Tracy West from Queensland recently travelled to Cuba on the Byroads “Rhythms of Cuba” trip and shares some of her memories about her trip through this unique island nation.

This was our first trip with Byroads and along with our Cuban guide it was great to have Steve Mortimer from Byroads along with us as our Tour Escort. Steve has been a regular visitor to Cuba over many years.

Cuba is a fascinating country to travel through. It’s like stepping back in time to the 1960’s. Due to the impact of decades of economic sanctions, the country has an overall air of elegant deterioration. Not everything works quite as it should, many grand buildings are crumbling and many structures are not quite finished. Despite this Cubans are a resilient and positive people, things happen all in good ‘Cuban Time’, and lively music is literally happening everywhere you go. Cubans do not like silence and there are many excellent musicians here.

We started and ended our tour in Havana, a charming, vibrant and colourful city. The old town is a delightful maze of cobbled streets, lovely to just wander about in. Classic cars abound and many are beautifully restored. Our ‘first day excitement’ at photographing them never wore off. It’s amazing that Cubans can keep so many of these ancient cars running and our drive along Havana’s Malecon seafront in a 1957 Chevrolet convertible was one of many highlights.

Our excellent local Guide Abel regaled us throughout the trip with interesting stories about Cuban history, society and culture. We learnt of the Cuban perspective on the key moments in their recent history, including the Revolution and the consequences of the current USA-led embargo – always good to have a local’s perspective to challenge your preconceptions.

We traversed the country from Havana across to Baracoa in the far east. The countryside is often lush and beautiful and the coastlines spectacular. Green, rolling mountains meet productive fields, meet a turquoise and blue sparking sea and always spotted here and there are the distinctive shapes of Queen Palms. Throughout we stayed in comfortable, clean hotels or Casa Particulares (a type of Cuban B&B) which were always well located. Memorable moments include snorkelling in the infamous Bay of Pigs, sipping cocktails every evening, lobster lunches and dinners (so cheap here), the cobbled streets and colourful buildings of colonial towns such as Trinidad, watching cigars being hand-made, enjoying the rare quiet and an excellent lunch on the island of Cayo Granma, being amazed at the number of horses and carts being used for transportation and visiting a local family for a roast sucking pig dinner in Baracoa.

We totally enjoyed the Byroads style of travel. Accommodation is carefully selected but this is Cuba, so be aware that while luxury may not be on offer you are always comfortable. We had great lunch and dinner venues that were personally sourced by Steve and our guide and a variety of activities planned. All together a wonderful time!

The next Byroads ‘Rhythms of Cuba trip starts in Havana on the 16th of February 2019 and can be linked in with Mexico & the Yucatan. Click here for details.