Jonny here, right now I’m in Havana, and in this short film I’m going to explain a little about tourism in Cuba.
Most cultural holidays to Cuba will start in Havana, a city of magnificent decaying colonial architecture, monuments and parks, museums and galleries, music and bars and large old American cars.
But the first thing you’ll probably notice wandering around Havana is the near total lack of consumerism. Cuba is still a communist country with no commercial influence from America, and as such there’s almost no evidence at all of the large multinationals we’re used to in the West; you won’t find any Starbucks or McDonalds here. There are no billboards advertising Coca Cola, there are no glass fronted shopping malls. Which is actually really quite refreshing. The whole city gives you a sense of stepping back in time.
Here in Havana you should enjoy a tour of the cities main sites, an evening at the Bueno Vista Social Club, and trip to one of her many museums. You’ll need at least a couple of days, its a very fun place.
In two weeks time Trinidad will celebrate its 500 anniversary. Founded only a few years after Christopher Columbus discovered the America’s, the town shot to prominence in the 19th century as one of the world’s largest exporters of sugar. With its fine plazas, palaces and churches, and its famous cobbled streets lined by colourful houses, it developed into masterpiece of colonial Caribbean architecture. So well preserved is the town that in 1988 it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status and today forms an important part of most cultural trips to the country.
From Trinidad you might continue east to visit the revolutionary centre of Santiago de Cuba, or head west to enjoy the amazing landscapes around Vinales. Or you might like to do something completely different.
Of course there are plenty of other things to enjoy in Cuba besides the cultural highlights Trinidad and Havana offer. Cuba is blessed with beautiful countryside through which to can go hiking, cycling and horse back riding. Right now I am at a government ranch called La Guabina, in Pinar del Rio province. Each year Wild Frontiers takes the place over to run a horse riding tour of the area and horse riding is primarily what I have come here to do. But if riding is not your thing, from here you can also go on wonderful walks, go fishing or boating on one of the regions many lakes, indulge in some bird watching, or just relax away from the more chaotic life urban Cuba has to offer.
And finally of course there are beaches. As an island over a 1000 kilometres in length, with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other, there are hundreds of wonderful beaches just waiting to be enjoyed. And in our experience, Cayo Levisa, where I am now, is one of the best.
Relatively close to Havana, and relatively small in size, Cayo Levisa offers all the usual activities you’d associate with a modern beach resort, like sailing, fishing snorkeling and diving, but is small enough to not have you feeling drowned by mass tourism. As with a number of other similar locations, Cayo Levisa offers a great way to round off your trip to Cuba.
Of course a cultural adventure to Cuba will not be for everyone. With luxury accommodation pretty much non-existent, transport pretty basic, the cuisine though in places surprisingly good, in others rather plain, and a service level that is at best eclectic, those looking for a high end experience will almost certainly be disappointed here.
But if you’re the kind of traveller that is interested in seeing a country that hasn’t really changed in the last 50 years, a place that has not been overwhelmed by all the trappings of modern consumerism, and are happy to go with the flow in one of the world’s last remaining communist countries, then here in Cuba you will find one of the most friendly, authentic, historically interesting and culturally rich places in the whole of Latin America.
My advice is to come soon before it all changes.