3 Days in Havana
Old Havana has so many interesting places and we were lucky that our hotel was very well located. We stayed at the Hotel Parque Central and could easily walk everywhere by foot. The Hotel is split up in two parts the “old” colonial styled part and the new building right next to it in a more modern appearance. We had a suite on the last floor with an stunning view over the town and we could even see the ocean. We booked everything through our Amex Travel Concierge Service and were very happy with the service.
On the first day we decided to do the typical tour in Havana, seeing the major sights. We had a two hour drive in a typical vintage car around town, stopped at the Revolution Square, Forestal Parc, Hotel Nacional, and ended up at the Castillo de la Real Fuerza where we had to continue our tour by foot. The weather was perfect and our first impressions were great. On our tour around the old town we came by a famous Rum shop an amazing perfume factory and one beautiful Cathedral near Plaza Armas were the tour ended with a typical Cuban Lunch on a rooftop restaurant overviewing the Castle de Morro, which was just across the canal. After Lunch we had a stroll down the famous Obispo street which was packed by tourists and had a look into a few shops along the way to Plaza Central. At the square the sound of great Cuban musicians attracted us to stop by Hotel Inglaterra, the oldest hotel in Havana, for a coffee break. We enjoyed the live music and the amazing atmosphere. After this delicious cuban espresso we had enough energy to continue our sightseeing tour. We walked by the Capitol and took the next street into China Town. Yes you heard right China Town, a lot of Chinese people immigrated in the 19th century in Cuba. Contract workers were brought to work in the sugar fields and in the late 19th century more than 5000 immigrates came from the US to escape the discrimination present at the time. It was very different and so unexpected, we sat down on a park bench and watched the people. After a while we thought it was finally time for our first real Cuban Mojito and we walked back to the hotel where we passed by the oldest Cigar Factory in Cuba, which is now a museum. After a quick nap and refresh in our hotel room went we upstairs to the rooftop restaurant/bar and pool area, where you have an amazing view onto the Prado street. The street separates Old Havana with the new Town. Next on our list of places to see in Havana was the Restaurant Florida where Ernest Hemmingway declaimed the best Daiquiri in Havana so we had to check it out. The Bar was very crowded by tourists so we ended up having our Daiquiri with our dinner in the restaurant. Well, I expected a bit more of this highly praised Daiquiri. It was not something special and defiantly overpriced with 6,- per glass. This first day was very exciting and we had such a wonderful time. But ended up quite early in bed as the jet-lag kicked in.
Our second day in Havana started with heavy rain showers which hold up on until midday. So we had a long breakfast and enjoyed some time in our hotel room before we headed down to book our excursion to Vinales for the next day. The rain finally stopped and the sun came out, which raised the humidity level up and you could barley take it. We walked up Obispo street to the Plaza Armas to the Canal to catch some fresh wind from the sea. We walked along the promenade and spotted some fisherman with there catch of the day. The humidity was really getting us and we were too tired to visit the castle on the other side of Havana so we had a better idea and looked for a nice Lunch spot in the Old Town. Back in the Obispo street to the Plaza Vieja, my favourite part of the centre. We were lucky and get a table at the small balcony of the Restaurant Azucaria where we enjoyed our lunch with an amazing view onto the square. A few Mojitos later we made us on the way back to the hotel, relaxed for a bit before it was time again to head out to discover more of this vibrant and beautiful city. We took some amazing pictures at the Prado street - see the Fashion article here. And went afterwards to the rooftop bar were we enjoyed our Dinner with some Cuban live music and watched the sunset over Old Havana.
Day 3 and super excited for todays excursion to the Cuban countryside. The bus picked us up at the hotel where we had an 2 hour drive to Pinar del Rio where we stopped by an Liqueur factory to taste the well-known Guayabita del Pinar. I really don't like strong liqueurs or alcohol in general, but I have to say this one had an amazing taste. On the road again into Vinales Valley, such a breathtaking scenery with the hills covered in greenery, also known as the “Mogotes”. We had a stop at the lookout point of Vinales, the view from up there was just so peaceful and breathtaking! We spend a few moments there before we drove down the valley to visit a tobacco farm. Here we got the chance to see the process of making cigars and all the work and effort behind it. Everything is natural and handmade. Also every worker (mostly women) receive 5 cigars per day to smoke whilst they are making hundreds of them, so funny. But only 10% of the production can the producer keep for himself, the rest will go to the government. The tour through the valley continues and after a few kilometres we arrived our beautiful Lunch spot between the Mongotes. A painted stonewall “Mural de la Prehistoria” which took the artist Leovigildo González Morillo more than 5 years to paint. We met people all over the world and had some great talks and laughs during our Lunch break in this beautiful scenery. The last stop for this tour was a visit in a La Grotte de l’Indien, I expected more of this visit in the grotto. Not only because we had to wait in line for about 20 min to then hop on on a small boat ride which took about 2 minutes to see just imagined symbols on the grotto wall. That was really a downer, well except that the excursion was very nice with a lot of great memories to hold on to. We arrived back in Havana in the late afternoon and we were quite tired after this long day full of adventures so we enjoyed the sunset on the rooftop restaurant of the hotel again, watched the sunset and enjoyed the cigars we bought at the tobacco farm earlier. I always had a Mojito des Frutas, like a Pineapple Mojito together with some appetisers and chicken and pineapple skewers! So delicious and of course always some fresh papaya on the side.
We had a great time in Havana, but it was time for some relaxation on the beach. So off to Varadero where we spend 7 days doing nothing else than taking naps and enjoying the beautiful Caribbean weather! See the article here.
Hope you enjoyed reading my travel diary of Havana. You can read more about my thoughts in this article here.