After our epic trip of 2016 to Brazil and Argentina, we were supposed to change continents and for 2017 pick something more to the East. That was the promise I gave to Louveteau who sacrificed his (booked) trip to Australia to stay and set out the nets to catch me when me met. We were toying with the idea of Thailand, or Beijing, or Hong Kong… But here is the thing with Latin America: you leave your heart to it the moment you set your foot in there. And after not seeing it for a year (which is, if you think about it, is a terribly long time to spend without a heart!), you just have to go back.
So we did. Luckily for me, Louveteau was harbouring some politics-inspired dreams to visit the last 100% Soviet country in the world. As for me, anything Latin would do (though I preferred Peru, drooling over the pictures of Machu Picchu). We did not know much about Cuba then but overwhelming sentiment of friends who went there circled around the conditions of hotels and casa particulares. With my birthday around the corner (and our general tendency to combine several countries in one visit and to explore them on steroids), we have added the neighbouring part of Mexico as the second leg of the trip. It promised gorgeous beaches, more civilized hotels and some down time to enjoy it all. (To be completely honest – Louveteau, I hope you are not reading this part, – I chose Yucatan partly because it was promising a few, but not many, architectural monuments, to free up some time for the sun and the beach, which I LOVE and Louveteau, well, not so much.)
Why Cuba, Why Now?
Cuba is unique. It is the only place on Earth, which is completely isolated from time and globalization, and which is also a home to some of the world’s finest art – especially architecture. The gorgeous silhouette of Havana matches in its elegance and sophistication the best streets of Paris, London and St Petersburg. Only that Havana has not been renovated for the last half century, and all this architectural luxury slowly but inevitably sinks in the past.
Cuba will never be like it is now, and there are two main reasons for that. Now, with Fidel gone, and Raoul rounding up his second, and final, Presidential term in 2018, things are bound to change. With Raoul, the members of the government loyal to the ideals of the Revolution – many casting these ideals side by side with the Castro brothers, – will likely go as well. Maybe not all of them, but many, it is hard to dispute with age. At the same time, maybe, just maybe, the heritage of the President Obama, who did a lot to bridge Cuba and the U.S., will continue to develop and open the borders to more American tourists and to more American companies. And once done, it is only a matter of time for Cuba to become another cosmopolitan city with Starbucks on every corner, shopping malls, hotel chains and Chinese taxi cars, all properly air-conditioned. Just like its neighbour across the Gulf of Mexico. So go now: time will never run backwards again.
Also, make sure to check out my 10 Facts About Cuba You Did Not Know (And You Should).
That’s what our 2+ weeks looked like: Paris -> Havana -> Cienfuegos -> Trinidad -> Havana -> Vinales -> Havana -> Cancun -> Chichen-Itza -> Cancun -> Tulum -> Akumal -> Coba -> Cancun -> Havana -> Paris
By the way: which map view do you prefer, this one or that from the last year (you can click to change the scale on both of them)? Do you find them useful in following my adventures and building up your travel routes?
Me at the Hotel National of Havana, contemplating over the map of Cuba
Now, in a good not-so-old tradition of 2016, it is time to share some brief, very brief impressions about every of the key destinations of this trip.