El Bosque de La Habana

In the heart of the busy and loud city of Havana there is a piece of nature and a completely different world.
That’s the Park by the Almendares River. Between the neighborhoods Vedado and Playa under a bridge you can discover nature in the middle of Havana.
Also if you have the change you can witness some Santeria rituals held by the river.
The Bosque is a small park by the river with huge ficus trees and benches to sit down and rest from the hot and hectic city.
If you keep walking along the river you can see wild nature without leaving the city.
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It’s a different spot in Havana
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Viñales

Over the Years Viñales turned into a  touristic hotspot and that din’t happen without a reason. The Viñales Valley is a beautiful part of Cuba and the unique landscape and tobacco field attract millions of tourists every year.
It is one of the must see places in Cuba and offers a lot of attractions for out door fans and climbers. But also for the ordinary tourist.
If you are not so much into hiking, horseback riding or climbing, a short visit is enough.
In Viñales you have the opportunity to visit tobacco farmers and to learn about the whole process of making a cigar.
Visit the Cueva del Indio and take a boat ride on the small river inside. (5CUC entrance)
I recommend to do the ride around the valley by bus, or by taxi (usually around 6CUC per person) to cover the main sights. Then do a guided tour around the valley.
You can ask the BnB owner or book one at the tourist  information in the city centre.
There are different tours in the valley by horse, bike or walking.
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Horse back riding in the Valley
The botanical garden is also worth a visit. Founded by two sisters the garden is still a family business and the staff is happy to explain the plants and fruits to you. They also give out samples of fruits grown in the garden.
There is no entrance fee, but donations are welcome.
Because the Valley of Viñales is protected, there are no machines working. Every farmer works with bulls and by Hand.
You can also visit some organic farms and have organic fruits, drinks and meals. One of them is the “Finca Integral Raul Reyes Posada” in the Valley, near the Cueva de la Vaca.
If you stay longer in Viñales you should consider a day trip to one of the Cayos Jutía or Levisa.
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discover Cuba as a Vegetarian

Of course a trip to Cuba includes getting to know as many aspects as possible of Cuban culture, including Cuban food.
Cuban food is a mixture of many roots and influences. In the mini guidebook I made, you can find some explanations.
Main dishes in Cuba are usually rice, beans, salad and fish or meat.
But what if you don’t eat meat? How could you still get an idea of Cuban food without conflicts in you vegetarian lifestyle?
And most importantly, how can you survive your trip without starving?
Well, first of all here is great news, Cubans love Pizza and Pasta and especially in Havana there are many Italian restaurants owned by Italian chefs. So there at least you can get pasta and pizza as an alternativ without meat.
When it comes to typical Cuban food, it is a little harder. Although during the last years some restaurants started offering vegetarian alternatives you will still have to look a little to find them. Also, owners of the BnBs learned over the years how to cook delicious meals for vegetarian tourists.
In Viñales there is already a vegetarian restaurant and in Havana there is one at the botanical garden and in the Vedado neighborhood opened a vegan place:
Línea Saludable
Calle 17 No. 407, e/ G y F, Vedado
They offer a great Variety of healthy food and Vegan food like burgers or vegan pizzas.
Anyway here is some basic vocabulary for Veggies and things you can order:
No como carne – I don’t eat meat
Huevos – Eggs
solo arroz y frijoles- just rice and beans
ese plato tiene algo de carne – does this dish contains meat
Me puden preparar algo que no viene con carne? – Could you prepare something without meat
I recommend to ask for eggs with the usual rice and beans variety and you get a really typical dish. That mainly is helpful in small cafeterias. Most people in Cuba can not afford to eat meat everyday and eat eggs instead.
If you need poor tips and addresses of places that offer vegetarian and other food try: “Where to eat in Havana?

El Nicho

The Nicho is a Waterfall near Cienfuegos in the Escambray Mountains. It’s a place worth a visit if you go to Cienfuegos.
For 40-45$ a Taxi takes you on the about an hour ride there, waits for you and takes you back.
In the National Park you can take a tour to visit   the waterfalls, you could also walk around on your own.
There are places to swim in fresh and clean water and a point from where you have great view on the valley and the nature.
If you are lucky you can spot the National Bird, the Tocororo, which has the colors of the Cuban flag.
I highly recommend to eat in one of the paladares from the farmers around the Nicho afterwards. The driver will know one.
They cook traditional dishes on a clay oven and make natural juices and serve fresh fruits and vegetables from their farms.
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Cooking in a Paladar near el Nicho
The entrance for the national Park cots 9 CUC or 20 CUP, if you are a resident in Cuba.
Also the way there is nice get to know the landscape. Make sure you try guarapo, the sugar cane juice on your way there.

Havana Book Fair

If you come to Cuba and Havana in February, you are lucky. Why? Because you get the chance to see the international book fair in Havana and be a part of one of the most beloved events in the City.
Every year the book fair is held at the fortress Morro y Cabaña.
So you also get to see the fortresses. In the part wich is called el Morro there is a huge arts and crafts fair during the same time, so also if you don’t speak Spanish you will find something to take home.
In the part of the Cabaña there are several Editorials from Cuba and all over the world presenting their books.
There is also music and a lot to eat, so it’s entertaining even if you don’t like to read or don’t understand the language.
There are buses that are going there from the city centre, so it is also easier and cheap to go there. The ride costs one CUP.
I also recommend to buy the tickets in a bookstore before you go to the actual book fair, so you safe money and time at the entrance.
You can enjoy the view on Havana from the fortresses and get involved in a special event.
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El Morro
Don’t miss it!

Some Tips for Cienfuegos

At the central south coast of Cuba there is a town called Cienfuegos. Cienfuegos has the nickname “Pearl of the South” and is the only city in Cuba founded by French settlers.
It’s near to Trinidad and has a quite atmosphere.
The City is considered one of the most elegant cities in Cuba.
Cienfuegos has two main parts, the town and the peninsula Punta Gorda.
For the real holiday experience I recommend staying in Punta Gorda and going to the city for sightseeing and for dinner. As it is a rather small town distances are not so long, but you can take a bike taxi or a carriage to travel between the two parts.
As I mentioned before the town is also a good starting point to do excursions to places like:
-Trinidad
– Castillo de Jagua
– Guanaroca
Here are a few tips for your stay in Cienfuegos.

Hotel La Unión

 

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View from the bar
Adress: Calle 31 esq.54. The Hotel Union is a beautiful hotel in the center of Cienfuegos. I don’t recommend it for staying there but for going to the rooftop bar and have a drink. You will get a really nice view on the main square and the bay of Cienfuegos and they have a great barkeeper. I recommend to try the Mojitos and the Daiquiris.

Restaurant Bahía

Adress: Ave. 40 #3713 e/ 37y 39. Its a small restaurant in the town of Cienfuegos close to the Malecón. It has a great variety of seafood and fish and huge portions. On the walls you can see old pictures of the town and the area.

Palacio del Valle

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Outside el Palacio del Valle

 

In Punta Gorda there is an Arabian, Indian, gothic, baroque and venice Style palace built by a rich Spaniard in 1914 as a summer residence. It’s an impressive building with a lot of details to discover and a bar on the top floor with a nice view., especially for Sundown.
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The Marina 

For a nice cold beer, some good sandwiches and nice contacts to other tourists or locals I recommend the Marina, also in Punta Gorda. From there you could also get on a boat and do a little tour around the bay of Cienfuegos.

Casa del Chocolate

For chocolate, sweets and ice-cream you should visit the Casa the Chocolate located at Prado. There you can enjoy cheap sweets and Cuban chocolate.

I also recommend to walk all the down at Punta Gorda to visit the old wooden colonial houses and the bay. You could also have a bath in the sea or just dip your feet.
When you take a walk around the town you should take a walk on the boulevard and then turn right at the parque Martí to keep on walking on it and visit some of the art galleries.
If you need some recommendations for BnBs in Cienfuegos feel free to ask.
Also feel free to commend your recommendations for Cienfuegos.

John

John Lennon is a legend, I think we can all agree on that. Also I am sure that I there is no need to explain who John Lennon is. But maybe there is a need to explain why John Lennon appears in a Blog about traveling to Cuba.
John Lennon was my neighbor for the last months, well not the real John Lennon, one made out of bronze. He is sitting in a park in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana, in the Street 17, corner to 6. He is sitting there waiting for visitors and he gets a lot of visitors.
But why is he there?
Well the Park was named after John Lennon in 2000, as a tribute to him on the 20. anniversary of his . John Lennon was never in Cuba by the way.
The Beatles and their music didn’t have a great reputation here in the first years of the Revolution. Although they had and still have a lot fans on the island.
To honor the revolutionary spirit of John Lennon Fidel Castro decided to build the staute of Lennon and name the park after him.
Lennon’s bronze replica also wears his famous glasses, well sometimes. Because in the past the glasses were robbed very often there is a person taking care of them and putting them on Lennon’s nose so can take pictures with his visitors.
There is also a club called the yellow submarine, or submarino amarillo. They have life music every day, mostly from rock, pop and reggae groups. At John Lennon’s birthday they have a huge party.
You should stop by and check it out. Besides John Lennon’s presents it’s also a really nice park.
So, Imagine …
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Visiting John Lennon on his birthday last year 

Two Weeks: A General Overview

Two Weeks is good time for getting to know Cuba a little better. As in other posts I recommend don’t put to much places and things in your agenda. Of course this is just an idea of what you could visit in two weeks, there are a lot of different options.
This route contains some of the main sights and beaches in Western Cuba. Of course you can change the route in a different way or stay a different amount of days, this is just a suggestion.

Day One – Day Four 

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Discover Havana. Of course if land in Varadero or some of the other airports the route changes a little.
I think to enjoy Havana the most you should stay there some days at the beginning and some days at the end of the trip. Havana is a loud, hot and sometimes a little bit crazy city, so if you come back after a a trip to other places in Cuba you will see it differently.

Day Four – Day Six

Go on and go to Viñales, as I recommended in this post: One Week: Havana and some nature, I suggest to visit Soroa on your way.
Take a walk in the valley of Viñales, go climbing or horseback riding.
You also could think about staying a day longer and taking a trip to Cayo Jutías or Cayo Levisa

Day Six – Day Ten

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Boulevard in Cienfuegos
Go to Cienfuegos. Take the bus or a Taxi at the Busstation in Viñales and go down south. The trip takes a while (about 7 hours) but it’s the longest distance to travel in this route suggestion. If you don’t want to sit in a car or bus that long, make a stop in Havana and travel to Cienfuegos from there.
In Cienfuegos there are a lot of excursions you can do for example to the Nicho waterfalls or to Rancho Luna. I also to visit recommend Guanaroca to see flamingos in nature.
I Usually suggest to do Trinidad in one day as an excursion from Cienfuegos. You can go there by Taxi and for 40$ the driver takes you there, waits for you and take you back to Cienfuegos.
Of course you could also go to Trinidad for one or two nights and enjoy sights like the Casa de la Música or the Playa Ancón close by.
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Plaza Mayor Trinidad

Day Ten –  Day Fourteen

You could split the last days up and go to Trinidad for one night and than head back to Havana, or simply go back to Havana and enjoy more of the cities cultural life.
You also can think about making stops at Paya Giron or Santa Clara on this route.

Ten Days: Culture and Beach

Snip20160623_3You have ten days for your holidays and you want to relax but also see something, but trouble too much with driving around the island and spend a lot of time in buses or cars. If you have just ten days and want to go to beach and relax but as well get a little culture and learn about Cuba, you should split the time and spend some days in Havana and the rest on a Cayo, or in Varadero. In this way you have both culture and beach.
Depending on your preferences I recommend: six days in Havana and 4 days in Varadero, or if you are more into lying on the beach the other way round.
For tips what to in Havana check the other posts or ask me directly.
The Viazul bus to Varadero just takes about 2-3 hours and costs about 12$.
If you want to take a taxi on your own it’s about 90$.
In Varadero there are a few BnBs, but they are booked out pretty fast, so if you want stay in a Casa Particular and not in an All inclusive Hotel, you should consider reserving in advance.
Or you could consider a few days in one of the hotels to relax completely.
Varadero is quite touristic and because of that more expensive than other places in Cuba.

Rancho Luna, the underestimated beach

In the South of Cuba there is a town called Cienfuegos. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Cuba and the only one founded by the French. It is the perfect town to relax and to have good time. There will be a separate post on Cienfuegos soon.
Cienfuegos is also special because of all the different excursions you can do outside the city, like visiting he Nicho Waterfalls or Trinidad. Or the Beach Rancho Luna.
Rancho Luna is a rather small beach and not as famous as beaches like Varadero, Guardalavaca,María la Gorda or Playa Ancón, but it has his advantages.
It is about 20 Minutes away from the City of Cienfuegos and a Taxi there costs about 10$.
You also can rent a place near the beach in a really quiet and a beautiful place to relax.
Rancho Luna might not be as impressive as other beaches in Cuba, but it still is beautiful and less crowded, even in summer.
There are coconut trees all around and a place to get drinks and snacks.
near by there is a diving school and a aquarium with a dolphin show.
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My special tip: stick around for sunddown, you won’t be disappointed