Recently Amy and I spoke at the Chicago Travel Meetup about travel to Eastern Cuba. This blog post represents much of what we discussed at the presentation and answers to many of the commonly asked questions. As Cuba became a more popular travel destination during the last 10 years, more and more Americans began traveling to Cuba. In fact President Obama became the first U.S. President to set foot on the island in 90 years since President Coolidge last departed.
As the number of American travelers began to be measured in the hundreds of thousands in the later years of the Obama Administration, photographers and travelers seeking a truly cultural experience began to seek out parts of the island previously far less traveled. Eastern Cuba travel numbers for Americans in fact aren’t regularly reported on the internet and actually are very difficult to find as the numbers are so low.
That is why Complete Cuba decided in late 2016 to create an Eastern Cuba itinerary that would enable our travelers to have a far more authentic “complete” look at Cuba, while having great opportunities many travelers never get. Staying true to our mission to, “Experience the untouched island of Cuba now. Explore the cities and villages of Cuba before recent reforms change the island forever -- all with a thoroughly researched, legal, people-to-people experience,” we have developed an Eastern Cuba program that remains as interesting now as it was on our first Eastern excursion.
As American travel has contracted with recent policy changes in the Trump Administration, and the corresponding Cuban responses, Eastern Cuba reminds an incredibly rich cultural experience that should not be missed.
We consider any travel east of Camaguay to be an Eastern Cuba itinerary. In fact we travel to Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Las Tunas, Guantanamo province (not the military base), and as remote as the six hour bus trip to get to Baracoa, which is one of our travelers’ favorite places on the island. It should be noted that travel in Eastern Cuba means time in a bus. Often it means a lot of time in a bus. We make every effort to make sure we have a much larger bus than needed, and that we have refreshments and plenty of stops along the way, but it can not be avoided that the travel infrastructure in Cuba is not first class and Eastern Cuba is no exception. As itineraries allow, we do make every effort to fly in or out of Holguin and Baracoa if inter-Cuban flights permit.
If you have been to Cuba or plan to go, you have or will undoubtably enjoy a Bucanero, Cristal, or Mayabe beer. Houlguin is home to manufacturing companies and industrial sectors of the Cuba economy including the breweries that make much of the Cuban beer. A smaller city that embodies all the color and life that exist in work-a-day Cuba, Holguin is a great launching point for travel in Cuba.
Santiago de Cuba is home to the Castro family, and final resting place of Fidel Castro, Jose Marti, and many of the Bacardi family. Santiago and the surrounding Sierra Meistra mountain range are the birthplace and incubation grounds for the revolution. Rich with history dating back to Spanish forts and natural beauty, a stay in Santiago is relaxing and invigorating all at the same time.
Baracoa is a cultural gem. A must for photographers looking to catch everyday Cuban life, Baracoa is detached from the tourist track by a six hour mountain pass drive through incredible scenery. The pace of life is slower here, the food comes from the sea, and the music is amazing. While much has changed here since Christoper Columbus first set foot in Baracoa, it can also be argued that much is the same. There is incredible pride in the history of Baracoa as you make your way through the town and museum in honor of the discovery of the new world. Seafood, coffee, and chocolate are abundant and without constant access to wifi, it is nearly impossible to leave Eastern Cuba without having new friends and relationships that will last a lifetime.
Your departure from Baracoa will likely be with a hand written plane ticket as your checked luggage passes through a small door in the one room airport lobby and you walk out to a Cubana prop airplane, and really, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
For many of our clients travel to Cuba is life changing. Following his recent documentary work, Anthony Bourdain stated, “However you feel about the government, however you feel about the last 55 years, there aren’t any places in the world that look like this. I mean, it’s utterly enchanting.”
If you are interested in experiencing travel to Eastern Cuba we still have spots on our November 2018 Eastern Cuba trip. This is the last trip offered in 2018 and is sure to be an incredible experience. Please join our email list, follow us on Facebook, and email directly to learn more out Cuba and for any questions or interest in Eastern Cuba.