“The motherland” will be one of the phrases that you will hear most from Cubans when walking through the streets and telling them or guessing where you come from. After a whole year of waiting, my trip to Cuba finally arrived!! I was so looking forward to the moment that now that I'm back I can't believe I was there. I want to come back!! And, although it will be complicated, I will try to summarize my time in Havana in three days in this post 😉
The first thing you have to keep in mind when choosing Cuba as a travel destination is that It is not a country that is prepared for tourists. What does this mean? For adventurers, backpackers and intrepid travelers it is the perfect destination, but if you are looking for comfort and good service you better think twice before buying tickets. Once purchased... There is no turning back. We're going to Cuba!
After 9 hours of flying with Evelop, we landed at the Jose Martí International Airport. The first thing that will catch your attention shortly before arriving is that they will fumigate you. Yes, yes, as you read it. Due to the Cuban government's law to prevent insect species/diseases from being transported from one country to another, when the plane is beginning to descend the flight attendants will fill the plane with a non-toxic spray for people. Has it happened to you anywhere else? For me it was the first time.
We arrived in the center of Havana in the afternoon: Loss of control with the hours, desire to take a shower and go out to the street to discover Havana.
We stayed in a centrally located hotel so as not to need transportation within the city, since Although on the map it seems that Cuba is a small island, the distances are quite long. We had Obispo and O'Reilly streets two minutes from the accommodation.
If you have the opportunity, I recommend that you stay in a house instead of a hotel. You will live the experience in a much more authentic way 😉
What I said: We took a shower and went out in search of what would be the place where we would have dinner that night. We had a reservation made at the Doña Eutimia paladar (one of the best known both in Spain and there) and the truth is that the dishes did not disappoint. Everything was delicious and at a very good price!! We tried avocado with octopus, the well-known ropavieja and the picadillo with its beans and white rice. Drink? Mango smoothie (It was too early for mojitos!).
The next morning they would pick us up early to begin our guided tour of Havana, so we went home quickly to recharge our batteries and fully enjoy the surprise that awaited us…
Day 1: Guided tour of Havana
With this great car they came to pick us up at the hotel door to spend the day #funplanning In the Habana. With us were Miguel the driver and Miguel the guide, with whom we shared a whole day in which we talked about culture, the city, a little bit of politics and, above all, they helped us discover the authentic Havana. we made a tour of six hours in total between the car ride and the walking tour by the city. Riding in this 50-year-old convertible we traveled the length of the Malecón and toured each of the neighborhoods of Havana: from El Malecón to Vedado, Miramar and we end in Old Havana, where our walking route began.
Here we stayed with only one Miguel, who guided us through the buildings with the most history, anecdotes, main squares and gave us some advice on how to get around the city and what places to go.
In the evening
We finished the route around 4:30 p.m., at which time, as a Caribbean place, a tropical storm hit us and we would not have needed a shower that day if we had brought soap with us. This made us have to go to the hotel to dry off and wait until it cleared.
Another curiosity! Cubans say that when we Spaniards left there we left them the best in life: mulattas and rum. And it is completely true, because nothing was left of our schedules. They eat around 1:00 p.m., the monuments and shops close around 5:00-5:30 p.m. and they have dinner around 9:00 p.m. Like many European cities!
But we, as true Spaniards, when we were able to go out on the street, we set out to start getting to know the best bars and traditions of the Cuban capital. In Cuba they have 2 of their own beers: Cristal and Bucanero; but they also export Presidente (of Dominican origin). My favorite? The Crystal 🙂
Regarding mojitos, daiquiris and other cocktails... Yes, we tried them and drank a few, but if you don't want to drink cologne, we recommend that you tell them to put it lightly. It may seem like a joke, but rum is much cheaper than water or any soft drink, so the most common thing is that they add more than 3/4 of alcohol and the rest... whatever they need, hahaha. As for the best brand of rum if you are in Cuba, Havana Club is the one we all know, but the best is Santiago de Cuba 😉
Day 2: Discovering the authentic Havana
If the previous day they had told us the history and shown us the most touristic places in Havana, we left the second day to get lost in the city. Although it is true that we went to take some photos (the day before during the tour we did not want to dwell on this), we let ourselves be carried away through the streets of Old Havana to discover its houses, markets, customs and way of life.
We only did two “tourist trips” but both were recommended. The one in the morning was to go to “The Dark Chamber” of the Old Square of Havana. The views are very cool because it is located on a rooftop from which you have panoramic views of the city, but Da Vinci's invention that will be shown to you there will leave you amazed. And that's where I can read…
From there we visited every alley and corner of the Cuban capital: We talked to the people in the area, we found out that what we thought were mangoes due to their size were actually avocados and we found ourselves completely immersed in their way of life. As you walk around you will see children playing in the street, the doors of houses open and people talking loudly in the street as if you were in your town..
If one thing is Havana, it is safe
Regarding the architectural situation and the conservation of the streets, I do have to admit that everything is quite old and neglected, which is why, sometimes, before entering a street you had to fill your lungs with fresh air because the smells you may encounter can be too… Peculiar.
Havana is a very hot city in the summer months, so although we were always carrying a bottle of water, mid-morning we made a strategic stop in a wonderful place (both because of how cool it was and because of the aroma that was breathed there): the Chocolate Museum (I have a very sweet tooth, what can I do!)
In addition to the cold chocolate, which is very good to regain strength, I recommend that you try the chocolates, they are to die for!! They have more than 30 varieties and they make the most varied shapes <3 You can also see what instruments are used to treat the cocoa and you can see how they make the figurines and the chocolate itself, but after trying it, you will only be able to think about that, hahaha
After this stop along the way, we approach another of Havana's temples: the old Havana Club rum factory. The visits are done by language and they are organized by hour, so we reserved the time of our tour and, since we had very little time left, we went to eat something there, since at the end of the visit there is a tasting and We didn't want to be caught on an empty stomach.
In addition to the traditional dishes that we would say “good”, andn In Cuba they have a sandwich that they call “sandwich or Cuban sandwich”. We hope that if you order it you will be hungry because in addition to the fact that the size is not bad at all, it is made with pork loin fillet, ham and cheese. Don't think that they have a slice of everything and a fine steak; but it is a MR. SNACK, like that, with capital letters.
In the evening
The visit to the old Havana Club factory is very short (about 30-40 minutes I would say) and you They tell how sugar cane is treated from when it is collected until what is obtained is rum. They do not preserve many of the tools that were used but they do tell quite interesting details regarding how the wood of the barrel affects or about the different varieties that exist and how to combine them. For example, making a cubalibre with Havana 7 for Cubans is sacrilege and they have a specific one for mixed drinks. The bad new? That does not reach Spain.
That's how we started the afternoon of our second day. And we finished it. Because next to the factory there is a bar that is very cool, with different types of rum that they explain to you during the visit... Is it necessary to make more excuses? xd
Oh by the way! That was our second “tourist” of the day 😉
Day 3: Museum of the Revolution and Malecón
One of the greatest symbols of the city is the Museum of the Revolution, since through objects and manuscripts you can learn about the history of this archipelago (although we know it as an island, Cuba is actually made up of 4,195 cays, islets and islands and the Isle of Youth). You have the possibility of doing the visit by yourself (10 CUC) or with a guide (12 CUC).
Although they both need a whole morning, I recommend the guided tour since it is much more enjoyable to have someone telling you the story than if you do it independently. If you do it alone it is very likely that after reading three panels the only thing you want to do is go out in search of a mojito. To do it the first way, it is best to go early since they do not have defined hours or minimum groups, but it depends on how people arrive.
When we left the museum, and despite the time and the heat, we prepared to explore The Malecon. Doing it in the morning has the charm of seeing people walking around, reading a book, sunbathing or simply taking photos. However, to prevent the heat from winning your battle, It is more than advisable to visit it in the late afternoon and take the opportunity to see one of its fantastic sunsets.. And if you also accompany it with a fresh beer in hand, TOP plan! 😉
As we traveled the entire length of the Malecón on the first day riding in the convertible, in this case we only reached the Hotel Nacional, a place that I was especially interested in visiting.
In Havana it is quite curious and advisable to visit some hotels as if they were monuments.
He Saratoga Hotel It is one of the best known both for its high price and for the personalities who have stayed there throughout its history. Currently the one with the highest price in the city is Grand Hotel Manzana, located close to the previous one and close to the Central Park. Another of the most notable (next to its roof) is the Hotel Both Worlds, a place that, along with Bodeguita de en Medio and La Floridita, was quite frequented and served as an inspiration to the writer Ernest Hemingway.
As for the Hotel Nacional, is the one with the most history in Havana and the oldest in the city.. Of course, when you enter you will seem to be part of a movie in which the scene is a super luxurious hotel and everyone is dressed in gala clothes from the 50s. But don't worry about your looks and passing, since you will see that the majority will be dressed like you 😉
The interior patio is very beautiful and well-kept, in addition to having magnificent views of the Malecón. To refresh ourselves we had some pina coladas and started our way back to Old Havana.
Last afternoon in Havana
We spend our last afternoon in Havana from bar to bar accompanied by Cuban rhythms and their different songs. If, in addition to the country's own beers, you want to try some artisanal beers, I recommend the Plaza Vieja Brewery, located in the Plaza Vieja as its name indicates. There you can find blonde, toast and black, all of them made by themselves.
If you go with colleagues and agree on the type of beer, you can order a tube of several liters with your own tap. Moment of selfie sure!
In our case, since we wanted to try several, we decided to order by the pint.
And for dinner… another of the Cuban delicacies! Lobster. Despite the prices we have in Spain when we eat seafood, in Cuba you will have the opportunity to try it for about 12-20 CUC, depending on the place. In our case we went to Habana 61, a place where you can taste typical Cuban dishes with an innovative touch.
Octopus carpaccio as a starter, lobster and pork dumplings as a main course. Everything delicious!! As you can see in the photos, by this day we had already adapted to drinking piña colada, since it is quite refreshing and we had to train for when we went to the beach 😉
And without realizing it, this is the last chapter of Havana in three days. But the adventure continues! Next stop… Viñales! Do you follow us? 😉