Robert Schrader in Cuba

30 Pictures That Will Make You Want to Visit Cuba

“Ahora en Baracoa,” Sonia, the hostess at my casa particular, explained, “no hay agua.”

Candela, the resident parrot, echoed his master. “No hay agua,” he laughed, mimicking Sonia’s rhythm more than her actual words. “No hay agua, no hay agua.”

Before I could grasp the gravity of what I’d just been told, Sonia had fetched two ice-cold bottles of water for my friend Dora and I. They clearly contained filtered tap water – whose supply had surely never been in doubt – but our exchange encapsulated many truths about Cuba’s past, present and future.

I made a conscious decision to visit Cuba on the cusp of change, questions about which have weighed heavily on my mind during my two weeks here.

As I traipsed along the grand boulevards of Havana, in front of its monolithic Capitolio building and alongside the classic cars that transport most of its residents, I initially wondered how much of the city’s Old World – otherworldly, even – charm would survive the inevitable arrival of American brands, millions more annual tourists notwithstanding.

I then made my way into Cuba’s cigar country, and its anchor town of Viñales, where I quite accidentally made the acquaintance of a tobacco farmer named Domingo, whose authenticity and kindness seemed, like the architecture of Havana, of another time entirely.

I struggled with the request Domingo made of me as we parted – that I share his information with you, so that you, too, could partake of his family’s hospitality when and if your travels take you to Cuba – not because I didn’t want him to reap financial benefits he very much deserves, but because I didn’t want to participate in the commodification of something so intangible, a concern my trip to Trinidad, which is perhaps Cuba’s most touristic city as of this moment, illustrated all-too poetically.

When I got to Baracoa, a castaway paradise near the eastern tip of Cuba and just a stone’s throw from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, I had not only reached the end of my trip, but the portion of Cuba’s population that is at once the most vulnerable to the coming changes – I can count on one hand the number of landscapes (both human and natural) I’ve seen that are as idyllic and wild as this one – and the most in need of it: Local cacao and coffee farmers have only a three-month growing season to earn the money they need to feed their families the whole year.

While Che and Fidel have likely already rolled over in their graves several times as capitalism knocks as Cuba’s crumbling red door, there is no question at all that the average Cuban’s standard of living will rise dramatically once the embargo is fully lifted, and likely long before then. On the other hand, I do fear racism and violence, which are basically absent from Cuban society today, might rear their ugly heads; the egalitarian social order – even if it is a rather poor one – seems doomed.

It’s just as indisputable that much of the magic of Cuba – the stuff I’ve tried to capture in thousands of words and hundreds of photos over the past few weeks, mostly in vain – will disappear, or at least become much more subtle, as Cubans escape a chapter of their history for which my government bears as much responsibility as theirs.

Like Joni Mitchell did to life, love and the clouds floating above her, I’ve looked at Cuba from both sides, many times now. And while I, too, recall illusions and impressions much more vividly than facts – I really don’t know Cuba at all, to be sure – I do know one thing for sure.

You need to visit Cuba for yourself. I hope these pictures inspire you to do so – quickly.

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About The Author

is the author of 780 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 

informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

SMK Technology August 10, 2015 at 9:19 am

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Michelina CC August 10, 2015 at 11:16 am

Your writing and photography are both always gorgeous. Your blog is really amazing.

I lost my Cuban-born uncle this winter and I’m planning a trip kind of as tribute to him. Your photos have made me so excited!

Robert Stewart August 10, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Amazing photos as always Robert. Cuba is on my list as soon as I can arrange for it, after my other already arranged for trips. When I was in Puerto Rico last week, many locals were talking about the opening of travel to Cuba, as so many have family still there they haven’t seen in decades. So it is about to burst wide open!!!

Ryan Ross August 10, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Robert, you are correct- Cuba is awesomely beautiful, its landscape and its people. But Fidel is not rolling over in his grave; he’s still rolling along above ground and breathing. At 88, he’s outlived the devious behavior of 11 US administrations attempting to destroy the achievements of the Cuban Revolution and put them back in their place, one of subservience like much of the history of Latin America.

Robert Schrader August 11, 2015 at 9:16 am

Interesting, I was under the impression that he had died!

Robert Schrader August 11, 2015 at 9:16 am

Yes, get there fast!

Robert Schrader August 11, 2015 at 9:16 am

You should be excited!

Bethaney August 11, 2015 at 9:22 am

Absolutely beautiful photos!

Kosta Kowatschew-Wyder August 13, 2015 at 3:34 am
Rebecca and the World August 13, 2015 at 4:52 pm

Once again, yes, your photos have lived up to the title of the post! Gorgeous! And the itinerary too – I’m planning a trip early next year and this has made me want to go so bad right now!

Robert Schrader August 13, 2015 at 7:52 pm

It is an honor to have inspired you!

Tessa Cruz/Viajera Filipina August 14, 2015 at 9:53 am

I’ve been waiting to see these since the time you announced you were going to Cuba! And of course, they do not disappoint! You’ve sealed the deal – I’m booking for Jan/Feb. Lovely, lovely images as always!

Andrea @ Green and Turquoise August 17, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Well, you had me at the first picture and with each picture I’ve started packing my bags!

lonyangel October 27, 2015 at 12:04 am

i like the beaches in these pics and wish to go over there and have some fun.

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