We’re still in temporary “armchair traveler” mode courtesy of Colombia’s nationwide quarantine. In lieu of new adventures, we’ve been reminiscing about some of our previous trips and remembering what we loved best about each place.  Here’s our first installment about our voyage to the Galapagos Islands in 2017.

Over Christmas and New Year’s in 2016-2017, we spent an unforgettable two weeks in Cuba.

IMG_7977-1024x682 Our Best of Cuba Cuba
Giant depiction of Che Guevara in the Plaza de Revolución. The bleachers were left over from the funeral of Fidel Castro, who died just before we got there.

President Obama was just about to leave office and had made a historic visit to Havana the previous March. And Fidel Castro had just died a month before we got there. It was an interesting time to visit Cuba: there was an overall feeling of transition and optimism in the air, travel restrictions for U.S. citizens had been eased, and there was still plenty of hope that relations between the U.S. and Cuba would continue to normalize. Of course, the opposite has happened over the past four years (here’s a more recent article about life in Cuba today). We feel very lucky to have seen this vibrant country when we did.

We started in Havana and then traveled by bus to the colonial cities of Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Here are the photo highlights from all three cities. Just like the Galapagos post, we aren’t going into a lot of written detail here. To read more about the trip, check out our detailed blog posts on Cuba.

Note: All photos are all in galleries. You can click through each one for larger views.

Havana

Havana was everything we had imagined it would be, and then some. Chaotic, colorful, filled with iconic old cars and exuberant people who live their lives mostly outdoors – in the streets, on the balconies of decaying old mansions, on the Malecón. Havana was emblematic of Cuba as a whole: filled with contradictions and on the verge of big change, which we hoped would be for the better.

Cienfuegos

After several days in Havana, we took a half-day bus ride to the port town of Cienfuegos, a lovely city filled with beautifully preserved, historic-landmark buildings in the French style (owing to the fact that the town was settled by French immigrants in the early 1800s).

Trinidad

From Cienfuegos, we took the bus to Trinidad, where we spent a memorial New Year’s Eve with the family who hosted us in their casa particular. Trinidad is one of Cuba’s most historic and picturesque towns, replete with cobblestone streets, plenty of horse- and oxen-drawn carts, and bright-hued, tile-roofed adobe buildings. The town is a beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage site, and the clear late-afternoon light and vivid colors make it a photographer’s dream.

Thank you for sharing in our Best of Cuba memories! Next up: Peru

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28 Comments

  1. Spectacular photos! Such incredible memories. Cuba is one of those places I’d like to visit as well. Probably on my Belgian passport. 🙂 Havana’s streets and buildings reminded me a bit of Cartagena. Of course, the culture is different and the old cars add to the charm. And I recognize a hint of New Orleans architecture in Cienfuegos. Ooooh, to be able to travel internationally again! Thanks for the virtual photo tour!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Liesbet! You wouldn’t have any problem getting into Cuba on a Belgian passport. Didn’t think of Cienfuegos resembling New Orleans, but I see your point with the wrought iron balconies, etc. Someday soon we’ll all be making new travel memories!

  2. John and Susan – Your photos here are absolutely breathtaking. Thank you for bringing Cuba to us. I greatly enjoyed this vicarious travel. I look forward to joining you in Peru!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Donna! Peru’s going to be challenging since we were there for a month and have well over a thousand photos between us. Wish us luck 🙂

  3. Thanks for taking me along. Loved the tour of Cuba. Have a friend who lives in the U.S. who had to leave everything — home, business, and savings behind when Castro took over. He was American and had married a Cuban. Life is interesting…..

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it, Muriel! We’ve heard so many stories of people whose lives were upended by the Cuban revolution. It’s such a complicated and mysterious country (we wrote about all the contradictions we encountered in our very first Cuba post, “The Cuba Conundrum”). Hope you’re doing well!

  4. Those are some really nice shots! I love the colors and the energy of the people. I’m glad you went to Cuba during that short timeframe before things began deteriorating again between the two neighbors.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Bama! We feel very fortunate that we got to see Cuba when we did. We hope we get to return someday. Hope you’re doing well.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Henry! Have a great day – we hope to move up there soon 🙂 Cheers, John and Susan

  5. Love, love, LOVE your photos! You’ve captured Cuba’s heart and soul. I really enjoyed seeing Cienfuegos, a town we didn’t get to. Thanks for your perspective on this unique country. So beautiful!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Kelly! Cienfuegos was really interesting. The Bay of Pigs is nearby and is now a spectacular diving site. We had to save it for our next visit. Hope all is well in your world!

      • Ooooh, super cool about the diving site! Cuba must have some great ones since it’s not overrun by the world. Thanks for the tip! Hope you’re doing well as well. 🙂

  6. Such fabulous photos that really capture what Cuba is all about! I so enjoyed seeing it through your eyes and remembering our time there. A confounding and brilliant place. We didn’t go to Cienfuegos, choosing instead to go to Viñales, so I enjoyed seeing some of it here. We thought about doing a day trip from Trinidad to Cienfuegos but were a bit full up with preserved Spanish Colonial towns at the time so chose instead a day on a yacht going to one of the outlying islands.
    Alison

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Alison! We feel like we just scratched the surface on our visit to Cuba. We’re looking forward to getting back there and visiting Viñales and Santiago de Cuba, among other places. A yacht trip to an outer island sounds perfect!
      Susan

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Cindy! Have a great day.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Yes, Cuba’s had a pretty tough time with COVID, I think, and they’re not through it yet – just like the rest of this part of the world. Hope you get to visit someday!

  7. So many amazing photos! Cuba’s been on our wish list for ages and so we can only hope that conditions allow us to visit at some point in the near future.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Ian! We would LOVE to hear your perspective on Cuba. Maybe you can get there as part of your next visit to South America 🙂 Hope you and Nicky are doing well. Still in Spain?

  8. I haven’t been to Cuba yet and would love to visit this country someday. Your post filled me with wanderlust. Thanks for sharing the post with vibrant photographs.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you for visiting – hope you get to visit Cuba someday. It really is a special place.

  9. Wonderful photos! I just love the colours and vibrancy and those wonderful old cars. Cuba is a place that I regret not having visited (yet).

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks! We hope you get to visit Cuba someday.

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