Saturday, September 3, 2016

Travel Diary: 20 days in Cuba

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Travel Diary: 21 days long trip in Cuba

Cuba has always been one of those destinations I've always wanted to visit: clear water and white sand, salsa, mojitos, the energy of cuban people... I finally had the chance to spend almost three weeks in this beautiful country and the opportunity to meet a lot of special people who joined us during our trip. They made us feel welcomed and we could definitely get into the spirit of the country and understand its people's culture and habits. We slept in casas particulares, which are houses of local people who have the permission of the government to rent a private room to foreigners. You get to live and talk with locals and this was something special added to out incredible journey.
So if you're wondering where you should go when visiting Cuba, you can get inspiration from our trip. 
Continue reading to find out where we went and what we did.

4th of August: Arrival in Habana

Marco and I were flying directly from Colombia, whereas my mom and my brother had to fly from Italy. We met the 4th of August in Habana, at the airport. Our plan was to visit the whole island, so we thought the best would be to travel directly to the most distant point we wanted to see: Santiago the Cuba. 
At midnight we had to take the bus "Viazul", which makes several stops through the island. 
Unfortunately the bus was almost full, so we could get a ride just until Camaguey

5th of August: Bayamo

Once we arrived in Camaguey, we took another bus which took us to Bayamo. In Bayamo we first tasted the amazing "bocaditos de cerdo", basically super tasty sandwiches with pork. We also met a guy who told us that, since it was Saturday, we had the chance to see the carnival of Bayamo.
After leaving our backpacks in a casa particular, we walked through Bayamo and enjoyed the beautiful carnival of the city: people dancing, drinking beer and eating delicious food in the streets. There was a party everywhere! This was a pretty good start!

6th of August: Arrival in Santiago de Cuba

We took a bus with cuban people (which actually looked as a truck) until Santiago de Cuba. The driver asked me if I wanted to sit in the front and this was one of the funniest rides ever: sitting in front of a truck and listening to my favorite music (raggaeton, salsa, bachata) for 4 hours in a row and talking to the super kind driver who told me a bit more about his country. 
After a long ride we finally arrived to Santiago. We had lunch in a very good restaurant, St. Pauli, and walked the whole day through the city's beautiful streets.

7th of August: Santiago de Cuba

In the morning we visited the "Casa Velasquez", a house who belonged to Cuba's first governor between 1516 and 1530. We were totally fascinated by the style of the house and by the ornamental elements which characterize this colonial mansion. 
Later we went walking through Barrio Tivoli, another part of Santiago. During sunset we enjoyed a beer at the Club Nautico. After that we had a delicious dinner at the restaurant "Barracon" and a chilly night listening to '70s and '80s music and dancing with locals.

8th of August: Trip to La Mula, area of the Pico Turquino

We planned a whole-day-trip to the seaside in the area near Santiago the Cuba and in the direction of the Pico Turquino. Liuvar, the super nice taxi driver (who rode an amazing Buick from 1952), took us until La Mula camping, a place where we chilled for a while and where we had lunch. On the way back, we stopped in several places to enjoy the view and swim in the sea: in the south you can see a lot of cliffs facing the ocean. Trust me, the view is incredible and you'll never forget these places.

9th of August: Gibara 

It was Marco's birthday! Yuhu! 
We took the Viazul until Holguin and then a taxi to Gibara. We slept in an amazing villa of mid 1800 located right in front of the sea. In the afternoon we went to the "Cueva de los panaderos", an amazing cave which goes over 100m under-earth. We could also swim in the water at the bottom of the cave, which was actually freeeeezing! But this experience was really amazing and definitely unique. 
We finished the day at the beach, right in front of our house, where I met Juan, a guy who took us around the city during the evening. He also showed us the view of Gibara from the mirador.

10th of August: Playa Guardalavaca and Pesquero

Mirta, our super fun taxi driver in Gibara, took us to two beautiful beaches: Guardalavaca, which was a little bit too crowded, and playa Pesquero. We enjoyed a chilly day in Cuba's idyllic beaches.
NOTE: use suncream guys.... or you will burn yourself like I did.......

11th of August: Camaguey

We arrived in Camaguey and we started walking through the picturesque streets of the city. The center of Camaguey is designated one of UNESCO's Wold Heritage Sites. You can easily get lost in this city: it's built almost like a labyrinth.
Tip: have lunch at the Cafe Ciudad: it offers a wide range of sandwiches and coffees! Everything is delicious.

12th of August: Trinidad

After a morning walk through Camaguey, we took a taxi to Trinidad. The man who drove us, showed us a breathtaking terrace facing a stunning green valley. We were completely surrounded by nature. Once we arrived in Trinidad, we started walking through the city to discover its beauty. Trinidad is a real gem and the architecture of the city is simply stunning. The only negative thing was the incredible amount of tourists in the city: everywhere we looked at, we saw just tourists and no locals. This was a real pity but that's also why we left the day after. After seeing everything we wanted to see, we continued our trip to Santa Clara.

13th of August: Santa Clara

It was Fidel Castro's birthday and we knew that people were going to celebrate this event. He turned 90 years..! Everywhere in the streets you could see signs wishing Fidel a happy birthday!
The taxi driver who took us to Santa Clara, brought us at his sister's house in Manicaragua, which was on the way, to offer us a very good cuban coffe. This shows you how genuine and nice cuban people are. They invite strangers in their house just to make you drink a cuban coffe!
Once we arrived in Santa Clara, we went to see the 4 monuments dedicated to Che Guevara. One of them was huge and it was impressive to see the dedication that a lot of cuban people have to these personalities of the "revolucion"!
We also walked through Parque Vidal and after dinner I went clubbing with some guys I met in Santa Clara. I had so much fun and, as many of you may know, I love to dance and I love south american music, so I really was in my element.

14th and 15th of August: Remedios

Remedios is a beautiful city located in Villa Clara. This city is pretty relaxed and the center is picturesque. It's a strategic point because it's also located near the Cayos, which is why we decided to stay here: we could visit another city and we could avoid sleeping in the resorts located at the Cayos
We spent these two beautiful days between the city and the Cayos (one of the best beaches is in Santa Marta! Don't miss it).

16th of August: Cienfuegos


We used this day to discover Cienfuegos beauty: walking to Punta Gorda, then to the center and losing ourselves in the streets. At sunset, we decided to drink a mojito in the club nautico, which was a very luxurious place near our house. The only problem was that the mojito wasn't as good as we expected and they didn't do it the "cuban way". This place is stunning, the view is great and you really feel like a princess when you walk into this palace.... but you can't make my mojito wrong :P

17th of August: Vinales

After a quick walk through the city, we rode horses through the Valle del silencio (Yes, I rode a horse! Yuhuuu). We visited a tobacco industry and then up to the mirador to enjoy the "puesta del sol", a beautiful sunset! This trip was amazing and being immersed in the nature for a complete day was totally relaxing.

18th-23rd of August: Habana

I couldn't wait to visit Habana! I had really high expectations on this city, but at the same time I knew that once we arrived in Habana, our time in Cuba would be almost at the end. I will dedicate another post to this city, because it deserves to be described in details. I completely fell in love with Habana: the Malecon, la habana vieja, having a drink at floridita... Habana is simply special! I imagined it to be full of tourists but luckily it wasn't like this at all! We slept in the beautiful Plaza Vieja, in the middle of Habana Vieja and the atmosphere was indescribable.  These things will always be impressed in my memories! So, to know more about Havana, don't miss the next post!!

Gracias Cuba, Hasta pronto!
Don't forget to watch the video of our trip...






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