Cuba, travel story

The Great Isle, so is called Cuba and indeed the island is great and if you intend to spin it a bit it all takes several days. Often Cuba is hastily picked up for trips to marine destinations (to the various cayos of which Cuba is rich) scraping a few days on tours organized by the village or a local tour operator, which does not allow to see the true nature of the island Which deserves a more in-depth approach. When you want to organize a trip to know Cuba, you will inevitably have to compare it with your economic and time-saving. There are several options that can be taken from the cheapest and adventurous DIY with your backpack moving with local public transport and overnight accommodations in particular homes then switching to a more comfortable DIY hire by renting a car and moving In autonomy or a do-it-yourself charter car and driver always staying overnight in particular homes to finish with the tour totally organized by an agency with overnight stays in particular houses or hotels.
The solution I adopted was that of a chartered car and driver, a solution that I found optimal in all aspects, such as knowledge of the places, the complete availability of the driver, complete autonomy in the choice of places and Of the times, the safety of being able to leave equipment in the car without constraints and the lack of total responsibility on cars, roads and local regulations. The economic aspect of this choice I consider to be optimal, considering that the rate that is agreed is including the car, the driver's time (max 16 hours / day) and gas without distances. Anyone who wants more info can write me (see Contacts). My Cuban tour lasted 15 days, flight excluded, departing and returning to Havana.

The purpose of this story is not to list and / or describe exactly the places visited such as squares, church monuments, historic buildings, etc. Of which tourist guides and the internet are rich, but to bring my experience back to the impressions and emotions they have experienced in the visited places and some information that is often not reported in guides or tour operators.

I would like to start by providing useful information for all those who think about connecting and using internet connectivity with their smartphone while traveling to Cuba. I invite you to go to the Smartphone and Internet in Cuba for details on this topic.

Havana Vieja

Inevitably, the visit to the capital of Cuba, a city rich in interesting aspects, historic and modern buildings, an expression of Caribbean culture and traditions, however, as is the case in many other realities, Cuba is not just Havana and vice versa. The historic core of the city called Habana Vieja is a maze of alleyways that are more or less large where much of the life of its inhabitants revolves around tourism, which has lately been greatly increased with the arrival of many American groups not always positive. Inevitable the visit to the most important places and buildings of the city such as the beautiful Cathedral dedicated to San Cristobal de la Habana with two bell towers that delimit the external facade of different height or the Plaza Vieja with its historic buildings and museums that I recommend visiting Good morning to enjoy the beauty before the crowds of tourists arrive. Other places to visit are the church and the annexed monastery of Saint Francis of Assisi and, having enough time, several museums. Visit the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, more fortress than well preserved castle and a small interior museum.

Apart from the places of classic tourism, Habana Vieja has to be visited by turning in its alleyways where the everyday lives of its inhabitants are held, where reality is a bit different, made of small things made of activities on the road, of small local markets and occasional salespeople.



Havana Center

The Havana Center area is the new area of the city, made of large buildings and large spaces. In this part of the city, the great American cars of the 1950s are overwhelmed, brought to the new, bright colors that can envy the tourists. These taxis bring tourists to various areas of the city to visit sites, long and historic ways of providing information about how expert guides could make. A meeting point is the gateway to Capitolio Nacional, the most characteristic and ambitious building in Havana, a copy of the Capitol of Washington DC and formerly the Cuban Parliament. The nearby car park in front of the Gran Teatro is a classic automobile parade and offers a remarkable chromatic effect. In the same area is the central park of the city dedicated to Josè Martì and the street of "luxury" San Rafael shops. Life in this central area of the city is quite frantic, with a fairly sustained, noisy, and "smoky" traffic. In the immediate vicinity there are important museums such as the one of the Revolution and the Fine Arts. Little publicized and little known by the mass tourism are two churches that are located in the Havana Center which I suggest to visit. Sagrado Corazòn de Jesùs, is a fascinating neo-Gothic white marble church in Cuba, and in its interior there are large finely worked windows that exalt with the sunlight in the central days of the day.
The convent and Church of Carmen is even more unknown, located directly on a busy street, its façade, with its large bell tower, is somewhat anonymous but this should not be deceived. The interior is small in size and looks like a harmonious set of artistic styles, a beautiful fresco on the vault, well-painted stained glass windows, a golden altarpiece, wooden carvings, and the entire lower tier of the tiled church in Seville style.

Getting to the sea is Malecòn, the city's promenade at the end of which is the Castillio de San Salvador de la Punta, one of the four fortifications that protected the city from the sea side. From here begins an underground road that crosses the water channel that separates the sea from the port of the city. On the opposite shore there are two fortifications, one after another, Morro's Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos and Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña. Both fortresses are well-preserved and accessible, as well as having a beautiful view of the city. The great and massive Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña is not highly regarded by tourists, I personally think it worthwhile to visit it for its position, structure and line of defense even though it is marked by the fact that dictator Batista had Relegated to jail for political prisoners with all that this involves and remembers ....

Not far from these fortresses is the great statue of Christ, a high white concrete statue that thanks to its position and height is visible from many points of the city.

Havana Vedado

Vedado represents the commercial part of the city with its skyscrapers, extensive tree-lined avenues and residential neighborhoods. In this area you will find the Plaza de la Revolutiòn and the memorial to Josè Martì. The big square was made for the great comets where the big crowds were gathered, on the facades of anonymous gray buildings, the faces of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro were represented. Given its fame, the plaza is a destination for tourists, many of whom arrive by taxi cars with 50s American cars, almost always reworked, very flashy which focus on the parking they are dedicated to. On one side of the square is the great mausoleum devoted to the national hero Josè Martì, a large concrete stele overhanging the structure inside which is a museum telling his political and personal life of this man greatly revered by the Cubans. Always in Vedado there is a boulevard dedicated to the great presidents of Latin America who somehow have shared the idea of revolution as an element of affirmation of peoples and independence. The avenue begins with a large marble monument to Josè Miguel Gòmez, according to the president of Cuba, then to continue with several statues along the way to the sea including that of Salvador Allende, Benito Juárez, etc.

Viñales

After my visit to Havana, my Cuban tour continues to Viñales. Along the road, with a small detour, you can visit the eco-village of Las Terrazas, a newly-built village currently owned by the Biosphere Reserve and protected by UNESCO. The environment in which this village is located is pleasant, well cared for, clean, almost seems to be in a Northern European context, small houses, a prestigious hotel, a quiet pond, shaved meadows, horse breeding, etc. All with the respect for the environment, a pleasant surprise to spend some time.
The Viñales valley is known for its National Park where tourism finds a still intact, orderly and well-organized environment. The area is known for producing the best tobacco for famous Cuban cigars, many stages have been organized to accommodate tourists who are offered horse tours, guided tours of tobacco cultivation and drying, entertainment on the methodologies of processing, small cigars' smoking experiences and good rum, all in quiet surroundings immersed in nature. Other naturalistic features are the Mogotes, characteristic panettone hills that can be admired along both the main street of the Park and the belvedere located on the road before reaching Viñales. Some kilometers before the town, in a downhill section, is located (on the left) on a parking lot with a small center that welcomes tourists who want to visit the Park. The center has a lovely terrace that allows a wonderful view of a part of the Park and the main Mogotes. Another remarkable point of view is a belvedere that is reached by the road leading to the prehistoric Murales (a great painting on the wall of a mountain). At the last curve at 90 degrees left before the entrance to the murals area, there is a dirt road leading to the mirador, possibly to be visited in the afternoon so that the sun is behind, experience not to be missed.
Viñales is a beautiful small town, small, quiet, tidy and hospitable despite the discreet influx of tourists. There are many places to serve tourists like restaurants, bars, particular houses and the inevitable tourist market.



Cayo Jutias

On the Atlantic coast, not far from Viñales, is Cayo Jutias, a beautiful beach untouched by tourism. To reach the cayo you start from Viñales (many are the local taxis carrying this excursion) along a paved road that then turns into a terrible dirt road, about 50Km of dust and holes that force cars to continue gymnasiums with a time For a total of 2 hours. Tenacity is rewarded when you come to this cayo where there is a single refreshment point with a short stretch of beach equipped, everything else is wild .... We are in a typically Caribbean context, white and fine sand, traces of mangroves and tracts covered by tall shrubs, turquoise sea with dark spots (algae and non-coral) that help to create color movement. Tourists do not miss but soon dissipate on the long beach and it is not difficult to find a quiet place to spend a few hours. Only attention is the most internal vegetation in which small voracious insects also sting in the daytime.



Boca de Guamà

The island's tour continues with a long day of transfer to Playa Larga in the Pig Harbor. Shortly before Playa Larga, stop at Boca de Guama a village that has been reconstructed according to customs and placed inside the great Treasure Lagoon so called in the footsteps of a legend of the tainos population which tells that a great treasure was buried there. The village was built on several lagoon islands that are reached after a 10-minute boat ride across from the reception center. Once on the first island it is discovered that it is actually the only one to be visited because in the other islands, although seemingly ready, the work is still under way ...... As a result, the visit is limited to an island where there are some examples of Tainos huts besides the usual souvenir shops. The disappointment is partly offset by the beauty of the surrounding nature and by the presence of many species of birds living in this protected lagoon.



Pigs Bay

Bay is very famous for what happened in 1961 with the attempt of landing and conquering by the Cuban exiles supported by the United States, an operation that failed, creating a moment of high tension between the United States and Russia. The Cuban regime remembers in these places the resistance and victory over the invaders, along the shores of this bay there are many signs of the Revolution, Fidel, resistance, etc. In Playa Giron all this is concentrated in a great memorial. At the northernmost point of the bay is Playa Larga, a small, unusual little seaside resort, from here you go down to Playa Giron passing through a stretch of rocky coast rich in undercut coral. For snorkeling lovers this is a place to stop and put your head underwater. The most interesting point is Punta Perdiz, a small village in the all-inclusive model where, with a modest number of days, you can take advantage of various services, bars, restaurants, deckchairs, fins, masks, instructors etc. The center is very popular with American groups that come in so many times that I recommend getting there early in the morning for those who intend to spend some hours in this place.
Nearby there are other sites (see map) such as the front of Cueva de los Peces (a small indoor pool connected to the sea with clear water and tropical fish) where some locals rent out equipment and access to the sea is facilitated. I was immersed in both places and then finished with a third dive at Los Cocos (see map bays). Overall snorkeling is unobtrusive, coral formations are rich enough of coral varieties while I found a tropical variety of tropical fish a little lacking, however worth stopping but do not expect backdrops such as Maldives or Indonesia or Red Sea.
Playa Giron is pretty disappointing, a unique decadent hotel overlooking the beach that seems almost abandoned. More interesting is the bay of Caleta Buena, a protected bay with no beach but only rock, where there is an all inclusive, paying a daily number entitles you to eat at equipment, deckchairs, etc. The property is well maintained and pleasant, the front bay allows easy snorkeling in quiet waters so even for kids.

Cienfuegos

Lying on a large and long bay, Cienfuegos is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in Cuba with its architectures that allowed it to return to UNESCO World Heritage sites. Even here the city center is distinguished by the Josè Martì Park, in the same square we find the simple but slender Cathedral of Purisima Concepciòn and on the other side a modest "triumphal arch" devoted to Cuban independence. The busy shopping street starts from this square to reach Paseo del Prado, a long avenue with a large central pavement ideal for walking, on the street are colonial-style buildings of different sizes almost all with the classic colonnades of different colors Creating those chromaticities typical of the Cuban cities. Here, too, the market for tourists from the central square to the sea, a long parade of shops, crafts stalls, souvenirs, clothing and street artists as painters and poetry writers can not be missed.
Punta Gorda, linked by a beautiful seafront, with its colonial and arabesque palaces and its colorful villas, is the exclusive area of the city. Even in Cienfuegos you can not miss a fortress in defense of the mouth of the bay, the Castillo de Jagua. To reach it you need to have a car or use a taxi as it is at a distance from the city. The fortress is well preserved with a double drawbridge joystick still functioning. The bell used to alert the population at the time the pirates appeared was original and still present along the outer walls.



El Nicho

In the vicinity of Cienfuegos you will find the lush Sierra del Escambray within which we find a waterfall of the Rio Hanabanilla called El Nicho. The waterfall is immersed in a lush, undeniable natural beauty and can deserve an excursion even if you need to consider the season because the water flow changes significantly. I visited it during the spring then in the driest period and in fact what I saw was not very exciting. The waterfall is easy to reach from the parking spot of the reception, a short path into the forest leads to a first pond and then to the point where there is the actual fall of the waterfall. The context and the contrast between the rocks, the green of the vegetation, the blue of the pond below is pleasant even when there is very little water. Going along a short, steep climb to reach the top of the waterfall where also here is a small water collection pond. Some foreigners, especially Russian, love to dive into these fresh fresh waters ....
Considering the small spaces to move, the narrow paths and the smooth rocks near the waterfalls, I suggest to go to El Nicho early morning, then when they start to get barges full of tourists it becomes difficult if not irritating!



Trinidad

A perfectly preserved Spanish settlement, here is how to sum up the most well-known and interesting city of Trinidad after Havana, with the difference here that time runs slower, there is no confusion of capital, the historic center is closed to traffic and In every street you breathe the essence of Cuba. It's worth spending a whole day visiting the city, starting from the Plaza Major Major with its garden and its colorful vases overlooking the Parish of Santissima Trinidad, the Museum De Guamahaya Archeology, the Trinitarian Archaeological Museum and the Art Gallery. Another strong piece is the Històrico Municipal Museum, which houses a staircase to access the tower on the roofs of the city, providing a beautiful view. I suggest visiting the early morning museum before the arrival of American tourists. Much interesting is the Lucha Contra Bandidos museum, which is housed inside a former convent of Franciscans (recognizable by the yellow bell tower). As you can imagine, the city is packed with various tourist-oriented shops, the one that delights, and that this business aspect is well-regulated and well-placed in the historic context of the city. The fabrics market is inevitable. Trinidad is not just history, buildings, museums and squares, but also a beautiful reality to be enjoyed in the streets of its suburbs, where thousands of colors stand out, where life flows smoothly and where it is easy to make pleasant encounters.
Not far from Trinidad, there is Playa Acòn, a strip of white sand overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The beach and the sea in front of it can not be compared to those of the Atlantic cayos though it is considered as the best on the southern coast of Cuba.

Sancti Spiritus

On the route from Trinidad to Sancti Spiritus you cross the Valle de los Ingenos, a valley famous and thriving in the past for the great presence of sugar factories, refining plants, warehouses, etc. A reality that no longer exists today, has remained only a beautiful plain that can be seen from a belvedere adjoining the main road leading to Sancti Spiritus. The valley is crossed by a railroad that had the purpose of transporting sugar cane, recovered rail to be used by a tourist train running the valley twice a day, this train is no longer in service, in its place has been set up A "terrible" street train to avoid ....
Always along this road we find another tourist point of interest, the Iznaga Manaca Tower which was used to control slave labor on the plantations, nothing special, many (too many) tourists stop to climb the tower and enjoy the panorama of this stretch Of valley.
The city of Sancti Spiritus is not highly regarded from a tourist point of view, certainly not comparable to other cities previously seen, but it has interesting aspects that deserve some hours of stopping like the English-style bridge of Yayabo, the beautiful blue parochial dedicated At Espiriutu Santo, the Museo de Arte Colonial and the elegant Boulevar.



Cayo Coco end Guillermo

They are two very popular cayos in Italy, they are very well what is ideal for a beach holiday on the Caribbean long white sandy beaches, blue sea with shades ranging from turquoise to blue, unique neo, too many resorts / villages. In these cayos there are no special houses where to stay so it is normal to have a base in the nearest town, ie to Moron then get to the cayos by car or by taxi in 40-45 minutes. My visit to these two cayos took place on a cloudy and windy day and this did not allow me to appreciate the natural beauty of these beaches all of them talk about, even the photographs inevitably affected them.
There are several beaches in Cayo Coco, Playa Larga, Playa las Colorades and the famous Playa Flamenco, an almost continuous strip of resorts / villages ....
Behind the bathing area stretches the lagoon of the Natural Park and Bagà an intricate set of lagoons, mangroves and vegetation varies, the park houses many animal species. Walking along the road across Cayo Coco to Cayo Gullermo, it is easy to see flocks of birds or American flamingos, (typical species of America's center with red plumage). The Park is now accessible with a guided hike or a short guided hike but on a motorboat.
Cayo Guillermo can be considered a continuation of Cayo Coco, the two cayos are divided by a short stretch of lagoon. Cayo Guillermo is definitely smaller than Cayo Coco, here is a long and wide beach frequented by Kitesurf lovers thanks to the constant presence of winds blowing from the ocean. Cayo Pearl and Playa Pilar, located at the extreme point of the island, a not very large beach but well-known for its beauty. As mentioned earlier, my visit took place on a cloudy day so the beauty of Playa Pilar did not emerge



Camagüey

Situated in the heart of the island, Camagüey is the third most populous city in Cuba and the heart of the Catholic island. The urban center is a maze of streets and lanes where it is nice to dive. Plaz San Jauan de Dios is the most picturesque corner of the city, the plaza architecture looks simple and linear and resembles Mexican, the center of the city is dominated by the church of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, hence the 'via Of theaters' a small street that pays tribute to the big screen with some cinemas and a cinema-dedicated museum. There are some curiosities like bars that take the name of great movies like the Italian 'La dolce vita'. Another interesting point in the city is Plaza del Carmen with its adjacent church with a pink facade dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Carmen. In this enchanting and quiet square, there are some bronze sculptures that represent moments of daily life like three women who chat with each other waiting for a fourth, a couple of lovers, and so on. . Another well-preserved Gothic church in a beautiful square is the one of Nuestra Corazón de Sagrado Jesus, worthy of a visit.



Cayo Santa Maria

Cayo Santa Maria is part of the Cayerìas de Norte along with Cayo las Brujas and Cayo Ensenachos. This set of islets is distant from the ground about 48 kilometers and reaches through an imposing highway. Here too, there is no possibility of accommodation except in hotel facilities (too few restaurants). I did base on the small but splendid town of Remedios so that I could reach the cayo in the day. The arrival of tourism in Cayo Santa Maria is quite recent, but now that party is proceeding to sustained pace, many are the yards that are making resorts and / or villages. In Cayo Santa Maria there is no center, there is a long white sandy beach on which some tourist structures, some very large, are more contained and partially masked in the vegetation. The context is very similar to the one present in other Atlantic cayos, beautiful and long white sandy beaches, turquoise blue with shades of blue, little vegetation (where there are groups of coconut trees because they have been transplanted). Along this beach is an area dedicated to nudists and allowed by the authorities (unique in Cuba).

Santa Clara

The city of Santa Clara is known for its monuments and museums dedicated to the theme of the revolution. The city center offers some points of interest such as the central Vidal Park and the Las Santas Hermanas de Santa Clara de Asis cathedral, but the tourists focus on the Toma Museum of the Tren Blindado and the Che Guevara Monument. The Toma Museum of the Tren Blindado Memorial remembers a memorable episode in which a group of revolutionaries led by Che managed to stop a dictator armored armored train batista using a bulldozer. The bulldozer shows itself as a monument while in the adjacent park are exposed some train carriages in question, coaches today converted to museum. A few kilometers from the city center is the monument to the Che Guevara placed on the top of a small hill with a large front yard intended to gather great crowds. Under the large white monument, with the relief images of Che and many other revolutionaries, there is a museum dedicated to the mythical revolutionary person. During my visit to the monument, I witnessed the outbreaks and slogans of a group of Spaniards who cherished Che, I thought these things did not happen anymore ....


Varadero

Perhaps the best-known tourist resort in Cuba, Varadero, develops on a subtle peninsula, about 20km long, which seems to creep into the Atlantic Ocean. The beach stretches all along the west side of the peninsula. The area of the large hotel-resort occupies the outermost side of the ocean, the long stretch of free beach is located in the central part of the peninsula at the village of Varadero the west stretch (towards the land) is a residential area . The sea as the beach resembles the Caribbean setting, the beach is very sunny as the vegetation stays behind and offers little shelter. Despite the remarkable presence of tourists, the large size, both in length and depth of the beach, guarantees a quiet peace and quiet for those who like to stay in the sun without loud crowds around or enthusiastic enthusiasts.
In the vicinity of Varadero there is Playa Coral, an area where you can snorkel among the coral formations near the shore. Shortly before the beach, there is a dive center where you can hire the equipment and be followed by instructors / accompanying men who bring tourists to the most interesting points. If you want to move independently, just go about 500 meters to find Playa Coral unattractive. The whole area is snorkeling and discreet even if the best corals are located at the dive center (I tried both areas).

Matanzas

Along the way back to Havana, you can expect a stopover with a visit to the town of Matanzas, the hometown of 'rumba'. In Plaza de la Viga it is worth a quick visit to the publishing house bearing the name of the square which publishes books strictly bound by hand. In the interesting city center, the Neoclassical Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo and the Central Park Libertad. If you have some time to suggest running around in the alleyways and in the streets near the center though noisy and with much traffic, so you can also find here habits and everyday life often for survival, people who expose and sell on the door Simple things like panties, some shoes, some napkins etc. or those who sell, always on the doorstep, hydraulic accessories such as small PVC fittings, plastic pipes, wash basins, etc. All exposed on a small banquet. Just outside the center lies the Castillo de San Severino a well-preserved fortress that served as a point of observation and port's defense.
A few kilometers from Matanzas, there is the Cuevas de Bellamar, the visiting cave has easy access and it is interesting, the visit is to groups with guide and the duration is about 45 minutes, a lot frequented by groups of Americans.

Cuba photo albums

Album series with the most interesting photos of the places I visited on my trip to Cuba

Cuba photos gallery

Slideshow of photos taken in a unique gallery with the most striking shots

Cuba
curiosities

Many are the curiosities of this island as the legend of Giraldilla and Guayabera

Havana climate

Climate Graph of Havana
Havana climate chart, month by month with rainy days of rain, precipitation, etc.

Newsletter Alisei


Cuba in depth

Carmen Church

Church of Havana, little known by tourists but to be visited for the valuable interiors

Along the roads

Curious and / or unusual images taken along the streets during my Cuba tour

People

Visiting Cuba, people often meet people who represent the true Cuban essence

Caves

Few know that in Cuba you can visit different and interesting natural caves

Small faces

Photo collection dedicated to the simplicity, spontaneity of Cuban children

Snorkeling

Photos, directions, suggestions and maps of my snorkeling experience in Cuba

Castles

Cuba has many castles and fortresses along its coast, here we go and visit some of them

Josè Martì

Writer, revolutionary, politician and poet, the most beloved character in Cuba


Trips near
Cuba

Dominican Rep.

The hot sun, crystal lagoons, white beaches and a wild nature

Mexico

Yucatan, spiagge, mare e archeologia in questa penisola caraibica

Guadeloupe

French protectorate d'oltremare of great beauty typical tropical islands

San Blas

Cruise on a sailboat to discover the lagoons and wild and deserted islands from the archipelago