Having recently returned from Cuba, I thought I would share some travel photography and tips. The biggest of the Caribbean islands, Cuba offers unparalleled beauty, from the mountain ranges of Pinar del Rio, to the bustling capital of Havana and the colourful, time-warped city of Trinidad.
I can thoroughly recommend exploring Cuba by bike. There is very little traffic on the mixed terrain roads and you can even cycle on stretches of motorway. If you are limited for time, hire a bike and journey through the tropical Viñales Valley, encircled with dramatic limestone outcrops and mountains. An area so beautiful, it’s been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Havana is the biggest city in the Caribbean and a tourist hotspot. Some of the much needed tourism funds will be going towards renovating the neglected old buildings that are collapsing daily around the city. The people are very friendly and it’s a safe place, with virtually no tourist crime to speak of. In Trinidad, it’s hard to believe that you are in the 21st Century – the colourful colonial buildings and cobbled streets haven’t changed in the last 200 years.
Hail a cab
Havana is like a big 1950s’ car museum, where gloriously restored Chevrolets, Buicks and Plymouths roam the streets. These beauties were left behind when the Americans left Cuba, following Fidel Castro’s revolution and subsequent 52-year US enforced trade embargo. To take a ride in one of these ‘Yank tanks’ with the flowing rocket like bodies, space age tailfins and deep leather seats is a real blast.
Experience of the hotels, particularly in Havana, was hit and miss. A 4 or 5 star hotel in Cuba, doesn’t quite equate to UK standards. For a more authentic experience, book one of the many Casa Particulares. Expect the beds to be handmade, the shower to be fashioned out of an assortment of recycled parts with the best home cooking being provided by the native hosts.
Cuba by night
At night, Cubans love nothing more than taking to the floor to strut their stuff and show off their honed Salsa and Rumba moves. The locals are only too happy to help you improve your steps if you are up for the challenge. The ubiquitous ‘rent-a-bands’ who stalk you at every restaurant can wear a little thin, but finding a decent club with a band fusing European and Afro rhythms is a real treat.
On the Rum-page
The lifeblood of this great country, Cuban rum is exported all around the world, while reserving plenty for domestic consumption. Rum is offered up in a mixture of guises, from the zesty lime-induced Mojito, to the refined Daiquiri, or a straight up Cuba Libre. Havana harbours many former old haunts of Cuba’s most famous adopted son, Ernest Hemingway, still functioning as lively bars and El Floridita is the home of the Daiquiri.
Eat more beans
Slow cooked meats and fresh fish are served up with the most wonderful flavours and spices. Cuban black beans and rice (congri) is to die for, as is the traditional black bean soup. Vegetarians won’t miss out, with an abundance of delicious sun-ripened fruit and vegetables to savour. In the lush, green fields, much farming is still done by hand, or by ox and plough.
Cuba is an amazing place to visit with the most friendly and humble people. A place that is undergoing massive transformation, with more and more Cubans being offered the chance to work in small private businesses and the role of the state reducing in everyday life.