(2016) Nov 29-Dec 8 Land Only price $3,120/person ( SOLD OUT)
Havana, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba
THIS IS NOT A BEACH HOLIDAY!! Join us we explore the real Cuba. Our smaller group size allows us to really see a way of life that is slowly disappearing. On this tour, we focus on exploring the daily life for local Cubans. Rather than spend our time in hotels, for most of the tour we stay at the Cuban equivalent of a ‘Bed & breakfast” know in Cuba as a Casa Particulars- with the local families. We travel by our small coach, enjoy walking tours of the small colonial towns, explore Camaguey by two person "bicycle taxi”, ride the Malecon (waterfront) in Havana in 1950 classic convertibles. We even offer you the opportunity to learn how to Salsa!
SPECIAL NOTE: Flight cost estimates are based on flights originating from Vancouver flying via Toronto to Havana. Airfare will be confirmed at the time of booking your flights and payment for the flights will be due at that time.Please note that although you CANNOT use your Air Canada points (Aeroplan) to fly to Havana, you CAN use your Aeroplan points to fly to Toronto and then purchase the flights from Toronto to Havana.
Limited to 12 participants per departure
UPDATED AT: September 16, 2016
DAY 1 – TUESDAY
This morning we fly from home to Havana arriving the same evening and transfer to our hotel.
First of 2 nights in Havana in a local Casa Particulare (No meals).
DAY 2 – WEDNESDAY
HAVANA CITY TOUR
Cuba has more than 11 million people, with 75 per cent of them living in urban areas. Havana has a population of over 2 million. The exotic capital of Cuba and largest city in the Caribbean, Havana has served for centuries as the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. The city’s first building, overlooking the entrance to a protected bay, dates back to 1519. Originally christened La Villa de San Cristóbal de la Habana, the city became a repository for treasures that Spanish fleets brought to the New World. It also became the centre of trade and commerce between the old and new worlds. Havana’s strategic geographic position was a major factor in its rapid growth and in the decision to build a city wall in the 17th century. The wall was completed more than 100 years later. The capital of Cuba since 1607, in 1982 Old Havana, the city’s historic centre, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site with its wealth of Spanish Colonial architecture. American novelist Ernest Hemingway lived here for the last 22 years of his life and said that, in terms of beauty, only Venice and Paris surpassed Havana’s charm. During the Prohibition era of the 1920’s, Havana became a popular holiday centre for Americans with nightclubs and gambling flourishing until 1959 and Castro’s revolution. Today we explore Old Havana,founded by Diego Velazquez in 1514, our walking tour will visit its historical sites including the Havana Club Rum Museum, a local cigar factory, the Revolution Square, the Museum of the Revolution and we visit some of the most beautiful Historic squares
Second of 2 nights in Havana at Local Casa Particulare Breakfast & Dinner.
DAY 3 – THURSDAY
HAVANA-BAY OF PIGS- CIENFUEGOS
Cuba is a long, narrow island (1,200 Km from Cabo de San Antonio on the westernmost tip to Punta de Maisí on the eastern tip.) At its widest point it measures 210 Km and at its narrowest 32 Km. Its fertile plains are dominated by four major mountain ranges. The country’s highest peak is Turquino at 1,974 metres high. The landscape is diverse, ranging from semi-deserts to tropical rain forest. This morning we leave Havana on Cuba’s northern (Gulf of Mexico) coast for the Zapata Peninsula on the south (Caribbean) coast. This is one of the least populated areas in Cuba and today is synonymous with luxuriant tropical vegetation and fine deserted beaches. On the peninsula, Montemar Natural Park is one of the most complete wildlife reserves in the Caribbean, covered mainly by a huge swamp with forested areas, mangroves, lianas [air rooted plants] and tranquil lagoons. In Montemar Natural Park we take a boat ride on the Treasure Lagoon to visit the reconstructed Indian Village of Aldea Taina to learn about the original inhabitants of the islands the Taino people. Further down the road, we pass by the Bay of Pigs and will stop at the commemorative museum where our guide will review the events of the April 1961 invasion. We continue driving to Cienfuegos, a laid-back maritime city with a lazy, tropical atmosphere which perches on the shores of picturesque Jagua Bay. The city was first settled by the French, who dubbed it “The Southern Pearl”. We drive along the Punta Gorda Peninsula, Cienfuego’s most exclusive neighbourhood. We take a guided tour of the well-preserved colonial centre of Cienfuegos, which was recently declared a UNESCO world heritage area. The inhabitants are proud of the city’s musical traditions and Cienfuegos was once home to Benny More, one of Cuba’s most famous musicians. In the early 19th century, wealthy Frenchman D’Clouet of Louisiana promoted this area to the French who began to populate the region from Bordeaux, among other places. French and indigenous architecture abounds in Cienfuegos. In the circular Martí Park, a granite compass marks the point where the first French villagers started building the city. The Terry Theatre, built in 1869, is a good example of eclectic Creole architecture.
Overnight in Cienfuegos, Local Casa Particulares. Breakfast & Dinner.
DAY 4 – FRIDAY
CIENFUEGOS & TRINIDAD
On our short drive to Trinidad, [1 ½ hours] our first stop is the Botanical Garden,founded in 1901 by Harvard University, it is home to thousands of fascinating specimens including many unusual trees. Later we travel along the south coast to Trinidad, one of the first townships founded by the Spaniards in the early 16th Century. It became a major centre for trading sugar and slaves for almost 200 years. The wealth generated by the landowners is reflected in the treasure trove of colonial architecture. A long of isolation from 1850 to the 1950’s protected the city from development, leaving the original layout largely unchanged. Extensive restoration work, which continues today, can be seen throughout the colonial centre right down to the finest details such as the street lights and the whitewashed railings surrounding the main square. Visiting the beautiful city ofTrinidad is like entering a time warp with cobblestoned streets, tile roofs, window grills and patios. This stunning 500-year-old town is a museum in itself, with palatial 18th- and 19th-century houses contributing to its unique colonial ambience. The colonial town and adjacent Valle de los Ingenios, (Valley of the Sugar Mills) were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Trinidad is also blessed with magnificent Caribbean beaches and the Escambray, a rugged mountain range. Our guided walking tour of Trinidad’s Colonial Core includes the place where the city was founded (the Plaza Mayor), The Holy Trinity Church and its surroundings, including a visit to the local craft market area. This afternoon is free for you to explore the streets of Trinidad at your own pace or you might like to participate in a 1 hour optional Salsa Dance lesson.
First of 2 Overnight in Trinidad Las Brisas del Mar Resort or similar Breakfast & Dinner.
DAY 5 – SATURDAY – TRINIDAD – Finca Codina in Topes de Collantes.
Today we drive from Trinidad and take a Russian army truck that will drive us to Finca Codina. There we have a local guide to walk in the forest to lean about the local vegetation and flowers that make this beautiful area unique.
Second of 2 nights in Trinidad, Las Brisas del Mar Resort or similar Breakfast and Dinner
DAY 6 – SUNDAY
TRINIDAD – CAMAGUEY
We drive through the province of Villa Clara, a traditional sugar producer. We visit the ruins of a sugar mill in The Valley of The Sugar Mill. Excellent coffee grows on its southern mountain slopes, as does one of Cuba’s important tobacco crops. We drive on to the city of Camaguey, which lies in a vast sea of open plains, pasture land and cattle ranches in the heart of Cuba. Dating back to 1514, Camaguey has been wiped out several times by battles and pirates (led by Henry Morgan). When it was rebuilt its streets became a labyrinth, as if to confuse any future invaders. Today, these winding streets lined with rainbow-coloured houses has given it a distinctly different feel from other Cuban cities. Camaguey has a proud history of heroism and patriotism from the independence wars but today is known more for its active cultural scene. The symbols of Camaguey are large ceramic jars known as ‘Tinajones’ which can be seen in parks and gardens all over the city. They can be up to 2 metres tall and are still used to store rainwater and food. We explore this charming, quiet town by two person “bicycle taxi”.
Plaza de Santa Ana, the Cathedral and buildings surrounding the Square. Nearby is Revolution Square, named after Major General Iganacio Agramonte y Loynaz.
Overnight in Camaguey. Casa Particulares Breakfast & Dinner.
DAY 7 MONDAY
TRINIDAD – SANTIAGO DE CUBA
This morning we pass through Granma Province, which is named after the boat that Fidel Castro used in his revolution. Situated in Cuba’s wild southwest. Granma is a great valley crossed by the longest river in Cuba and framed by the magnificent Sierra Maestra Mountains on the edge of the island’s rugged Caribbean shore. These mountains provided shelter for Castro’s revolutionaries. The area’s history is intertwined with stories of slavery and struggles for independence. We visit Bayamo City,the provincial capital. Bayamo was founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1513. At the beginning of the War of Independence in the 19th century the city was seized and burned by Cuban rebels to prevent it from falling into the Spanish colonialists’ hands. In the city, which is now a National Monument, we see Anthem Square and the Cathedral of Bayamo. On the way to Santiago we shallvisit the Basilica Del Cobra, which is the object of pilgrimages by many Cubans. Here we shall learn about the blending of the Catholic & Santeria religions.
First of 2 nights in Santiago. 5 Star Melia Santiago Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
DAY 8 TUESDAY
SANTIAGO DE CUBA
Santiago de Cuba is the second most important city of Cuba, with a population of over 1 million. Set in an attractive bay flanked by the impressive Sierra Maestra Mountains, Santiago de Cuba is a vibrant, passionate city that rivals Havana with its rich cultural heritage, colonial architecture and its unique and sometimes overwhelming character. Our guided tour of Santiago city this morning includes visiting the Moncada and the Monument dedicated to Antonio Maceo Grajales, famous for the role he played in the Cuban war of independence. Later, we visit the sturdy Castillo del Morro fortress guarding the entrance to the beautiful harbour. This fortress was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. We also take a boat ride across part of Santiago de Cuba Bay and enjoy lunch (included) on the island of Cayo Granma and explore the picturesque fishing village that makes its home here. This afternoon, we visit the Casa Diego Velazquez Museum, an early 16th century mansion built for Spain’s chief conquistador. The centre of Santiago revolves around Céspedes Park, near the historical City Hall. Like Havana, Santiago has a rich mixture of attractive colonial squares and moody streets which contrast well with the imposing communist Plaza de la Revolucion and the luxuriant tropical surroundings. Tonight, you are free to find your own restaurant for a quiet dinner or eat at the hotel (not included).
Second of 2 nights in Santiago. 5 Star Melia Santiago Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Lunch.
DAY 9 – WEDNESDAY
FLY SANTIAGO – HAVANA FINCA LA VIGIA (ERNEST HEMINGWAY HOUSE)
Early this morning we fly from Santiago to Havana We begin our tour in Havana with a visit to the famous Cristobal Colon “Christopher Columbus Cemetery” which was built in 1869 by Galician architect Calixto Arellano de Loira y Cardoso. The cemetery is now home to around 2 million graves, the same size at the current population of Havana and is world renowned for its flair and architecture. The “who’s who” of Cuban history is interned here – with over 500 major mausoleums. There is everything from Roman temples to Egyptian pyramids to medieval castles. The styles range from classical to art deco. Continuing our tour, we explore one of Havana’s most famous residences – the home that Ernest Hemingway lived in for close to 20 years. It was here that he wrote ‘The Old Man & the Sea’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’. Hemingway fell in love with Cuba on his first visit to this island in 1939- he was initially attracted to Cuba because of the Marlin fishing. We finish the morning at the local crafts market where you can buy lunch or just enjoy wandering around looking at the local crafts. Later this afternoon we ride in 1950/60’s convertibles along the Malecon.
Evening, we enjoy the experience of dining out at a Paladar – a private Cuban home licensed to serve guests.
First of 2 nights in Havana at a local Casa Paticulare. Breakfast & Dinner
DAY 10 – THURSDAY
This morning we visit the pioneering eco-village of Las Terrazas which dates back to a reforestation project in 1968. Today it’s a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, a burgeoning activity center (with Cuba’s only canopy tour) and the site of the earliest surviving coffee plantations in Cuba Later we return to Havana and visit Fusterlandia the studio, residence and wild kingdom of the famous Cuban artist Jose Fuster. Roofs, walls, doorways and benches, stretching for blocks around the epicentre of his studio enclave, are adorned with his brightly coloured sculptures and mosaics : mermaids, fish, palm trees,roosters and Santería saints; quotations from Alejo Carpentier, Onelio Jorge Cardoso, and Ernest Hemingway. More than 80 neighbours have allowed Fuster to use their homes as his canvas.
Second of 2 nights in Havana. local Casa Particulares Breakfast & Dinner
DAY 11 – FRIDAY
Fly from Havana, arriving home the same day. Breakfast.
NOTE: Those who wish to may extend their tour at the end of our tour to spend extra days in Havana. Please call for details
Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with your travel advisor.