Cuba libre: exploring the island by campervan

It’s never been easy for visitors to explore this fascinating country independently. But for the first time, state-approved vans give licence to roam Cuba’s mountains, beaches and towns

Our campervan passes through Manicaragua, a tobacco-growing (once sugar-growing) town in the centre of Cuba. Manicaragua’s leaves are used for the dense core of Habanos cigars; premium leaves from Pinar del Río form the outer layer.

This is a true backwater but in the 1940s and 1950s, before the bottom dropped out of sugar, it had money: there are cinemas and rundown hospitals. We pass by the pitched tin roofs of tobacco-drying houses, and see workers in high straw campesino hats hoeing the red earth.

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