8 Day Tour of Cuba
I decided to book us on to a tour of Cuba to try and get the most out of the short time we had in Cuba. After a few relaxing days in Varadero, we took a private taxi back to Havana and checked into our first Casa before starting an 8-Day tour.
I’ve blogged about each location but here is a quick run down of the itinerary.
Day 1 – Arrive Havana
Havana has to be one of the most exciting cities in the world. It’s intriguing and unique. We had a little time before our first group meeting to explore on our own. Our guide, Raynor, left us a note at the Casa with details about the group meeting time and place. The neighbourhoods of Old Havana and Central Havana are amazing and are where I felt Cuba at its most intense – narrow streets with old crumbling buildings and full of locals who are not placed there for the tourists but rather because this is their home. Simply wandering the streets was a new experience and filled us with questions about how the country functions.
Day 2,3 – Viñales
Before departing Havana, we had a guided walking tour of the historic centre of Havana (approx 2 hours).
From Havana to Viñales it’s about a 4-hour drive, and on the way, we stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch. The first of many over-cooked half-chicken, rice and bean meals we would experience throughout Cuba.
Surrounded by picturesque limestone pincushion hills (“mogotes”), Viñales is a small and culturally rich village, with friendly and welcoming residents and a wide variety of outdoor activities available. Exploring caves, hiking and simply enjoying the views of the valley and sprawling tobacco fields made Viñales a fantastic part of the trip. Viñales is one of the more agriculturally productive areas, so an abundance of local, seasonal fruit and vegetables is always on offer such as enormous avocados and mangoes, pineapples, papaya, guava, and several varieties of sweet potatoes. It’s known to be one of the cooler areas of Cuba, but we found the weather to be really hot. The nightlife is very active in this village with the local residents more than willing participants in dancing to the local live music.
We head back past Havana to the French founded the city of Cienfuegos through the densely vegetated Peninsula de Zapata swamp-lands, and along the beautiful Bay of Pigs. This is where the landing of counter-revolutionary exile militia occurred in 1961. There is a museum here that recounts the events of this conflict which resulted in the first defeat of a U.S backed take-over in Latin America. We also stopped at a beautiful swimming hole (cenote) which resembles a huge natural tropical fish tank, and a beach for snorkeling.
Cienfuegos appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial hub, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades, and there is an ambiance to inspire Cuba’s most celebrated Son singer to write the words “Cienfuegos is the city I like best”.
Day 5,6 – Trinidad
For many visitors to Cuba, Trinidad is their standout favourite destination. No other colonial city in Cuba is so well preserved, and the local residents are extremely friendly and festive. Trinidad is steeped in religiosity, none the least of which is Santeria, which is one of several Afro-Cuban religions.
There are no less than 10 live music venues all within a short walking distance. Many of these have lovely outdoor settings, in courtyards, and within the walls of old colonial ruins.
Not far inland is the Valley of Sugarmills. This area of rich fertile soil is where the Trinidad colonists got most of their ludicrous wealth from. A 10-minute drive in the opposite direction will get you to a beautiful calm Caribbean beach called Playa Ancón. We rode horses out to a sugar plantation, coffee plantation and stopped for a swim at a beautiful waterfall with an amazing fresh, clear water spring.
Day 7 – Havana
On the way back to Havana we stopped at the town of Santa Clara, a key city in the Cuban Revolution. Upon entering Santa Clara, there is a huge statue of Ernesto Ché Guevara, to commemorate his death and that of the revolutionaries who died along with him in Bolivia. There is also a museum here dedicated to his amazing life.
We stayed in a different are of Havana upon our return. Vedado was an interesting part of town where there is a concentration of restaurants, bars, majestic mansions, and historic mafia built hotels.
The Casa’s in Cuba are truly is one of the main things that makes travelling in Cuba so unique, we have loved every single one we have stayed in and I would absolutely recommend them as accommodation when travelling in Cuba.
Favourite Blogs about Cuba:
Favourite Documentary about Cuba:
Cuba Libre on Netflix (there are actually lots of very interesting documentaries which we watch while in Cuba but this one covers a good amount of the history) https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80109535
Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley (yes a romance but also historical fiction so easy read while being educated – I read this on the beach in Varadero)