This 9-days trip to Cuba is from blogtravels friend Amandeison. You can follow her trips on her Instagram account. The trip will be presented in 3 different parts. The first part is an intro and two day in Havana. Enjoy!
Cuba. A trip of a lifetime for many. And as for many for me too. And as you can tell, this was my first time in Cuba together with a friend who I could not thank enough that shared this trip with me!
I’m new to the blogging world, very new in fact. Memory is so short-lived that it can’t keep up with all the moments we live. And that’s the reason why I decided to start writing. To record my travels and my life experiences, to live them again, to share them and to keep the moments vivid in my mind.
The purpose of this blog is to provide a sort of guide on how to spend 9 days in Cuba. I find it extremely useful when starting to organise a trip, to have a rough idea of a country’s highlights and especially to explore how other travellers have spent their time in a country and why. Travel guides are useful and a must have but they can be chaotic when you first pick them up. So this blog will hopefully be a good starting point for you.
Departing from London on a direct Virgin flight, we arrived in Havana on the evening of 1st of December 2016. Yes! That was a few days after Fidel’s death and in the midst of the 9 days mourning period to honour him. To our surprise, Jose Marti international airport in Havana receives direct flights from several European destinations. That means, expect plenty of people from Europe in Cuba and potential delays with luggages and long ques in the bureau exchange outside the airport. But hey, you have just arrived, so it doesn’t matter! As soon as we picked our suitcase and exchanged money outside the airport, we embarked on a taxi which drove us to our casa particulares (private house) in Havana Vieja (Old Havana). Your best option to travel to and from the airport is taxis which will cost you around 30CUC.
We hadn’t planned much for this trip, only the number of days we’d spent at each place we wanted to visit in Cuba. We only booked our casa in Havana for the first few days and that was it. These were the recommendations from plenty of people who had visited Cuba. “Book the first night and Cubans will help you with everything you need like taxis, accommodation, tours, anything. Your host will be your best tour guide, they do take this role seriously, believe me.” And so we decided to let ourselves be carried by the country’s spirit! The general plan was to stay the first few days in Havana, then visit the small town of Viñales and its famous valley, move on to Trinidad and end our trip back to Havana where we would take the return flight back home. And we did stick to the plan!
So let’s start our Cuban journey …
We spent two days in Havana. Havana is an easy city to explore especially if you are a keen walker. Having a lonely planet and an eye witness on hand most times, the first day we mainly wandered around the old city, Havana Vieja, where we explored the city’s history, the plazas, the alleys & hidden yards, the art scene, the museums, the markets, the shops, the buildings and of course the people. There are various museums spread throughout the city. We only visited a few of them as we preferred to walk and enjoy the city life in every possible way. Our morning walk in Havana Vieja started from Plaza Vieja where we had to stop for a coffee at Café el Escorial, we then side-tracked to the nearby plaza of San Francisco where the Basílica San Francisco de Asis is, we continued walking along Mercaderes street all the way to Plaza de Armas and Plaza da le Catedral and ended up at O’ Reily street where we had lunch at O’Reilly 304 restaurant. Throughout our walk we entered buildings, art galleries, courtyards and museums that we liked such as the Palacio de Segundo Cabo, Palacio de los Capitanes Generales & Castillo de la Real Fuerzas all in Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral of Havana in Plaza de la Catedral. We did also visit the famous bar-restaurants La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio, the two favourite spots of Ernest Hemingway in Havana.
All in all, it is worth spending a whole day to explore Havana Vieja. The architecture of the city is striking. The colonial & baroque influences are more than evident although the city also enjoys a mix of other international influences from the Neoclassical period as well as elements from the Art Nouveau & Art Deco movement.
Later in the afternoon, we visited the Museum of the Revolution also located in Havana Vieja. After stopping for a while to watch children playing at the square in front of the museum, we then walked to Malecon, the most famous 8km sea-drive boulevard in Havana.
To our surprise the sun had started setting at approximately 5pm behind the tall buildings of the Vedado neighbourhood at the end of Malecon. Many tourists and locals gather at this time of day to enjoy the sunset at Malecon. And admittedly, the view was rewarding. Unfortunately music and alcohol were prohibited until the end of the mourning period and the first days in Havana ended early at night.
Havana is beautiful in a different way, a small planet that orbits on its own in this world, another Cuban city stuck in time. A small part of the old city is restored and shines however, the reality of the city sees most of its buildings run-down and neglected.
The second day in Havana we spent it mostly wandering in the streets of Centro Havana. We walked along Paseo de Prado, passed by the Capitolio and attempted to visit the Fabrica des Tobacos which is across the street from the Capitolio building. The idea was to visit the Fabrica des Tobacos, else the cigar factory museum, but we soon discovered that it was closed for visitors on Saturdays – so bear that in mind. After buying official cigars from the museum and enjoying a mojito at a nearby social club, we walked down to the old Harbour through Havana Vieja and we visited Museum del Ron – Havana Club Museum of Rum. The mourning period was still ongoing so no shots allowed at the museum!
We then visited the San Jose indoor arts market, which was a short walk from Museum del Ron and had dinner at a recommended Cuban restaurant called Los Nardos (across the Capitolio) on Paseo de Marti street. We recharged and what best than more walking to enjoy Havana Vieja at night.
We explored the busy Calle Obispo street and the surroundings. Unfortunately, due to the mourning for Fidel’s death the city was very quiet but still vibrant in its own way. Most of the bars and clubs were closed at night so our day finished at 306 O’Reily bar. This bar is at O’Reily street and it has a lovely terrace and balcony and is more than recommended!
End of part 1. Two more to go!