No tour buses for this boy! We would see Havana on our own terms.
I booked a private tour to Havana one of the hosts at the resort. I asked for someone with a more modern car, at least by Cuban standards, to take us to the city. I was worried that one of the vintage cars could breakdown. We were told to look for a white Peugeot at 8 am. We waited for a half hour and there was no Peugeot, so I was getting a bit concerned. Around 8:30 our taxi finally showed up and it was a mid-80’s Mercedes sedan. The car was in good condition for its age, but the ride was quite bumpy as shown in the video below.
The drive from Varadero to Havana takes two hours as the crow flies. Our journey took almost three hours thanks to a paperwork snafu with the driver and the Cuban police as well as a stop to visit the scenic Mirador de Bacunayagua. From the Mirador you can see the Bacunayagua Bridge which crosses a deep canyon over Yumuri valley. It is the highest bridge in Cuba at 110 meters (361 feet) above the valley floor. Our ride also took us through the streets of Mantanzas, the capital of Mantanzas province. Travelling this way allows you to see the real Cuba and get a sense of the everyday challenges of people living in a relatively poor country. In a way, I’m glad we can help out by paying our driver 120 CUC Pesos which is more that many Cubans earn in a month.
I made this quick and dirty video from Varadero to Havana. The quality is not the best, but that was expected given the bouncy ride. Also, I’m still learning the video features on my new camera and I could have done better.