Blog,  Travel

Cuba – Part I

Hello all,

I decided to split my travel around Cuba in 2 parts – the first, where I was travelling alone and the second, where I was travelling with my dear friend Paula.

I went at the beginning of April, which was the end of “winter”. It was warm, but not too hot and it wasn’t very green, as the rain season hadn’t started yet. For everyone, who wants to see a green Cuba, I’d say go up until February (for the tobacco plantation) or in Summer, when it’s raining regularly – the day after the rain, everything is in bloom.

La Habana (the first)

My first few nights alone, I spent in La Habana – what a huge city!! La Habana is not only big, though. It’s loud, chaotic and you can barely find a supermarket or a place to simply buy some bread or water. They’re all tucked away from the tourists eyes, hiding out behind shut windows or in, what we’d say, are dodgy corners.

Nevertheless, La Habana, is also beautiful. You can hear music in a lot of places, see people dancing or someone smoking a cigar. Though, the afternoon is the time, when it really gets interesting – as soon as the sunset starts, you should go to the Malecon.

The Malecon is an 8 kilometre long stretch along the seaside of La Habana and as soon as the sun sets, everyone’s meeting right there. You’ll see young people – dancing, listening to Salsa & Reaggeton and simply enjoying life.

At this point, I want to recommend my Casa Particular (the Cuban version of Air Bnb). I stayed at Casa Reina y Paco. Reina is by far, the most lovely host, I have met on my travels. Not only did she take care of me, when I arrived sick at her house, she helped me after my stay, when I had troubles with taxis or other casas. The breakfast at her house was amazing and the location, just outstanding. Her housekeeper was extremely lovely as well and she took me in, as if I were her daughter. She showed me, how to cook typical Cuban food, sang for me (she was once a famous singer) and told me about Cuban life – thanks Mauren!

As words can’t describe it; here are some pictures (all taken from the inside of the house): 

At this point, I want to recommend my Casa Particular (the Cuban version of Air Bnb). I stayed at Casa Reina y Paco. Reina is by far, the most lovely host, I have met on my travels. Not only did she take care of me, when I arrived sick at her house, she helped me after my stay, when I had troubles with taxis or other casas. The breakfast at her house was amazing and the location, just outstanding. Her housekeeper was extremely lovely as well and she took me in, as if I were her daughter. She showed me, how to cook typical Cuban food, sang for me (she was once a famous singer) and told me about Cuban life – thanks Mauren!

As words can’t describe it; here are some pictures (all taken from the inside of the house): 

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In the future, you will be able to book Casa Reina & Paco through my website. This part is currently being set up. I will let you know, as soon as the function is up and running. 

Viñales

From La Habana, I went straight to Viñales – which is about a 2-3 hour “taxi” ride away towards the west.

I met a lovely girl from Israel on the way and as it turned out, we were staying at the same Casa Particular in Viñales – lucky me! 

Danielle and me spent the first afternoon visiting the Cuevas de Santo Tomas. It was absolutely NOT worth it. If you’ve NEVER seen stalagmites/stalactites, go – if you HAVE seen some before, you won’t enjoy it. 

The next morning, we went off for a guided horse tour (everything here seems to be done with a horse). Classic touristy tour – we went to visit a coffee and a tobacco plantation. I won’t lie – it was cool, but I expected more. There were groups arriving every few minutes and we felt, as if we were just one in a million – we rushed through the different stops and it just felt like a huge money making institution from the government. And as we learned it was – 90% of the income from the farms goes to the government, which is so much, I still can’t comprehend it, if I’m honest. This means, the whole family has to live from 10% of the income – that’s just insane. Especially, because they were all lovely. You saw 3-4 generations living together and welcoming us, brothers, sisters, cousins, children, grandparents – they were all living & working there together!

The next day, Danielle and I booked another tour; someone in our Casa told us, there was a cave and some lakes, where we could take a bath and we were SO up for a swim.

Unfortunately, that time of the year, there’s no water in the lake, which we were told, once we arrived at the starting point of the tour. They initially wanted to take us again to the tobacco farm – which obviously we didn’t want to. We agreed, to will see Los Tres Valles de Vinales (the three valleys of Vinales). It was a beautiful trip and we were the only ones on the tour – meaning we got a lot of insight! 

Initially, I wanted to do some proper hiking, but I hadn’t really gotten used to the climate yet.

We, also, saw a few other people renting a motorbike or bicycles, but we weren’t really organised enough to get that done. 

All in all, I think Vinales is absolutely beautiful, but very touristy (even the bars & restaurants are touristy – you barely see cubans around). If you want to escape the tourists and simply focus on the surroundings, take a bike or prepare yourself for a hike and check out the valleys by foot and without a guide. Take your time and walk the way you want to – maybe tucked away from the typical routes, so you’ll discover something untouched and exciting. 

As I’m having some issues with my camera, there are only a few photos from my iPhone here. I hope I’ll get that sorted soon and I will upload more pictures and part 2 of my holidays in Cuba. 

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