Top photo – Cory Lynn Tucker
Amanda Bjorn loves Cuba. I mean, Amanda Bjorn really loves Cuba. In fact, she loves Cuba so much that she is doing her best to share it with others by curating art, food and photography tours on a regular basis and with resounding success.
Bjorn is an American professional photographer/artist who originally found herself in Cuba in 2016 assisting a National Geographic photographer and traveling all around the island. She immediately “fell in love with the people, the art and country and became obsessed with wanting to know more”.
Thanks to the loosening of U.S. travel restrictions, she was able to easily return to visit friends and quickly discover “an amazing art scene”. She simply could not get enough of the place and began musing to herself on how she could keep going back on a regular basis.Monica Weeks
One day, as a trial balloon, she decided to post the idea of running photography and art tours for women on her various
social media platforms and overnight she was inundated with emails from those wanting more information. Thus “Photo Tours with Amanda Bjorn” was, ahem, born.
Her website best sums up the mission of the tour as follows:
“ This trip is for the artist, the dreamer, the people watcher, and the storyteller. It’s not about packed tour buses or sterile fancy hotels. It’s about driving down the Malecon in a vintage convertible with the wind in your hair.” Sounds good to me!
Bjorn’s photo tours generally run for US$1,390 for five nights and four days. This includes accommodation (all guests, along with Amanda, stay together in a private home in the Vedado district of Havana), entrance fees, ground transportation and meals (except for lunch). Guests are responsible for their own airfare which remains incredibly affordable from many U.S. airports.
A sample itinerary of the tour can be found on Bjorn’s website describing “salsa dancing by the ocean”, “a local neighborhood photo walk”, “artist studio visits”, “editorial with Cuban models” “live jazz”… you get the idea. An artist’s dream-vacation packed into 5 days and guided by a fellow artist who is deeply passionate about the island.
While the current travel regulations to Cuba by Americans seem confusing and intimidating to some, Bjorn stresses that it is “really an easy process” to organize the paperwork for trips there that have “an educational purpose”. And while Americans can travel to Havana on their own, if they cannot speak Spanish, it can be a complicated place to maneuver.
Or as Bjorn puts it “it is the kind of place that you need a guide.” In fact, Bjorn is hesitant to even call it a tour and prefers to refer to these trips as an exchange between Cuban and non-Cuban artists. There is “nothing tour-feeling” about it. “It is almost as if you are visiting a friend in Havana and she is showing you around”.
As to why Bjorn restricts her guests to women “ these trips are more about being a woman artist where things can be shared uniquely with fellow women.”
Bjorn’s next tours take place October 25-29 and December 6-10. Remember that space is limited as Bjorn can only handle a certain number of “friends” per trip! Enjoy.
Check out Amanda Bjorn on Instagram @amandabjorn or her website www.amandabjornphotography.com.
A.J.Twist is a Montreal based travel writer and photographer. Instagram: @ajtwistthebest.