This is a seven day itinerary for the Cuban capital of Havana, including a day trip to the Yumuri Valley
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North America7 days / February 2017
Highs & Lows
Dancing salsa to a live band at Casa de la Musica
A lack of public transportation can make it difficult to move around the city
In February 2017, I decided to spend one week visiting the enchanting city of Havana, Cuba. After arriving in Havana, I spent my time exploring the city’s unique architecture, key tourism attractions, and interesting neighborhoods. Havana is a city filled with many different kinds of art; from live music and dancing to colourful art installations and unique gastronomy. To make the most of my time in the city, I made sure to focus on outings that showcased Cuban culture, including the neighborhoods of Fusterlandia, live music shows at Casa de la Musica, and performances at the Gran Teatro. One of my most interesting experiences was a walking tour that discussed Afro-Cuban culture, religion, and art.
On my fifth day in Cuba, I opted to take a day trip to the nearby Yumuri Valley. The valley is famous for its scenic mountain ridges, lush green landscapes, and lazy river. In fact, many locals describe this region as the most beautiful part of Cuba. I spent the day swimming, boating, and hiking. A great way to see the Cuban countryside!
Q & A
How was the food?
In recent years Havana has undergone a culinary revolution, with local chefs developing a contemporary twist on traditional Cuban classics. Although there are many different places to eat in Havana, restaurants can often operate in a chef’s home; below the radar of the Cuban government. For this reason, finding Havana’s best restaurants may take some research on the internet and asking local residents. Some of the best restaurants on my trip included Dona Eutemia, La Guarida, Bella Habana, and El Cocinero.
What tips would you give a friend?
Havana has a complex political, economic, and cultural history. To make the most of my trip, I felt it was important to read a lot about the city before visiting. Since this trip, one of the best books that I read on the subject was “The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times” by author Anthony DePalma. I would highly recommend this book to other travelers looking to learn more about the country.
The best way to navigate Havana’s cobblestone streets is on foot, and for this reason, it is important to pack comfortable walking shoes. I would also recommend bringing some semi-formal attire for the evenings, especially for bars, restaurants, and performances. In general, Cubans take great pride in their appearance and often dress more formally than visiting tourists.
Walking is the main form of transportation in Havana. Unfortunately, the city does not have an extensive public transportation system, making it difficult to travel between different parts of the city. As a result, most tourists decide to use taxis when sightseeing. Recently, the Cuban government has allowed bicycle rentals, which is a great form of active transportation. However, you do need to keep an eye on your bicycle when it is not in use.
I used Airbnb to book my accommodation in Havana. I think this is a great way to support inclusive economic growth by giving my tourist dollars to local residents rather than large hotel chains. There are many different Airbnb options available at a wide variety of price points.