Bayamo and the Sierra Maestra mountains

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When we told people about our plans to visit Bayamo, everyone had an opinion. Lester, our host in Havana gave it two thumbs down, Roberto in Santa Clara told us it was a time-warp, people there are old fashioned but it's "muy interesante", and our taxi driver at the bus station told us it was "muy bonito! muy antiguo!" (very pretty and very old!). So, we weren't sure what to expect, or whether the 7 hour bus journey would be worth it.

Bayamo

Well, there was no need to worry because we loved it. There aren't many "sights" in the town itself, but with a refreshing lack of tourists compared to the other places we visited in Cuba, it felt relaxed and authentic. Our interactions with Cubans were more genuine here (there aren't many touts) and we really enjoyed just wandering around and people-watching in the little squares. Plus it's so pretty! On Saturday nights the main plaza fills with people for the weekly street party, with music and entertainment (and there's also meant to be street food stalls, although we didn't see any).

The main square in Bayamo

Colourful colonial architecture in Bayamo Bayamo Cathedral

Bayamo street life

The main shopping street in Bayamo

Classic cars

Street life in Bayamo

Sierra Maestra

Our main reason for visiting Bayamo was to visit the Sierra Maestra, an hour away. After a beautiful drive through the mountains, we hired a guide to take us to the Commandacia La Plata (Fidel's hide out – if you've seen the film Che, then you know what I'm talking about). It was an easy walk through the jungle to the hideout, with plenty of good views along the way.

Driving through the mountains

The Sierra Maestra mountains

The jungle Mountain views

Signs to the hide out Commandancia La Plata

Mountain views

Where to stay: We stayed at Villa Pupi, which was well located with our own little outside space for $25; if you want to stay in the mountains, Villa Santa Domingo looks lovely.

Where to eat: El Polinesio has a nice atmosphere and live music; but our favourite spot was San Salvador, where we had one of our best meals in Cuba.

If you're heading to Cuba, check out my guides to planning your trip, Havana, Viñales and Trinidad.