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If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that this Christmas I was lucky enough to cross not one but two amazing destinations off my ever-growing bucket list, namely Cuba and Mexico. As a European, I have associated Christmas with icy temperatures and snuggling in front of the fireplace with lots of chocolate to keep me warm. This year was completely different though as I got to spend NYE at the beach, which made the whole experience even more special. Truth be told, I’m still there mentally – swimming in the Caribbean sea, learning about the history and culture of Cuba, tasting new flavours, putting together another piece of the world puzzle.

Havana was my first stop. I spent there 4 days before exploring the province of Pinar del Río where most of the island’s famous tobacco is cultivated. I am working on an Havana travel guide with all my tips, including a couple of things I wish I knew before arriving, but first I wanted to share with you a few pictures from the city. 

It’s hard to describe Havana in few words. From the moment you set foot in the airport you feel time stands still in this place, that you have somehow traveled through a time capsule and landed in a beautiful yet chaotic and extremely poor city 50 years ago. From all the places I’ve been around the world, Cuba has to be the most interesting one. After my first day, I decided to strop trying to make sense of how things work and just appreciate the beauty around me. I believe the most important thing that Cuba taught me is that we can be happy and kind even with much less than we already have.

Having said that, I already witnessed a slightly modernised Cuba, in the sense that restrictions are gradually loosened and the island is gradually opening up to the world. Cubans have nowadays cell phones and internet (albeit too expensive and slow), are allowed to travel abroad and open their own business bearing high risks of course. My advice? Book those tickets and visit Havana as soon as possible, before the embargo is lifted and Cuba changes forever. 

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Sandy (@smarksthespots)