Cuba had been vaguely on my list for a long time, but eventually I decided it was time to make it happen before it became totally overrun with Americans (which slightly spoilt our holiday to Mexico this time last year). So we made it happen.
What We Did
We flew into Havana (there’s now a direct flight from Gatwick to Havana with Virgin Atlantic which is helpful!) and had 2 nights there before joining this tour. I’ve done several organised tours myself (an excellent way to travel if you’re solo, in my opinion) but this was the first time we’d done one together. It wouldn’t have been our first choice, but in a developing country, with extremely limited public transport (and with no great wish to hire a car), and with us speaking no more Spanish than ‘dos mojitos, por favor’, it seemed our best option. And I am glad we did it. Our guide Pedro was fantastic -not only was he very knowledgeable, but also gave us a fascinating insight into life for Cubans. He is actually a qualified high school teacher (English and History), but he gave it up in order to become a tour guide because the money earnt in tips is easily three times what the average Cuban earns in a month (which is usually about $20).
Havana is a wonderful city with live salsa music playing everywhere, mojitos cheaper than water and stunning buildings and classic cars. We made the most of our extra time there before the tour started, visiting the Museum of the Revolution, Plaza de Armas with its antique book stalls, the Malecon seafront parade, Plaza Vieja, the Cathedral and, of course, the two bars made famous by Ernest Hemingway – La Bodeguita Del Medio (where he drank mojitos) and El Floridita (where he drank daiquiris!)
From Havana, the tour took us on to Santa Clara -the home of the Che Guevara museum/mausoleum, where we saw all the revolutionary sites including the derailed train and the Che memorial. Aside from these historically significant sites, my main other Santa Clara memory is of eating SUCH a huge meal at our casa particular (homestay), that we could barely stay out for one drink afterwards as we were so sleepy!
Our next stop was my favourite. Trinidad, a beautifully preserved colonial town- the whole town centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We explored the old town (and climbed to the top of the museum tower for a view over the city), sampled the local drink the Canchancharra (water, honey and rum – much nicer than it sounds), went salsa dancing (or attempted to…), went hiking in Topes de Collantes national park and visited Playa Ancon beach…
After our sad goodbye to Trinidad it was on to Cienfuegos, where we took a boat trip on the bay, visited the beautiful Palacio de Valle (now a restaurant), had a walk in the botanic gardens and went to ANOTHER beautiful beach…
From Cienfuegos it was back to Havana for one final night, which we spent at the well known live music venue Buena Vista Social Club, and one final day, which we spent at…
Yes that’s right. Havana has a rum museum!!
Cuba is a really different and really fascinating place, and my advice would be to go as soon as possible, before it changes and becomes far too mainstream 🙂