Nick recently returned from his Cuban holiday where he rented a car and travelled round the country in a group of six. Activities included but were not limited to: Cuban dancing with locals, horse-riding through vast forests, lounging on white beaches and not to mention sampling (several) traditional Cuban mojitos! He was kind enough to provide us with a photo blog of his experience so prepare to be jealous…
“On Monday, all six of us arrived in Havana at the start of our Cuba holiday. The hotel was a comfortable, restored colonial mansion with a large open courtyard. Then friendly staff checked us in to our en-suite rooms, which were delightful with high ceilings and windows out onto the plant-filled courtyard. After a swift freshening-up we went to the Plaza Vieja a few yards away.
On the Plaza we ate in the open air and enjoyed a few excellent beers, which had been brewed on the premises. Then on Tuesday evening we went to the ‘Buena Vista Social Club.’ The show was excellent and we sat right next to the band, who hammed it up shamelessly. After a few (too many?) mojitos, one of us danced with the pretty lead dancer and no doubt made a pitiful spectacle! What fun!
We left Havana on Thursday at about 10 am and headed west to begin our Viñales trip, deciding that we’d use the coast road as it would be more interesting. We arrived at our hotel at about half-past one and the situation of the hotel was very pretty, set on a hillside overlooking Viñales. There was a pleasant covered terrace and bar where they served delicious mojitos! Later we ate in the hotel dining room with a buffet, tour groups and live music.
Friday morning we had breakfast on the terrace and then were off to meet our horses for the morning ride! After a brief introduction to our animals, off we went. We had a very pleasant ride through the countryside and a number of villages, then we were much refreshed by a tropical downpour. A tobacco farm provided shelter and coffee. We watched the locals making cigars and then tried one – we were so overwhelmed that we bought some cigars and some coffee beans! Later in the local restaurant, we enjoyed excellent pork legs and lobster.
Pinar Del Rio
We checked out Sunday and went to stay in a much-lauded ‘eco-hotel’. The rooms were pretty and very well-appointed. Lunch and dinner in the hotel – memorable for the eye-wateringly-strong mojitos!
On Monday we had a very interesting eco-tour around the area with a great guide, David. The trip included the former coffee plantations, an explanation of the history of the village community in La Terrazas, visits to various local resident artists and a coffee in a local coffee shop. David took us for an alfresco lunch at a private restaurant where we were serenaded by two men with a combined age of at least 150!
Tuesday we were off onto the motorway, heading past Havana to Santa Clara to stay in a cluster of en-suite cabins. We later went into central Santa Clara to see the spot where Che Guevara conducted his decisive battle in the revolution.
We stayed in a nice old large colonial house with a pleasant courtyard and we soon settled into our en-suite rooms. The town is all cobbled streets with a very pleasant square and a couple of museums which we ‘ticked off’ that afternoon. Back in the courtyard we had mojitos – of course! – followed by a delicious dinner served by Leon and members of his extended family who all lived there.
A ten minute drive took us to ‘La Boca’ on the coast. Further down the peninsula we had a drink at a pleasant cafe and then took a long walk down a sandy beach. Back up the coast we had a good lunch on the beachside terrace. Friday we were back on the beach at the same restaurant – very relaxing.
We headed up into the hills behind the town to visit ‘Gran Parque Topes de Collanates’, a series of national parks. We had a brisk walk along sign-posted tracks up into the hill and woods along the river. Two of us dropped out halfway and rested next to a shady pool where a few people were swimming, but there was a reward for those who persevered!
Back to Havana
Sunday we drove back to Havana via Cienfuegos with a light lunch en route. At the hotel, one lucky couple got the imperial suite! We then walked around town to see the local sights. Some were colourful and lively, and others not so colourful and lively… On the journey home at the end of our Cuba holiday, we bought several large bottles of rum at the duty free and managed to be the last onto the plane.
After take-off we felt we needed a drink and as the trolley came round, the girl smiled, ‘Sorry, no red wine. They drank it all on the way out!’
‘Any chance of a mojito?!’ I asked.”