By Mayté Solano Gómez
January is an excellent month to travel to Cuba if you like calm and the possibility of getting to know a country from a historical and cultural point of view. It is also a good time, considering the weather, to do outdoor activities.
Cuba Weather in January
The weather in Cuba in January is usually cool and dry. Temperatures drop, ranging from 18 to 26 Celsius degrees. In this month there is no risk of cyclones, but cold fronts are common, provoking days when the temperature drops to 10 Celsius degrees.
January is one of the months of the dry season in Cuba, so rain is rare. The sun at this time of year is not intense, cloudy days being common, while the humidity is also lower.
So all in all, the weather is really very pleasant in January.
Cuba Events in January
In January, Cubans resume their normal activities, after the celebration forNew Year’s Eve and the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Therefore, the streets are less crowded (although certainly not empty).
In the capital of the country, the International Jazz Festival takes place in January, as well as the Casa de las Américas Prize, one of the most prestigious literary events and awards in America.
The Winter Festival of Cuban dance “Cubadanza” also takes place. Organized by the Contemporary Dance Company, it combines universal modern dance and Cuban folklore.
Towards the end of the month, the March of the Torches is held in Havana and other provinces of the country, in commemoration of the birth of José Martí, National Hero. This march is mainly led by students, although workers from different sectors also participate.
What to Do & See in Cuba in January
Cuba in January is ideal to explore the island at your ease, with fewer locals at tourist sites and with a pleasant climate. This is favourable for outdoor activities, mainly trekking, walking or hiking, horseback riding or cycling. So, visiting Natural Parks is recommended. Here are some of the biggest and most beautiful:
The Viñales Valley in Pinar del Río, a World Heritage Site, where the Cueva del Indio with its underground river, the Mural de la Prehistoria and the fabulous Mirador de los Jazmines stand out.
The Ciénaga de Zapata (Zapata swamp) in Matanzas, a swampy ecosystem that is part of the best preserved green regions of the island. It is the largest wetland in the Caribbean.
The Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, a World Heritage Site, located between the provinces of Holguín and Guantánamo, is one of the most valuable sites for the conservation of endemic flora in the entire Western hemisphere. It includes mountains, plateaus, plains, mighty rivers, bays, and reefs.
The ‘Desembarco del Granma’ National Park, in the province of Granma, a World Heritage Site, whose most significant natural element is its system of marine terraces. Among the main tourist attractions in this park are Cabo Cruz, an ideal place for exploration and underwater photography; the natural archaeological trail el Guafe, an interpretive trail; the Coral reef of Cabo Cruz; the Cueva del Fustete, an aboriginal path whose walls display interesting pictographs; the Lagoon of the crocodiles, a suitable site for observing the flora and fauna of wetlands and the Cueva del Bojeo, one of the largest sea caves in the country.
The Turquino National Park is a protected area located in the heights of the Sierra Maestra, in Santiago de Cuba. Named this way for the Turquino Peak, the highest point in Cuba. It also contains Cuba Peak, Real Peak, and Sweden Peak.
The Baconao National Park, also in Santiago de Cuba, is one of the most popular tourist destinations for locals and foreign hikers. It is considered a World Biosphere Reserve and includes a great variety of attractions, such as the Prado de las Esculturas (Sculptures meadow), the Valley of Prehistory and the Dolphinarium.
Cuba Circuits for January
Winter tour: Havana-Viñales-Cienfuegos- Villa Clara- Havana
Taking into account the cool climate in Cuba in January and the poor conditions of the seawaters for bathing, we recommend a tour that combines more popular destinations with quieter and less frequented cities, with the island’s capital as arrival and departure point.
In Havana, the temperatures invite visitors to explore the historic centre and its fortification system, both on both sides of the bay. In this way, in addition to the squares, palaces and museums, you can visit the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress, the Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro and the Christ of Havana. Other places of interest are the Museum of Rum, the Museum of the Revolution and the Museums of World and Cuban Fine Art.
For Jazz lovers, the International Jazz Festival is held every year in January, under the artistic auspices of Chucho Valdés, Cuban musician and composer who has been awarded multiple Grammys. The festival takes place at various theatres and ‘Culture houses’ in Havana and welcomes renowned composers and performers of this musical genre. The Jazz Plaza 2021 Festival will take place between January 18 and 24.
Viñales, the next destination in this circuit, is ideal for nature and outdoor exercise lovers. Excursions to the Viñales Valley, a World Heritage Site, can be done on foot, on horseback or by bicycle. The Cueva del Indio and the Mural de la Prehistoria are some of the places of interest. Furthermore, this is considered the region where the best tobacco leaf is grown, so visiting one of these farms and learning about the Cuban tobacco production process is one of the best experiences in the area.
In the centre of the small town, you can visit the Paleontological Museum, as well as the many restaurants where you can enjoy Cuban food.
At night we recommend visiting the Casa de la Música (Music house) Polo Montañez, an excellent place to enjoy mojitos and share with the locals while dancing to the rhythm of Cuban music.
The owners of Casa Oscar will always be willing to guide you and help you fully enjoy your time in Viñales.
Cienfuegos, more towards the centre of the island, is a small city, declared a World Heritage Site mainly due to the architecture of the buildings and the city itself. While touring its historic centre, we suggest taking a photo on the Paseo del Prado, next to the sculpture of the popular Cuban musician and singer Beny Moré; walk along the Cienfuegos Malecón while watching a sunset; tour the Martí Park and admire the town’s founding buildings such as the Cathedral Church, the Town Hall, the old Government Palace, the Tomás Terry Theater, the Spanish Casino converted into the Provincial Museum and the Ferrer Palace transformed into a House of Culture.
Other places of interest are the Palacio del Valle in Punta Gorda, one of the quietest areas of Cienfuegos; the Castillo de Jagua, which preserves the only drawbridge that still works in the country; the Tomás Acea Cemetery, the only garden cemetery in Cuba and the Laguna de Guanaroca.
Finally, before returning to Havana, let’s visit Santa Clara, one of the cities of Cuba with an important role in the history of the country, linked to the triumph of the Cuban revolution. Considered the City of Che, it is here where his mortal remains are found, along with those of his comrades who died in combat in Bolivia. It was Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, the Heroic Guerrilla, the main figure in the derailment of the Santa Clara train, which was the decisive event in the overthrow of the dictatorship in the country before 1959.
Furthermore, Santa Clara is known on the island as a bastion of popular culture, where art and music flourish.
Back in Havana again, we suggest you close this winter tour with a visit to Fusterlandia and Callejón de Hamel, places where the most genuine popular and street art in the city is exposed.
The coffee route: Havana- Viñales- Trinidad- Havana
Cuban coffee is one of the flagship products of this island, with great international recognition for its characteristic quality and flavour. Different varieties of Coffea arabica, Arabic coffee, are grown in Cuba.
There are currently three main coffee-producing areas in Cuba, located in mountainous regions: the Sierra Maestra and Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa, in the eastern region, Guamuhaya or Sierra del Escambray in the centre of the island and the Sierra de Los Órganos in the West.
To get to know and enjoy the best coffee in Cuba, we propose a circuit that includes 2 of the 3 coffee-producing areas on the island, also combining it with some of the best places in the capital linked to this drink.
In Havana, we recommend you visit El Escorial, in the heart of the historic centre of the city and taste some of the more than 70 coffee recipes that this place offers. Once in this area, you can visit the remaining squares and fortifications that make up the historic centre, a World Heritage Site, as well as the artisan fair in the San José Warehouse and the nearby brewery in the Ancient Tobacco and Wood Warehouses, among many others.
If you stay in the Casa Vieja private house you can be in the very centre of this area, so visiting it will be extremely easy. Another advantage is the proximity to popular restaurants for the atmosphere and quality of the food they offer, both Cuban and international cuisine.
Viñales is the next destination on this circuit. The Viñales Valley, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, offers varied options for lovers of nature tourism. The canopy or zip line is also ideal to add excitement to your experience.
As for the excursion options in the place, these are multiple, however, we recommend the following:
- Visit the “Quemado de Rubi” Farm, belonging to Mr Hector Luis Prieto, the youngest Habano Man in the world. The tour, in which you can appreciate the work that is done in a tobacco-producing farm, includes the tobacco meadow, the curing and drying house and the tobacco and the cellar for twisting, as well as the possibility of enjoying lunch and the typical Cuban landscape as well.
- Cuajaní Acuáticos excursion, during which you will visit Bar Carucho and Josefa, with an explanation of the process of growing and making coffee (participation in the entire process, as well as tasting the product). The excursion also includes a visit to tobacco plantations and a drying house, where the process from the planting to the production (and tasting) of the product will be explained. The tour includes a visit to the Los Acuáticos community and returns going round the foothills of the mountains to Bar Carucho and Josefa.
Continuing towards Trinidad, we arrive at the Sierra del Escambray, specifically Topes de Collantes, which is part of this mountainous area. Coffee is also grown here, and it is possible to visit farmers’ farms and crops. There is also “the coffee house”, where you can not only taste this delicious infusion but also see how the grain was processed in colonial times, around the 18th century.
This Natural Park has numerous sites of interest, suitable for trekking and hiking, bird photography and enjoy bathing in the pools of the various waterfalls in the area. To access the Topes de Collantes Natural Park, located 800 meters above sea level, it is advisable to use suitable vehicles in very good condition.
If you are staying at Casa Colonial 1830, the owners will help you organize a tour, including transportation.
Back in Havana, to conclude the circuit, you can participate in a Cuban tobacco tasting, which includes, in addition to an exhaustive explanation of the product and the tasting of a sample, a delicious cup of the best Cuban coffee.
Cuba in January in Summary
January is an excellent month to travel to Cuba. The party feel is still in the air after, the festivities for the new year and the triumph of the Cuban revolution, while the weather is pleasant and conducive to various outdoor activities.
Keep in mind that January in Cuba is a month of high tourism, so the prices of services are usually higher. That is why, for the transfer from one destination to another in any of the 2 proposed circuits, it is recommended to go with the cheap, comfortable and fast collective taxis.
Finally, although in Cuba in January there is usually no intense cold, be sure to take with you slightly warmer clothes, mainly for destinations such as Viñales and Topes de Collantes.
If you’re interested in visiting Cuba in January, check out our accommodation in various locations below: