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Havana's Hidden Highlights

Aug 7, 2008
Just under a year ago, I wrote an article listing the 'Seven Wonders of Havana', which was a general piece for anyone who was just after the 'must-see' bits of an amazing city. The thing is that many of these are swarming with tourists, and it can sometimes get a little overwhelming. Many of our customers who book a luxury holiday in Havana like to find somewhere a bit more calm to take a break and get some peace and quiet. Fortunately, there are a number of tranquil places Cuba's capital has to offer, so taking a break is easy. Here is my pick of seven of Havana's tranquil treats:

Jardin Botanico

Havana's botanical gardens are amongst the most pleasant areas to take a rest in the whole of Havana. There's nowhere better to sit and enjoy the sunshine than the Japanese Garden, with its calming fountains and waterfalls. The site's stunning landscape includes flora from all over the Caribbean, making it one of the best things to do in Havana for anyone with an interest in horticulture, or who just enjoys a stroll through beautiful gardens.

Cemetario Cristóbal Colón

The Cemeterio Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus Cemetery) is an unusual attraction of Havana, and certainly not to everyone's tastes, but then that's what makes it such a peaceful place to spend an afternoon! The truth is that this cemetery is one of the most beautiful spots in the Caribbean. Since its establishment in 1876, it has grown to host almost 1,000,000 graves - many of which are artistic wonders due to the headstones being styled by famous Cuban sculptors including Ramos Blancos. Those with an interest in religious practices will find the cemetery fascinating too, as it observes the AfroCuban practice of 'santería'. On a visual level, this means it is not uncommon to see colourfully dressed rag-dolls adorning the graves, as an offering to the deity. An unusual, but peaceful spot to visit on your luxury holiday in Havana.

Parque Central

The Central Park (also known as the Parque Jose Martí) dates back to the pre-revolutionary days of 1903, and is bordered by some classic 19th century buildings. Although this one is more popular with tourists due to the nearby hotels, the well maintained garden, exotic trees and royal palms make sitting here and enjoying the music that drifts over from the nearby clubs a real pleasure and one of the more relaxed things to do in Havana.

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas (the Square of Arms) is a delightfully quaint corner of Havana to stroll through when you want a break from it all. It has delightful plantlife and is lined by marble benches, perfect for taking the weight off your feet and watching the world go by. During the day, it's populated by second hand booksellers and at night by couples on holiday in Havana strolling hand in hand along the gas lit square scoping out the local restaurants and bars.

Parque de las Calles 21 y K

The 21st and K Street Park is a great attraction for Havana's couples, as well as tempting in a number of Havana's creative types looking for inspiration. Its main feature is a flower filled central space, surrounded by a path shaded with trees. It's the perfect place to cool off and see if nature can inspire you!

Convento de Santa Clara de Asís

Founded in 1664, the Convent of Saint Clara of Assisi is one of the oldest and largest Spanish colonial monasteries in the island, and now houses the National Center for Restoration, Conservation and Museum Studies. It does have an extremely peaceful feel to it, but this is at odds with its rumoured history, which is full of hidden treasures, harsh punishments and torrid love affairs.

Club de Golf de la Habana

Depending on whether or not you're a fan of the sport, a game of golf could be the pinnacle of relaxation and calm, or an exercise in total frustration! But whether or not you enjoy the game, the surroundings of the courses are green, picturesque and undeniably tranquil. If you're not a fan, there are other things to do in Havana's golf course that may appeal more including a swimming pool, five tennis courts and a bowling green.

While all these place offer their own brand of peace, quiet and tranquility, you will want to make sure that you don't lose track of time. As delightful as all these places are, you are missing out on what makes Cuba so great if you steer clear of the more vibrant of Havana's attractions!
About the Author
Emma Lelliott is the general manager of Captivating Cuba, an independent Cuba holiday specialist. With offices in Havana and the UK, Captivating Cuba can help you tailor-make the perfect luxury holiday in havana.
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