In my last post, I talked about the travel process to Cuba and some of the mission work we did there. This post is all about the sightseeing portion of our trip! While the purpose of our trip was to work with Filter of Hope, we were also there to support the Cuban people and experience their culture.
On Wednesday afternoon, we wrapped up the work part of the trip and had a surprise waiting for us – a ride in a classic car through Old Havana! This is a must-do tourist experience when visiting Cuba, but it’s also one of the coolest things I’ve ever done on a trip. As we drove through a rainforest, next to the ocean and through the historical parts of the city, you definitely saw a different side of the country than what we’d been experiencing for most of the week.
Following the car ride, we spend some time at a local market, then did a walking tour through the plazas of Old Havana, which are architecturally inspired by Spanish, British and French roots. You’ll find lots of beautiful hotel buildings (including one where Ernest Hemmingway would write), restaurants and upscale shops.
Our entire day on Thursday was a trip to Viñales National Park, which is about 2 1/2 hours away from Havana. This gorgeous valley was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is surrounded by mogotes, which are limestone mountains.
We went down into the valley on horseback, then stopped at a working farm to learn about tobacco and the art of rolling the famous Cuban cigars. Viñales is the largest producer of tobacco in Cuba and you can see the fields firsthand.
We had lunch at Paraiso, which is an all organic farm-to-table dining establishment. You can walk through the gardens and see how the food is grown. Food is served family style in several courses consisting of soup, salad, rice/beans and a variety of meats.
The day in Viñales concluded with a short hike down into a cave and a boat ride through the caverns. Interestingly enough, this cave wasn’t cool like most – instead it was humid inside. Our guide pointed out lots of different formations and when we reached the end, a local was weaving baskets and selling them, which made a great souvenier.
Cuba may not be the easiest country to travel to as an American, but it’s definitely a unique experience if you have the opportunity to go. There are many historical sites to see in Cuba, especially Old Havana! For more about my Cuba trip, be sure to watch my vlog.