“Being a traveler is a transformative process, it changes you physically, emotionally and spiritually – it is the surest way to become the best version of yourself“.
A quote from one of the many airplane magazines that I have read during this trip and we could not agree more. This trip has changed and inspired us, broadened our perspectives. So many amazing places, all with their own specific character and gems to be discovered. Still, some places touches you on a deeper level than others…
Our days in the Cuban countryside are days that will stay in our hearts for a long time. A travel in time, such an authentic experience filled with beautiful nature, wounderful discussions, music, laughter, joy and personal meetings!
Get a glimpse of our days in Cuba in the video below!
Vinales – The Experiences
Our first day in Cuba we were picked up early in the morning by our guide Yosbel from Discover Vinales, a small newly established travel agency. I must admit that I first was a bit shocked by the old Geely car we were supposed to travel in but soon realized that in Cuba this is a “modern” car as promised in the trip itinerary.
As soon as we reached the highway we found ourselves in another world, another time. The highway was shared by numerous horse and ox carriages, bicycles, tractors and of course American cars like Chevrolet from the 50s mixed by Russian Ladas, all in bright colors!
Vinales has a lot to offer. Breathtaking views over the UNESCO protected Vinales valley, beautiful botanical gardens, huge caves with spectacular formations, in which you can walk or go by boat for hours, famous Mogotes paintings, in the middle of nowhere, just to mention a few highlights!
And if you are a more adventurous person you will find things to do here too…
When booking a trip like this it is easy to loose track of all the details and when our guide told us it was time for the Zip Line, it was a surprise to us both. But off we went and it is always nice to swing yourself among the trees with a great view, even though this was a totally different story than the Costa Rican one in terms of height, length and speed!
The Cuban cuisine is rich of choices, especially if you like vegetables. The stop at the organic local farm Caza de Confianza was a very appreciated one after an active day. The food was delicious with numerous organic vegetables dishes, all from the farm, the best Pina Colada we have ever had and a spectacular view!
When in Cuba you need to try Cuban Cigars, or at least learn all about the process of making them. Visiting a local farmer we learnt all about the thorough two years process and got a glance of the real life of the tobacco farmers, their traditions and customs..
Yet another travel in time. Everything is done manually by hands or by the help of the power of oxes or horses. Still, the proudness and passion of these people are amazing to witness. Everywhere you go you are met by a smile, a friendly face and by people that do their utmost to give you the best experience.
We did not smoke any cigars but at lest I got myself a picture of my own Mr Machan!
Vinales – The People
The best part of these days were the personal meetings, the discussions with our guide Yosbel and the stay with Antonio and Blanquita.
Casa Particular is a well established concept in Cuba, where you instead of staying at a hotel, stay with a Cuban family in their home. We arrived to the pretty and colorful village of Vinales in the afternoon and was greeted by a smiling Blanquita that showed us to our room in their green house. Fredrik was a bit sceptic to this concept but we were both positively surprised by our cosy and clean room decorated in true Cuban colorful style as well as the amazing hospitality of Antonio and Blanquita.
Our street, lined with colorful houses, was filled with people, busses and cars passed by followed by horse and ox carriages, stopping for a delivery or a short break. Once the sun had disappeared behind the mountains, people moved to their small front patios or into their living rooms. All doors still fully open for neighbors and friends to come and go as they pleased. A life fully displayed to the neighbors and people passing by.
We loved every minute of this stay, sitting in our patio watching the daily Cuban life taking place, talking to our hosts, their friends and neighbors. We felt blessed to have been invited into this friendly and caring community of people!
During a two day private tour you get to know your guide and with Yosbel we found a strong connection! So many interesting discussions and reflections and even though we were miles apart in some aspects due to the different development phases of our countries, we found a very strong common ground in the more spiritual topics, the big topics about life. And one of his question are still stuck in my head…
Linda, is it true that people in the west work so much so they do not have time for their families and friends? How can that be when you have a house, food and everything else you need for a happy life?
There and then, all my answers I have told myself so many times when having these thoughts felt totally wrong, totally irrelevant, so I just nodded…
Well, we in the West might be years ahead in terms of development but what always strikes you when traveling to less developed countries, is that in our eager to develop we sometimes lose our focus on the most important things in life – family, friends and love!
Varadero – A totally different world
After a five hours drive, we reached our next destination – Varadero – one of the most famous beaches in Cuba. Coming here after our days in Vinales was almost a shock, a bit absurd experience.
Here time has not stopped. You are met by huge resorts, all built for the tourist to enjoy the beautiful Varadero beach. A totally different world, another time and if you just go here you will experience little of all the great things Cuba has to offer!
Big resorts are not our cup of tea but small boutique hotels do not exist in Varadero. Having said this, our resort – Royalton Hicacos Varadero Resort – was a great resort. Built in Cuban style in bright colors and with canals and bridges, all to keep the small cosy feeling.
The Varadero beach is very beautiful with Caribbean crystal clear turquoise water and a wide beach with soft bright sand inviting you for long walks. Despite the huge resorts, it was very quite and it was easy to find sweet spots to enjoy the sun and to charge our batteries for the upcoming days in Havanna!
During the last night, Varadero offered us a spectacle, a magnificent sun set!
Seven days in Cuba were not enough. We fell in love with this country, with its people and its culture and Cuba will for sure be put on the list of countries for a second visit!