Cuba – A journey back in time

The first time I desired to go to Cuba was years ago, maybe 10?, when I discovered someone’s blog and his journey though this unique country. I remember waiting restless every week for a new episode of his big adventure. But years passed, and I forgot about this little island, at the edge of the Caribbean. Until last year, when I was searching for my yearly destination.


Prepare your trip to Cuba with the Lonely Planet guides. Click on the photos see the more details:

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I didn’t know much about Cuba before I actually decided to go. And my decision was based on the fact that after the American embargo is going to be lifted, the country will change. This reason has grown the number of tourists that have pointed their attention to Cuba. I wanted to discover the real Cuba, I wanted to understand it because, I guess, it would help me understand my roots better, as I come from an ex “socialist” (read “communist”) country.

Little did I know that this trip was supposed to be a valuable lesson on humanity. And I still don’t know if I deserved all of it. This trip was about people rather than a just a destination.

Once the decision was made, I have booked the cheapest flight I could find, which meant a total time of over 37 hours of traveling, starting in Italy. Plus the time spent to get to Italy. Before the departure day I used to joke that I am changing so many flights that the airline will loose my bag. Guess what? They did, on the first leg of the journey, before even starting my Transatlantic crossing. And I have also been denied boarding on my last leg of the journey, because my seat was never confirmed, even if the ticket was.

So there I was, arriving in Cuba, with nothing but my winter clothes on me, after more than 48 hours of traveling, to a “casa” that couldn’t find my booking. By that time I couldn’t even speak and all I wished for was a bed to crash on.

But Cuba welcomed me with open arms. Cuba taught me that I can live without anything, and that strangers would surround me with their love and help me enjoy the journey. Cuba was there for me to remind me of all the stories my grandma used to tell me, and to remember her happy. Cuba showed me kindness in poverty and made me get out of my comfort zone and open my mind. Cuba cared for me and made sure I would smile. And when I say “Cuba”, I mean the people I met in Cuba.


Cuba is not a place to visit but a journey of experiences. Yes, you can fly to Varadero or Coco Cayo and stay in a resort, but that’s not Cuba. You won’t find anything authentic in these places. Cuba is lively, singing and dancing salsa ’till the early hours of the morning; Cuba is in love, getting lost in a long kiss at sunset on the Malecon; Cuba is adventurous, hiking in the fields of Vinales; Cuba is an artist, painting and sculpting local life scenes; Cuba is curious, talking and wanting to know more about you; Cuba is relaxed, playing dominoes on the steps of colonial houses; Cuba is old, driving shiny pink ’50s Caddies; Cuba is fancy, drinking Rom and smoking cigars on top of Palacio de Valle; Cuba is very fit, sunbathing on white sand beaches and swimming in the clear azure blue seas; Cuba is a dreamer, it looks hopeful to the future and it’s optimistic.

So join me for the next few weeks in an exciting journey to discover the real Cuba!

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Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.


  1. Joanna,

    At the 1:39 mark on the video, was that guy rolling tobacco? Until I watched the video, the only thing I know about Cuba I think is Cuban cigars. Gosh, it is so … I don’t know the right words to describe – surreal?

    The cars look like they are the ones used in old movies. The small streets has its charm, it seems tranquil.

    And the music you used. It is perfect. Hasta Siempre, Comandante!

    1. Yes, the guy at min 1:39 is rolling a cigar. 🙂
      Cuba is a different world, it’s like the world has stopped in the 1950s and they go on in the same rhythm.

      1. Yeah, that’s it, Joanna. I looks like the 1950s and well, I watch American movies, but this is so different. The music and the feel is so … different.

  2. It’s such a unique and great experience to go to Cuba. At first, when I read that your lost your bag I was like OH NO. But then when they welcomed you on the best way possible: AWW. I feel like really wherever you travel the hospitality of the people in the place you go is like the most important thing. You are really fortunate to have a chance to go to places around the world. Cuba is just amazing to experience and to remember whole life.

  3. Great article. The video gave me chills! You really captured Cuba! I love the cars – and the picture of (you?) in the blue one – it’s gorgeous! Like Robert said, reminds me of something from the 1950s!

    Will you go back?

    1. I do want to go back but in the same time, there are other places that are waiting for me to visit. I do hope that I will return one day and that I will find the same feelings there.

  4. I just got back from a Caribbean cruise. I loved seeing the cities themselves. Its one thing to stay in a resort, but I much rather get to see the actually country, see the way they live day to day.

  5. Such a beautiful and authentic country. I love the cars and all the colors in the streets. It sounds like a beautiful experience and hopefully I can visit one day. I wanted to go there 6 years ago to live for 2 years but instead moved to a different country but I am sure I would have loved the culture.

  6. Your post makes me really want to go to Cuba! They just recently started allowing Americans to travel there but only on designated tours. I hope they’ll lift it more so we can be free to explore. 🙂

  7. The way you talk about Cuba is enchanting. I have never thought of it as a place to vacation and you really opened my eyes to what you were experiencing. I am anxious to read more about your trip. WOW, you have a sense of adventure like no one I have ever met!

  8. Really nice video with the impressions through your eyes. The song makes me feel on a holiday. It’s right, the island looks like so many years back in time. It’s like it’s history within the present time now. Must be so great to experience! Those old cars haha. Fabulous!

  9. Cuba looks like a vintage place, it has also some similarities with other Asian countries, and those cars! they’re so cool. Doesn’t know that there’s still a place using those.

  10. It is so awesome that it is possible now to travel to such places. I have found in my own travels that people who have less tend to be happier, maybe because life is simpler. I look forward to reading more about your travels.

  11. Its so beautiful and quaint. Its so true, you can feel the pulse of a country only when you live among its people. Even in India, you can best experience the country in its villages, eating their food…the live and warmth that that experience can provide- you can never get at any hotel

  12. I never heard about Cuba. This sounds fabulous… I loved the video. The music you used was just so perfect. I always love your posts. 🙂

  13. Cuba is one my wish list ! I dream to go so much ! It looks amazing and the culture is calling me I would love to learn more about it ! By the way the car suit you very well 😉

  14. Cuba looks like a set from an old movie. But, it looks super interesting. I also want to try their food and listen to live Cuban music. I think their rich in culture. I hope I get to see Cuba someday.

  15. Excellent blog, Joanna. Your writing truly captures the emotion and the personal growth that occurs when we travel. It is nice to find a travel blogger who is actually a writer, as opposed to simply a recorder of events. I have not yet made it to Cuba, but your description of the friendliness of the Cuban people make me anxious to go.

  16. I haven’t been anywhere outside my own country. At least, not yet. But I really want to travel some day, mostly to experience culture. I think it has more meaning than traveling just to go to a theme park. Your video is also great! I think it captures Cuba well. In particularly interested in the food – looking forward to your future posts 🙂

  17. Ooh Cuba, my everlasting wish. It’s one of the places from the top of my travelling bucket list. I’m glad you had such a great time (despite all the inconvenience). My cousins also went there and they loved it too, i just can’t wait to go there myself!

  18. Unfortunately I have never been to Cuba , but seen and heard a lot about . I know many Cubans , some friends of mine are from Cuba . I love their mentality , such friendly openminded people . The cars in Cuba are legend ! I am sure , I will go there one day , only heard the nicest things about an amazing country ! Great post !

  19. You arrived in Cuba with just your winter clothes? Wow! That’s cool. I love that you travel to Cuba to know their culture and to live with locals not only for destination ot to see places. That’s one of the reasons too why I travel. I want to talk to the people and have a deeper connection with them. Whenever I heard Cuba, the firt thing that comes to my mind is dancing salsa. – music, fun and lively. How I wish I could be in this part of the world.

  20. I’ve only ever learnt about Cuba from my history lessons at school and dare I say it from movies! I loved your video and it was lovely to get a glimpse of the real Cuba! I love how you had a difficult first leg to your journey and even when you arrived but you didn’t let that bother you or dampen your spirits, like a true traveller you took it in your stride and saw it as a way to connect with the country you have visited! Can’t wait to read more of your journey in your up coming posts!

  21. To be honest, I have never even considered Cuba as a vacation destination, but you have definitely opened my eyes to that very possibility! Great article! Thank you! 🙂

  22. Your visit to Cuba seems to be a unique experience! I especially love the salsa dancing, it looks so fun. 🙂 And it’s a good thing people welcomed you, not many countries have that kind of culture toward visitors.

  23. I love your video! What a beautiful place Joanna, and ohh, the cars! Would love to drive one around here in Manila. With the embargo lifted, I hope they can keep their culture intact.

  24. While I agree that it looks like an amazing place to visit, people must stop romanticizing it. A lot of those vintage things you see and the ‘romantic’ crumbling streets are because people are poor. People forget that what may seem picturesque and authentic when you are a visitors can be a harsh and unpleasant reality for those who live there.

  25. Hi Joanna,

    Cuba sounds an excellent destination for those who want to embrace humanity in a way that is forgotten by our society. While reading your post, I had a big smile on my face because there are still places in the world that money doesn’t replace the human connection and values. The video along with the music is an experience itself. I haven’t visited Cuba but I will make sure that I will in the future. Thank you!


  26. Oh! Thanks for your post just feel like to visit Cuba very soon and tried what you did. Salsa dance is one of a kind, I remember how my PE teacher teaches us how to dance it. Cuba looks like Malaysia w/ a greenly surroundings and has a narrow road (as I watched your video). But what really caught up my eyes is how the way you enjoyed your trip there although you actually somehow lost your bag for a moment. I hope you got it afterwards. Love how you capture the bike moment in your video. But I am not sure if it is you, I think it is a good idea to explore Cuba through biking.

  27. Wow that’s really a great journey you have there! It seems like I also traveled along with you. It is always an adventure to discover different places like Cuba.

  28. Cuba… Whenever i hear the name it reminds me of the olden days, and the video showing the place, the cars, the feel of the countryside is so vintage.. I never thought that Cuba could be such a lovely place to visit. Not just visit i guess,but to really explore and know the place and its people by heart. I love your adventures! Looking forward to the next! 🙂

  29. I envy how you were able to weave your words and convince me that there is more to Cuba than Havana, Dirty Dancing and Castro. These are the only things I can associate Cuba with but you’ve reminded me that amidst all that is a thriving country with such diverse culture that is worthy to get to know more.

  30. Excellent video, Joanna! You seemed to have immersed into the Cuban daily grind and it’s very authentic. A true traveller and adventurer. I’m glad to have known the goodness of people in Cuba. And your adventure reminds me to be prepared with little or no belongings at all to enjoy a destination/journey. Thanks for the valuable life lessons and take care on your next adventure!

    Adel |

  31. Wow! I always thought that Cuba is the land of loving people and a place with pristine beaches. Your post makes me want to write Cuba as a must place to visit in my bucket list. Looks like you had the most wonderful time of your life! 🙂

  32. Wow–Cuba is like having your own time machine and take you back to the fifties. My friend lives there and has been begging me to see her–and she asks to bring as many tissue paper and tampons as I can–apparently it’s so difficult to get there. And an hour of wifi is like 10% of their monthly salary. Ahh the things we take for granted in the western world!

  33. I never knew Cuba could be beautiful. It isn’t as popular on social media but I think it should be. Looking forward to your posts. Enjoy your trip! 🙂

  34. I think us Westerners sometimes forget how abundant Cuba really is and it is rare to find a place that has been unspoiled by tourist tracks. It is beautiful yes but more than that the country has soul.

  35. I think us Westerners sometimes forget how abundant Cuba really is and it is rare to find a place that has been unspoiled by tourist tracks. It is beautiful yes but more than that the country has soul.

  36. I always wanted to go to Cuba, I was so fascinated with that country since I was a teenager and yes i am a communist so going to Cuba will mean a lot to me. But apart from communism Cuba is very beautiful and your video showcase Cuba’s glory to the maximum.
    P.s love the song in the video 😉

  37. This is the first time I am reading a blog on Cuba.Cigars and Fidel Castro define Cuba, isn’t it?Do you travel to Asia?Are you planning to come to India?I will be too happy to host you, dearie.

  38. I’ve been wanted to go to Cuba for a long time as well as my husband and his family are Cuban. I loved that you ventured out and experienced the “real” Cuba instead of a typical resort. Great post & video! 🙂

  39. Where did you travel from to Cuba? I’m an American, and I believe it’s still not yet possible for us to visit Cuba as a tourist. My husband and I, have been talking about how tourism will change Cuba in the future. I’m glad you got to go before American tourists show up. Cheers! Also, now following.

    1. You can visit Cuba as am American if you go through a third country. I have been traveling with 5 Americans in Cuba, 3 of them came via an expensive charter flight from Miami and 2 came via Mexico. At the border, you can ask for your passport not to be stamped and they will only stamp the tourist card, which in most of the cases you will get on the plane. 🙂

  40. I just love how you painted your words with so much enthusiasm. You made me want to yearn and include Cuba in my top 10 bucket list. I just loved it when you said, your trip is more about people than the destination. But boy, I do love their cars so much. Are ALL of their cars like that? if so, I would really like to see and travel to Cuba now. haha!


  41. Cuba sounds amazing! I have wanted to travel to Cuba for a long time and now that it’s easier to do so, I find it a bit expensive – visiting from Europe. Thank you for sharing, sounds like you had an amazing experience.

  42. Beautiful video!! Wow, thanks for capturing Cuba in such an authentic way. Love seeing the food, the traditional music, the cigars and of course the landscape. Can’t wait to go before it becomes commercialized. Thank you.

  43. I enjoyed reading your article as we can feel the love you feel for Cuba through your writing. I don’t think now is more the time to go than in a couple of years because what makes Cuba is the people.

  44. It seems that your trip to Cuba was more than a typical vacation and rather a life changing experience. How wonderful that the Cuban people embraced you and that you embraced them back.

  45. After all those mishaps I am so glad you were able to have a great time. Cuba is somewhere that sounds really fascinating to me but sadly I don’t think I am going to get there anytime soon.

  46. I really really enjoyed this video and OMG Cuba is SO high up on my list of places to visit! Must.go.there.soon! You really captured the true beauty of Cuba which I guess isn’t easy as much of it is very commercial – at least this is what I have heard from others who have visited. I guess i’ll find out when I go – you definitely inspired me!

  47. Definitely an experience few can say they have had! So annoying about your luggage after all those hours of hectic traveling but so cool to learn so much – about the place and yourself!

  48. I’ve never been to Cuba. I remember my aunt was going on a cruise which made a stop at Cuba and she was told that it was quite rough and to be careful. After reading your post, it sounds like a lovely place to visit. Great to see that people are sitting outside playing dominoes instead of inside on their mobile phones. Looking forward to hearing about your journey.

  49. I agree that a resort doesn’t really show the authentic part of Cuba and the actual culture. I love the video you compiled and that it captures Cuba in its essence so nicely. I had a great time when I visited also and learnt so much that I didn’t expect to!

  50. Really enjoyed this post and the video. I have not been to Cuba yet but I think I should definitely visit. It looks gorgeous. Thanks for the inspiration.

  51. Gosh I don’t know where to start! I’m Cuban and everything you said about Cuba is true! I haven’t been back in 47 years and there hasn’t been a day that I don’t think about Cuba.This incredible country has the Magic touch “unforgettable” if Cuba touches you you will never forget her! I just hope that I live long enough to see her again FREE!! Other wise I will die with an empty heart!!

  52. I can’t believe it took you over 37 hours to get to Cuba you must have been exhausted as you said but so glad that Cuba gave you the energy and the optimism to go on. I always thought of Cuba as the modern 50’s it is so hip yet rock n roll!

  53. This looks like such an amazing place to visit, I wish I could go before the changes start but I can’t afford to 🙁

  54. Wow. You painted such a beautiful picture with your words. I would love to one day take a trip that isn’t to a beautiful resort area and I can actually experience these countries for their truth! It’s sad to hear there will be changes coming, but that’s wonderful you were able to make the trip before they do.

  55. I’ve been reading a lot about Cuba nowadays because it seems that it is now opening up to travelers. It is good that you have a great experience when you went there. I hope to visit that part of the globe when I get the chance.

  56. It sounds like you had an amazing trip in the end! It looks like a beautiful country. I love the cars, they are perfect

  57. Cuba looks like a great place for some laid back experience. We would love to go on such trips sunbathing, hiking and meeting local people and experiencing their cultures. With you to discover more of Cuba 😉

  58. I like how you described it: “a journey of experiences.” I think always the same way when I have an opportunity to visit a new place in my life. I love the stories you tell us every time you’re writing something new and it feels like we also could travel with you! Thank you for your time to share it with us!

  59. I’ve always been a little scared of traveling to Cuba because of the immigration laws. However, after reading your piece and how the people were so welcoming, I think I may want to give it a try. PS: Amazing images!

  60. Our trips to foreign countries are made special because of the people and locals we meet. Glad youve enjoyed your Cuba stay. And im happy to know that most locals there are amiable.

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