For those travelers who want to see the real Cuba, this new and exclusive programme brings you closer to the people and culture of this unique Caribbean island, from Havana to the other most important cities, to the beauty of its countryside and the places of historic special interest. This specially designed tour offers a different perspective, an adventure into the heart and soul of the most intriguing country where you will have the opportunity to meet and engage with Cubans in diverse settings and learn about this fast-changing nation through Cubans’ eyes. Our extensive knowledge of the country will provide you with a truly thought-provoking travel experience to capture a moment in history as Cuba further develops its horizons.

 

Programme Highlights

  • Discover Cuba’s fascinating people and culture.
  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Cuban locals and experts will tell you about their splendid colonial cities, religion, vibrant music and art scene and lush rural landscapes.
  • Envelop yourself in the timeless natural beauty of its architecture and fascinating way of life of this enigmatic island nation.
  • Local preservationists will inform you about the restoration of Old Havana.
  • Visit the Bay of Pigs and hear from Cuban experts of the 1961 invasion.
  • Follow the life of Hemingway including visiting his rural home; and the fishing village where he got his inspiration for writing his famous novel, and visit his favorite drinking haunts.
  • Exchange ideas and experiences relating to art, education, religion, history, and conservation with Cuban artists, teachers, Santeria priests, park rangers, and more.
  • Visits to local farms, a famous cigar factory and the Havana Club rum museum.
  • Meet photographer Julio Muñoz, whose family appeared in a 1999 National Geographic article, and learn about his innovative project in promoting equine care.
  • Relax at one of Cuba’s prime beach resorts.

Itinerary

Day 1

Welcome to Havana Upon arrival at Havana International Airport you will be met and assisted and transferred to your hotel where you will be greeted with a welcome cocktail at check-in. Hotel Saratoga, Hotel Parque Central, Hotel Santa Isabel or Hotel San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal

Day 2

Havana Highlights Breakfast at hotel. You start the day by exploring Old Havana and discovering its beautiful Spanish colonial architecture. Learn about the challenges facing Havana as it struggles to preserve its architectural and cultural heritage in a period of great economic change. On the main commercial street, meet some of Cuba’s cuentapropistas (self-employed), who are part of an expanding private sector. After lunch, enjoy a talk with an expert from the Old Havana restoration project. While still in the Historic Center, enjoy a guided visit to the Havana Club’ Rum Museum to know all the history of sugar cane and the processes to obtain the famous Cuban rum brands. Later, following a presentation on the role of tobacco in Cuban history, watch the intricate work of torcedores, or cigar rollers, at a famous cigar factory, followed by a discussion with a few of the rollers about their work. Soak up the atmosphere in Parque Central, where baseball fans engage in debates. Your guide will brief you on Cuban religion in its many forms—from Catholicism to Judaism to Santeria—and then visit the cathedral of San Cristóbal with a remarkable baroque facade that Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier described as “music turned to stone.” Hotel Saratoga, Hotel Parque Central, Hotel Santa Isabel or Hotel San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal (B, L)

Day 3

Havana – The Hemingway Trail Breakfast at hotel. While discussing Cuba’s current political and economic landscape with your guide, set out for Ernest Hemingway’s hilltop home, Finca Vigía, now a museum. Meet with a curator to discuss the author’s enduring legacy in Cuba, followed by a guided tour of the property. Enjoy a talk on Hemingway’s reaction to the 1959 Cuban Revolution and his final departure from Cuba and subsequent death in 1961. Then travel to the seaside village of Cojímar, the setting for the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Old Man and the Sea. Here, watch local fishermen set sail or come back from fishing as you stand at the pier next to Hemingway’s bronze bust, homage paid by the locals after the news of his passing. Have lunch at La Terraza Restaurant overlooking the harbor where Hemingway’s fishing boat was moored and talk to a fisherman. Then return to the city to visit Hotel Ambos Mundos in Old Havana where the author’s room is maintained as a museum. Finish off the day at El Floridita Restaurant and Bar, another Hemingway haunt that provides a unique window into his life in Cuba where he enjoyed the best Daiquiris and met with friends of his social network. His bronze statue can be seen sitting at the end of the bar. The restaurant is also famous for its seafood cuisine, fine wines and high standard of service. Hotel Saratoga, Hotel Parque Central, Hotel Santa Isabel or Hotel San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal (B, L)

Day 4

Pinar del Río & Viñales Valley Breakfast at hotel. Today travel west of Havana to the province of Pinar del Río and the Viñales Valley, known for its emerald tobacco fields. Visit a legendary tobacco farm and witness firsthand the cultivation of Cuba’s legendary crop. Meet and talk with those who work the farm and learn about Cuba’s rural culture and economy. Arrive at Vinales town with lunch at local restaurant. Later, explore Viñales National Park with experienced local guides who will discuss conservation in this forested region. Meet with rural farmers who still use oxen to till their fields. Continue to the lovely town of Viñales, surrounded by striking limestone hills, or the famous Mogotes only found in two other countries in the world. A fond memory to take back home will be one of Cuba’s beautiful natural landscapes of the Viñales Valley. Overnight accommodation at either Hotel Los Jazmines or Hotel La Ermita, (B, L)

Day 5

Bay of Pigs & Cienfuegos Breakfast at hotel. An early start this morning for a long journey to central Cuba and the south coast where another significant day lays ahead to a visit the historic Bay of Pigs, and on our way, see the cave where Ernesto “Che” Guevara was headquartered during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Lunch on route. Explore Playa Girón, the landing site for the 1961 U.S.-backed invasion; and the Playa Girón museum with an expert, who will share his/her knowledge on the subject backed up by a black and white documentary with original footage of the events. Engage them directly on the legacy of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Continue to Cienfuegos, a port city with architecture that reflects its French colonial roots. This evening, discover the history and Parisian-style boulevards of Cuba’s “pearl of the South.” Meet local residents in Parque Martí and see the statue commemorating José Martí, a renowned author and a leader in Cuba’s quest for independence from Spain. Travel by the bay to the elegant neighborhood of Punta Gorda where most ex-pats residences still show the glamour of the 50’s. Dinner at Cienfuegos Yacht Club. Hotel Jagua (B, L, D)

Day 6

Cienfuegos & Trinidad Breakfast at hotel. Set out for Trinidad stopping on route to visit Cienfuegos’s Botanical Garden with a member of a local specialist in Cuba’s flora and fauna who will talk about Cuba’s efforts to maintain the rich biodiversity of its extraordinary plant life. Continue to Trinidad and explore Cuba’s best-preserved colonial city with your guide. Meander along cobblestone streets past pastel-colored homes and serene plazas. Meet with students at a local art institute, housed in what was once the dragoons’ barracks and discover what fresh contributions young artists are making to Cuba’s shifting cultural landscape. After lunch, meet Julio Muñoz, a local photographer and “horse whisperer” whose wife and niece were featured in an October 1999 National Geographic article. Then continue to visit a babalawo, a high priest of the Afro-Caribbean religion, Santeria, in his own house/temple. Enjoy free time at the souvenirs market admiring the work of the local artists. Travel to Peninsula Ancon, bathed by the Caribbean Sea, and check in at your hotel. After unpacking, enjoy a refreshing swim in the beach and dinner at hotel. Hotel Brisas Trinidad del Mar, Club Amigo Ancón or Costa Sur (AI)

Day 7

Trinidad - Sugar Cane Valley Breakfast at hotel. Set out for Trinidad’s local train station with your guide to take an old steam train once used to carry sugar cane, to travel across sugarcane fields to a restored former Hacienda in the heart of the Sugar Mills Valley for a visit and a traditional Cuban lunch. Climb up or just admire the 42-meter high tower once used to check on the slaves’ work. Get to know locals in the area, former sugar workers, who have shifted to new agricultural employment, as well as learning about the once important Cuban sugar industry. Transfer back to the hotel with an in-transit visit to a local master of handicraft: Chichi Santander. Later, continue to the Ancon Peninsula for a free afternoon to swim in the Caribbean. Dinner at hotel. Hotel Brisas Trinidad del Mar, Club Amigo Ancón or Costa Sur (AI)

Day 8

Trinidad— Havana & Jaimanitas Breakfast at hotel. Return to Havana, stopping for lunch along the way. Attend a musical performance at a local music and dance school and meet the students. Then head to the charming fishing village of Jaimanitas situated in the west suburbs of Havana to visit the workshop and home of ceramic artist José Fuster, called the “Picasso of Cuba.” Talk with residents involved in revitalizing the neighborhood with colorful mosaics. Ask your guide about ideas for going to one of Havana’s nightspots. Hotel Saratoga, Hotel Santa Isabel or Hotel Parque Central (B, L)

Day 9

Havana - Revolutionary Icons Breakfast at hotel. Collected from your hotel to take a morning guided tour through the Vedado neighborhood. Then visit La Plaza de la Revolución where Fidel Castro made many of his famous speeches. You will see building sized images of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. Travel onto to the Colon (Columbus) Cemetery, known for its elaborate mausoleums, chapels, and tombstones. Meet pilgrims from across the country at the grave of La Milagrosa (The Miraculous One), a woman who died in childbirth in 1901 and who many Cubans believe has the power to grant good luck. Later, meet local artists at “Salvador’s Alley,” an outdoor multimedia space with vibrant murals, Santeria shrines, and rumba performances. Learn how these artists refract the realities of contemporary Cuban life through a variety of media. Dinner at hotel. Hotel Saratoga, Hotel Santa Isabel or Hotel Parque Central (B, D)

Day 10

Farewell Havana Breakfast at hotel. Check-out and transfer to the airport for your outbound flight with lasting memories of Cuba its people and culture and lots of stories to tell your friends and families. (B)

Included:

Met and assisted at Havana International Airport upon arrival. Accommodation at selected hotels. All transfers. Tour Guide Service. Entrance Fees. Food and beverages included where indicated (See legend: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner, AI-All inclusive). Activities, excursions and meetings as indicated. 24 hr out of office hours duty phone service from Havana office.

Not Included:

Met and assisted at Havana International Airport upon arrival. Accommodation at selected hotels. All transfers. Tour Guide Service. Entrance Fees. Food and beverages included where indicated (See legend: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner, AI-All inclusive). Activities, excursions and meetings as indicated. 24 hr out of office hours duty phone service from Havana office.

Note:

Certain aspects of the itinerary may be subject to change. Any changes will be advised to you as soon as we are aware of any changes. Bookings are subject to our standard Booking Conditions.