I had the joy of ringing in the new year in Cathedral Square in old town Havana, Cuba with my family to celebrate 2016. We had been planning the trip for years and it turned out to be perfect timing when a few months before the trip America began to ease its embargo with Cuba. We booked our trip on a cultural “people to people” visa with a tour group called Insight Cuba. We created a private group trip with our family, my sister’s in laws and some family friends and had an amazing week exploring Havana and Vinales. Going on an organized group tour has it’s benefits and its drawbacks. We weren’t free to go anywhere we pleased within the country because of the visa we were granted we weren’t allowed to go the beach, but we did get some amazing cultural opportunities through Insight Cuba that I’ve never experienced before as a tourist. Since the reason of the visa is cultural exchange, Insight Cuba set up meetings with prominent Cuban artists and musicians and it was a fascinating and unique opportunity to learn about and from them. We had a wonderful guide who gave us a lot of flexibility in our schedule and we had a good amount of “free time” in the mornings and afternoons and I was able to do my favorite activity in a new place, which is just wander with my camera in hand. Each of the three mornings we had in Havana I awoke right before sunrise and cabbed over to the un-restored area of old Havana to capture the fascinating streets, full of juxtapositions of gorgeous architecture and peeling paint. The derelict buildings had a unique beauty to them and I brought my sister and her husband along for a mini 10 year anniversary session on the city streets. Those photos aren’t included below, but will be coming soon to Style Me Pretty! We headed out for a few days into the country side to see the town of Pinar Del Rio and Vinales National Park. The park was absolutely incredible, it reminded me of the Na Pali Coast in Hawaii with it’s gigantic mountains and lush countryside. I kept saying it felt like Jurassic Park (which was filmed on the Na Pali Coast). We went on a walk and short boat ride through a cave and then split into two groups with the parents heading to a cigar factory and the younger generation set off on a six hour hike through the valley of Vinales, where we hiked through a cave, then into another cave for a swim in the pitch dark river and then more hiking past endless farms of tobacco leaves. We finished up the trip by heading back to Havana for New Year’s Eve in Cathedral Square and a few days to explore old Havana. It was a fascinating time to be in Cuba and hear from the locals about their hope for Cuba’s future and their excitement about better relations with America.