A million metaphoric miles from Miami, the hard-working sugar-mill town of Florida, 46km northwest of Camagüey on the Ciego de Ávila road, is a viable overnighter if you're driving around central Cuba and are too tired to negotiate the labyrinthine streets of Camagüey after dark (a bad idea, whatever your physical or mental state).
On first impressions, Havana can seem like a confusing jigsaw puzzle, but work out how to put the pieces together and a beautiful picture emerges. A Great Art City It may not be like Paris' or New York's quite yet, but the art culture in Havana is currently one of the city's biggest surprises. The creativity is nothing new.
Santiago de Cuba Province
Lovely Santiago. Far from the capital in Cuba's mountainous 'Oriente' region, this perennial hotbed of rebellion and sedition is Cuba's most 'Caribbean' enclave. The difference is invigorating and sometimes overwhelming. Cultural influences here have often come from the east, imported via Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados and Africa.
Santiago de Cuba
Cuba's cultural capital, Santiago is a frenetic, passionate and noisy beauty. Situated closer to Haiti and the Dominican Republic than to Havana, it leans east rather than west, a crucial factor shaping this city's unique identity, steeped in Afro-Caribbean, entrepreneurial and rebel influences. Trailblazing characters and a resounding sense of historical destiny define it.
Sancti Spíritus Province
This small but well-endowed province is Cuba at its loveliest, also guarding a precious chunk of the country's fantastical historical legacy. Sancti Spíritus Province boasts nature worth exploring. The best on Cuba’s underwhelming south coast, Playa Ancón is a stunner. And then there are mountains.
Pinar del Río Province
Tobacco is still king on Cuba's western fingertip, a rolling canvas of rust-red oxen-furrowed fields, thatched tobacco-drying houses and sombrero-clad guajiros (country folk). The crucible of this emerald land is the Valle de Viñales, a Unesco World Heritage Site framed by a backdrop of distinctive mogotes (limestone monoliths) that nigh-on beseech you to get hiking.
A fantasy land of crinkled mountains and exuberant foliage, the Cuban Guantánamo remains a galaxy away from modern America in ambience. That doesn't stop most people associating it with the United States Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which continues in operation, though downsized.
Ciego de Ávila Province
Diminutive Ciego de Ávila's finger-in-the-dyke moment came during the late-19th-century Cuban Wars of Independence: it became the site of an impressive fortified wall, the Trocha, built to keep out rebellious eastern armies from the prosperous west. Today, the province continues to be the cultural divide between Cuba's Oriente and Occidente.
Villa Clara Province
What is that word hanging in the air over Villa Clara, one of the nation's most diverse provinces? 'Revolution,' perhaps? And not just because Che Guevara liberated its capital, Santa Clara, from Batista's corrupt gambling party to kick-start the Castro brothers' 58-year (and counting) stint in power. Oh, no.