Cuba, a mixture of refined contradictions, where the grandeur of Spanish colonial architecture contrasts with colorful parades of vintage cars, has long held a certain fascination for me.
Pristine beaches, where the turquoise waters of the Caribbean gently lap the golden sands, pulsating music seems to come from every house and reverberate on every street, and the unique dance culture injects infectious force into daily life and contributes to the Cuba’s vibrant tapestry. In a country where every aspect of life is steeped in culture and tradition, every scene feels like a perfect postcard from a bygone era.
The preparation for this trip was meticulous and reflected my excitement. I embarked on extensive research work, delving into the island nation’s rich heritage and varied topography, making sure I could appreciate the context of every monument I would visit, every landscape I would see. I explored numerous online accommodation platforms, from Booking.com and Airbnb, to local Cuban sites, carefully selecting accommodations that promised authentic experience and comfort.
When I map out my two-week itinerary, I make sure it captures the true spirit of Cuba. My goal was to experience city life in bustling Havana, immerse myself in the rich culture of Trinidad and Cienfuegos, and immerse myself in the natural beauty of Isla Santa Maria and Tops de Corrantes. The thought of wandering the cobbled streets, swaying to the beat of salsa and enjoying the hospitality of the Cuban people fills me with anticipation.
The plans were well planned and the dreams big, but I was sure of one thing – Cuba was about to offer me experiences that exceeded my wildest expectations. The soul of Cuba awaits, and I’m ready to dive headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.
Day 1: Arrive in Havana
When the plane landed in Havana, there was a rush of excitement. The capital greeted me with its iconic colonial buildings, retro cars and rhythms that seemed to beat the streets. I checked into my hotel, a charming colonial-era building, and settled in for the night, ready to explore the city the next day.
Day 2 – Day 4: Explore Havana
The next three days were a whirlwind trip to Havana. From the vibrant streets of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to the modern Vedado neighbourhood, I was immersed in the city’s multicultural and rich history. I visited the iconic Revolution Square, the colorful Callejon de Hamel, and strolled along the seafront Malecón. Every day as the sun goes down, I eat traditional Cuban food at my local Paladares and listen to the lively salsa music that seems to fill every corner of the city.
Day 5: Transfer to Cienfuegos and explore it
Next, I drove to Cienfuegos, the picturesque pearl of the South. Known for its French influence and neoclassical architecture, I was drawn to the elegant cityscape.
Day 6: Transfer to Trinidad and visit it
On day six, I headed to the well-preserved Spanish colonial town of Trinidad. I wandered the cobbled streets, visited the Plaza Mayor and admired local handicrafts at the Casa de Aldeman Ortiz.
Day 7: Horse riding in a nature reserve
The seventh day is reserved for an adventure in the Nature Reserve Park Topes de Collantes in the Escambray Mountains. I spent the day on horseback, soaking up the lush greenery and cascading waterfalls.
Day 8: Transfer to Remedios
My journey continued to Remedios, one of the oldest towns in Cuba. I explored its charming main square, Piazza Marti, visited the historic Iglesia Parroquial Mayor del Buen Viaje, and enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere.
Day 9 – Day 12: Transfer to Cayo Santa Maria
For the next four days, I relax on Cayo Santa Maria, an original key to the Jardines del Rey archipelago. Crystal-clear waters and pristine white-sand beaches are the perfect haven to relax and soak up the sun. I dined on delicious seafood, indulged in water sports, and watched stunning sunsets.
Day 13: Return to Havana
I headed back to Havana to revisit my favorite spots and took the opportunity to shop for last minute souvenirs. I spent my last night enjoying traditional live music capturing the beating heart of Cuban culture.
Day 14: Go home
As I boarded the plane home, my heart was filled with colorful memories, like a colorful tapestry woven with threads of Cuban history, culture and natural beauty. This two-week journey has given me insight into Cuba’s past, energized its present, and given me an optimistic glimpse into its future.
Embarking on this journey feels like opening a colorful book, each page telling the fascinating story of a country marked by history, resilience and hospitality. Exploring the nooks and crannies of Cuba’s vibrant cities and serene nature reserves, I found myself getting closer and closer to the country’s beating heart.
From the bustling street music of Havana, to the rhythm of Cuban salsa that seems to echo around every corner, to the tranquil beaches of Isla Santa Maria, the feeling of ongoing cultural carnival is irresistible. It was an in-depth exploration of vibrant cultures and traditions, each with their own unique story, that left a lasting impression on my soul.
Witnessing the resilience of Cuba was an eye-opening experience. The ability of the islanders to navigate adversity, with a smile on their faces and warmth in their hearts, speaks volumes about their incredible strength. Yet they still took the time to welcome strangers like me and share their stories, their laughter, and their dreams. Their generosity and hospitality touched my heart and turned my journey into a relationship story.
From the colonial architecture of Trinidad to the lush nature reserves of Topes de Collantes, each destination is a chapter in my Cuban love story. The contrasting landscapes, music and people of the island intertwine to form a captivating tapestry of experiences that ignited my inner sense of adventure and discovery.
As I fell in love with Cuba, I found myself growing too. I have learned to embrace the strange, to dance to the rhythm of life, and to appreciate the simple joys in people. My trip to Cuba was more than a travel itinerary; it was a love story between a nomad and an island, one of shared moments, warm smiles and unforgettable sunsets.
It is this love story that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone with a spirit of adventure and discovery. Embark on a trip to Cuba to experience the passion and tenacity of the Cuban people, immerse yourself in its culture, and let its magic captivate you. Cuba has a beautiful love story waiting for you, all you need to do is take the first step.