Trinidad Cuba

Why I fell in love with Cuba

Cuba really does live up to cliches (in the best possible way), it’s full to bursting with life, music and passion and it’s without a doubt one of the most unique destinations I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. I spent four days in Havana but getting out of the capital helped me really understand what made this intriguing country tick…

Cuba Tobacco

My first stop was tobacco country and the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Vinales Valley. From the small town of Vinales, a popular way to get around the plantations and the caves that dot the area is by horseback, and it’s not long before you convince yourself you’re an authentic guajiro (cigar and sombrero almost obligatory, bushy mustache optional). After sampling hand-rolled cigars we went swimming in a cave, and the scenery all around you is beautiful – among the best in the country, with towering karst formations providing an epic backdrop.

Cuba Horseback

Cuba Beach Park

After a day in the saddle, I recommend taking a short walk up to the La Ermita hotel, and have a drink while watching the sunset over the valley. From Vinales, there are several day-trips available – I went to Maria La Gorda (which sounds much nicer than its literal translation of “Maria the Fatso”!) for a bit of beach time and snorkelling.

Cienfuegos Cuba

Flamingos Cuba

From Vinales, I ventured to Cienfuegos, with its neoclassical architecture and lovely bayside location. While not as vibrant or vital as Havana (admittedly, few places are) it’s still a worthwhile stopover, and the nearby Laguna Guanaroca is worth a trip to see hundreds of gorgeous pink flamingos. While the architecture of central Cienfuegos can be a little underwhelming, a wander along the malecon at sunset down to Punta Gorda will bring you to the magnificent Palacio de Valle, a building that rivals the best of Havana.

Trinidad Cuba

Barely 90 minutes further east, is Trinidad – a town arguably caught in a time warp even more than Havana. But then the capital doesn’t have a nightclub in a genuine cave (Disco Alaya), which provides one of Trinidad’s most memorable experiences. The main square, Plaza Mayor, is even more beautiful if you manage to get there around sunset, as the golden light hits the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad.

Topes de Collantes national park

If you charter a taxi or go on a tour, you can also visit the Topes de Collantes national park and hike to the attractive Salto del Caburni waterfall.

Santa Clara Cuba

Deciding to limit my travels to the western and central part of Cuba, my final stop was Santa Clara – the resting place of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. It also has a noticeably younger vibe – perhaps due to the large student population – and a visit to the esoteric El Mejunje club. Adorned with graffiti outside, and adorned inside with all the local eccentrics that seem to be off the radar in the rest of the country.

Cuba Palms

After my Cuba ended I felt like I was asked if I wanted a taxi roughly 2000 times – which coincidentally is probably also the amount of times I had eggs, fruit and bread for breakfast, or a cheese and ham pizza for lunch. Best to get used to it ASAP. On the bright side, the portions are huge so you won’t go hungry – though I found it definitely easier to buy rum than it was to buy water (perhaps due to the recent cholera outbreak when I visited). You may also find it harder to meet other travellers than in other countries – my advice would be to either travel to Cuba with someone else or be able to speak Spanish. Otherwise, it might end up a somewhat lonely trip!

Cuba Roads

Visiting from a country, like many in the West, where individual businesses are gradually being eroded and consumed by the onward march of chain brands and global corporations, it’s so refreshing to visit a country with no commercial advertising (although with lots of propaganda in its place), and little regard to bowing down to the demands of rampant consumerism. Cubans are incredibly resourceful, they make do with what they’ve got, and consequently, there is very little wastage –  an ethos we could certainly learn from. I look forward to my return. 

All words and photos are by regular contributor Lee Hubbard.

Lee mostly spent his formative years as a junior Spielberg wannabe, devouring movies in front of a cinema screen, but then a “year out” after graduating turned into a not-too-shabby six years of working, travelling and volunteering across the globe and thus a change of career beckoned. Attempting to satisfy his curiosity and passion for discovery both at home and abroad, he became a concierge at a top London hotel and a member of the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or, whilst still finding time to visit over 60 countries. Although UK based, through travelling he's cannily found a way to combine all his passions - seeking out film locations, off-the-beaten track adventures and wildlife encounters with orangutans, whale sharks, gorillas and polar bears all while wearing an eternal smile on his face. He counts New Zealand, Tanzania, Denmark and Borneo among his favourite travel destinations. Follow Lee on Google+


  • Dave

    27 May, 2013 at 10:55 am

    I was in Cuba for 3 weeks back in February, so I immediately recognized the top photo as being from Trinidad 🙂

    I ended up staying at the popular Rolondo’s Backpackers in Havana for about a week and a half over 3 separate occasions. And I know of a few groups of backpackers that joined together to hit some of the other popular towns (Vinales, Trinidad, Santa Clara, etc) either by shared taxi, bus or in our case rental car before returning again to Rolondo’s. He’s got a place there to store your backpacks for those that are on longer backpacking adventures and don’t feel like lugging their full packs with them while traveling to some of the other towns in Cuba. So I highly recommend staying there if you’re heading to Cuba alone and want to hook up with other backpackers or just want a great place to stay while in Havana. Rolondo will also help arrange for places to stay in the other towns as well.

    I like the filters you used on your photos as it really brings out the feel of Cuba.

    Cheers, Dave

    And yes, I remember the pizza well.

    • Lee

      1 June, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      Yes indeed, Trinidad is very colourful! I stayed at Casa de Ania in Havana which was also excellent, though Rolondo sounds lovely too.

  • Katie Texas

    25 May, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Outstanding photos! For Americans your description and these photos are the definition of titillating (the one used by Victorians when shown a photo of an ankle in an alleyway). I’m going to have to sneak my way in, but it is obviously worth the subterfuge.

    • Lee

      1 June, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Do it! I met a surprising number of Americans there so it is certainly possible – and the Cuban people themselves were just as welcoming, no matter what your nationality is.

  • Agness

    24 May, 2013 at 6:02 am

    I recently joined the Instagram and love your photos guys. Never been to Cuba, but it’s of course on my list. Your photos just make me wanna go there!

  • Sofia

    21 May, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Beautiful! I hope that the vintage cars won’t completely disappear now that they have lifted the ban, they make photos look so characteristic 🙂


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