving, snorkelling, big game fishing and sailing, as well as fine food, yoga, private solariums and an irresistible pool.
Stay: Four nights in a garden view room at Esencia.
Cancun – London
Your flight from Cancun Airport departs in the evening, arriving at London the following morning.