Why 55 photos of Cuba and not 100 or 200? Well, my first trip to this beautiful island was in 1997. That was probably my real first travel photography trip. I had a film SLR and lots of energy (and I still do 🙂 ).
I wanted originally to post Cuba images from that trip on, but most of my film gear, and prints, are around 12,000km from where I am currently based, Australia, in a dock somewhere in Europe. Sooner or later I will scan that archive.
So I have decided to post here images only from the last trip, terminated just days ago. This will give you an idea of how the country is today.
Let me just say that photography in Cuba is unique, to say the least. So many opportunities in any genre.
Besides the pictures of Cuba, you can download here a handy set of 140 bookmarks of Cuba for Maps.me (the free offline map app for Android and Iphone). I have included places to eat and sleep, bars, arts centres, nightclubs, photography locations, banks, working ATM machines (not simple LOL) and so much more.
It’s a zip file containing a kmz file (6k). You would need to upload this file on Maps.me. More instructions on this page.
Moreover, I have added few photos of Cuba beaches too. This will give you an idea of what to expect and possibly it will help you to avoid bad surprises, as I had.
Just to satisfy someone’s curiosity, on my first trip in 1997 I shot in four weeks about 7 films, which are around 250 photos. In my last trip, a few days ago, I made around 2,500 pictures of Cuba, in 3 weeks. In my photography workshops, I always say to keep up with quality, not quantity. I should follow my own suggestions LOL, however, it’s hard in Cuba.
Photography in Havana is just super exciting.
Because you can spread through a myriad of opportunities, from landscape to street photography, from portraits to architecture and so much more.
Havana is a city like no others. It’s like travelling in a time machine, with everything, people, cars, architectures and buildings stuck in the 60s. So fascinating and full of character.
The capital has mainly 4 areas to visit, especially if staying for few days or a week.
Obviously, Havana is much bigger, however, I would personally suggest staying around this 4 areas, especially if visiting for the first time or if you spend only one week, or less, in the capital.
As beautiful as touristy. So many attractive small lanes, tiny and big squares, great Spanish buildings and the Capitolio (right on the border with the city centre).
If you are after a clean shot, without many people around, I suggest visiting the Havana vieja in the early morning. Keep in mind that most of the tourists arrive here from one of the cruise lines docked at the local terminal.
Booking an accommodation in the old city has the own advantages, beautiful, and drawbacks, noisy and touristy with inflated prices (which is honestly not a big deal, just $2-3 more than normal)
You may read more on this post if you are interested in the best places to stay in Havana (and Cuba)
It’s definitely an interesting part of the capital to visit although the least attractive to stay probably
Organised in a huge grid, the centre has basically no trees, just big streets with typically 2 or 3 levels buildings.
In saying that, this area is the best for street photography and, generically speaking, to observe the local life.
Chinatown is also in the City Centre. As expected, there are a few Chinese restaurants, however, for the first time in my life, I have not seen any Chinese. Weird.
My tip is to visit the Centro Havana just before sunset time when the temperature drops and most of the locals come in the streets. They play dominoes and cards, they dance with some loud reggaeton music and the young generation have a baseball game or any sort of activities. It’s a spontaneous daily street party.
The beauty is that there are almost no cars around (as in most of Cuba, by the way). It is quite safe therefore to walk and play around.
Once the area of the high society, of the intelligentsia.
Vedado is also based on a big grid layout, however, the streets are very leafy and there are parks every few blocks. This is the area to find some amazing lavish villas, although in real need of refurbishment, now subdivided between 2 or more families.
Russian architecture (the typical apartment blocks) is definitely part of Vedado, which makes an unusual contrast with the Spanish colonial style.
Vedado is a great area for architecture photography, less so for street photography.
An interesting site to visit is the sports centre, probably neglected for the last 40 years, with empty swimming pools, a falling apart stadium and other sport courts in disrepair.
Vedado is my favourite area to stay. It’s wide and green, moreover, it has plenty of restaurants, cafe, bars and art centres as the FAC (Fabrica de Arte Cubano), an impressive 100 years old cooking oil factory hosting multiple photography and contemporary art exhibitions.
Most of the houses and villas in Miramar are, as usual, in real need of repair. Unfortunately, the embargo has created a real problem with basic materials for any kind of maintenance.
The big surprise of Miramar is along the coast, where the buildings are literally cracking and falling apart in the sea. It’s like visiting a city just after a war. Again, it is difficult, if not impossible, to plan any maintenance without basic materials.
If into street photography, I really suggest visiting Miramar with a bicycle (in my downloadable map you can find the best spots to stop).
There are a couple of beaches however very dirty with the plastic coming from the sea.
I would personally not stay in Miramar, far away from everything and without any beach or real place for a swim.
You will be spoilt for choice if you are after some beach time. My favourites still are Playa de Cayo Jutías and Playa Santa Lucia. Playa Sirena is also amazing however is located in Cayo Largo, a small island reachable with a 35 minutes flight from Havana (international charters fly directly there from a few countries).
Varadero has also a lovely beach, perfect if you are after a week in a resort however it lacks the Cuban charm. The only Cubans you will find in Varadero are the people working in the resorts.
Photography in Cuba should include also these beautiful blue and white beaches. The colours are so intense, almost naturally saturated.
I like to mention in this section the Viñales Valley. It’s only a 2-3 hours drive from Havana. The landscape is as amazing as the number of activities that can be done as horseback riding, cycling, trekking and caves exploration.
Another great spot, mostly for trekking is the Parque Natural Topes de Collantes, north of Trinidad. Lots of waterholes, waterfalls and caves to explore.
What an amazing town. Spanish colonial architecture made of mostly single level houses facing tiny cobblestone streets. UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988. Just the most outstanding place to visit in Cuba.
One hour from Trinidad is the town of Cienfuegos with its beautiful main square. It can be visited on a day trip or book an overnight stay.
Flags are everywhere as well as graffiti on the revolution. You can easily walk in any city and come across 10 or more of them. People are so proud of the own land, as they should be.
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