I joined a group tour from travel agency Summum to Cuba. We made a two-week itinerary on the Caribean island.: Havan - Vinales - Cienfuegos - Trinidad - Camaguey - Santiago de Cuba - Santa Lucia - Santa Clara - Varadero
We ended our Cuba tour at the Caribbean seas in an all-inclusive hotel in Varadero. It had been an interesting time in Cuba. Although the package tour didn't really allow me to mingle in Cuban society, I have seen some of the results of the political regime. The internet was only available for tourists and not for Cubans. Tourists had to pay with a different currency. The roads were almost empty. And poverty was all around. It felt like I had been back in time, wandering the colonial streets and watching the old American cars on the roads.
The situation in Cuba is changing however. And it wouldn't surprise me if Cuba will be a hotspot for the mainstream tourists when the political connections with the USA are tied. Cuba has all ingredients to be the new tourist paradise.
We spend some time on the beach in Santa Lucia before we continued to Santa Clara. In Santa Clara we visited the mausoleum of Ernesto 'Ché' Guevara. This memorial houses the remains of the executed Marxist revolutionary. Ché Guevara played an important role in Cuban revolution and therefore he still is very popular in Cuba.
On our way to Santiago we stopped at a music house in Bayamo and at Cemetario Santa Ifigenia, the burial ground for some famous Cubans. After the last stop at fortress El Morro we arrived in Santiago. The next day we enjoyed the music in the streets of Santiago and we ended up at a reggaeton street festival.
From Havana we took the bus to Cienfuegos. In this laidback students town we wandered some beautiful squares and we had lunch. In the afternoon we continued to Trinidad.
The city of Trinidad is an UNESCO World Heritage site. We walked around the lovely streets of the old colonial town. The cathedral on the central square can be seen from far away. With few cars on the streets and horse-cars on the roads, it felt like I was back in the colonial days.
From Havana I went on a day-trip to Viñales valley, west of Havana. We visited a rum factory and a cigar factory in Pinar del Rio. Though the scenery is beautiful I was a little bit disappointed and I thought it was not worth spending most of the day in the bus.
Another disappointment awaited me when I got back in the hotel in Havana. There I found out that my cellphone was stolen from my hotel room. The hotel didn't acknowledge the theft and reporting it to the police seemed pointless.
I wanted to visit Cuba before the country is really connected to the rest of the world. Since there were no good public transport services and didn't speak any Spanish, I booked a package tour to Cuba.
We started the tour in Havana, the capital city. Our hotel located was located near Old Havana, with its narrow streets, colonial buildings and overhanging balconies. With only a few (old-timer) cars on the streets it was easy to walk around and get a feeling of the Cuban vibes. I was surprised to see some old Dutch busses in town.
There was a special currency for foreigners to keep (government controlled) tourism separate from the local business. It was obvious most Cubans weren't wealthy and tourist scams were all round in the touristy old town to get some of the foreign Cuban-pesos.
We saw most of the remarkable landmarks like the Capitol building, the Revolution Square and the Plaza de Armas. In the evening I strolled along the Malecon (the boulevard) to enjoy the view on the bay and to drink a rum like the locals.