Old-world charm, rich history, exciting nightlife – evocative Havana is like nowhere else on Earth.. Encounter cloud forests, caves and waterfalls on a three-day hike through the Sierra Maestra mountain range.. With its vibrant music scene and Afro-Cuban roots, sultry Santiago de Cuba is a great place to bust out some moves.. Unwind on powder-white sand with a day at one of Varadero’s pristine beaches.
Cuba might be known for its classic cars, tumbledown streets and intoxicating Afro-Cuban nightlife, but leave the cities behind and you’ll find an unspoiled natural treasure trove. Rubbing shoulders with the Caribbean, the Sierra Maestra mountain range is home to hidden caves, waterfalls and a wealth of flora and fauna. Encounter all of these and more on a three-day trek through the mountains, then cool down with a splash at Varadero’s bright blue beaches. Get your heart racing then slow it right down – that’s how we do it on this active outdoor adventure.
THIS TRIP WILL BE DISCONTINUED IN 2019. This is mainly due to the limited passenger interest as well as challenging logistics for the Sierra Maestra Trek. There will not be a replacement trip, however our range of tours offered in Cuba in extensive so please review our other itineraries.
Breakfast Included: 14 Lunches Included: 4 Dinner Included: 2
Bienvenido a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba! A complimentary arrival transfer is included with your trip. Please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised.
There will be a welcome meeting at approximately 6pm this evening. Please expect a letter from your leader in the afternoon of Day 1 to confirm the place of your meeting (if by 5pm you cannot locate this letter then please ask your guesthouse owner if one has been delivered, or ask to call our assistance line listed in the "Problems and emergency contact information" section of this document). We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. The tour briefing is generally followed by an optional group dinner.
As there's a great deal to do in Havana, we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist. If you arrive early, please note most activities in Cuba can only be booked through the tourist desk in the lobbies of the larger hotels or direct with the venue. Otherwise, there are plenty of good museums to check out, including the Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
Havana - Trinidad
Set out on a morning walking tour and get to know Havana’s colourful history, taking in the city’s grand old buildings, narrow streets and main plazas. Afterwards, board a bus headed to Trinidad (approximately five hours), stopping for an optional lunch along the way. Trinidad is a delightfully well-preserved colonial city that sits comfortably along the Caribbean coast. The city is also steeped in religion, including the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria, which has connections to Voodoo. See some of the main sights on a one-hour orientation walk. Tonight you can choose to hit the hay early before tomorrow’s first hike, or live it up at one of Trinidad’s many live music venues.
Get ready to tackle the first hike of the trip. The Topes de Collantes National Park covers 200 square kilometres of jungle, mountains, waterfalls and caves. In fact there are four smaller parks contained within Topes de Collantes’ border. The journey to the national park takes approximately one hour by bus. Afterwards, work up a sweat on a hike to Salto de Caburni, an impressive waterfall and natural swimming pool where you can enjoy a swim to cool off. Due to the intensity of the walk (three kilometres down to the waterfall and then back up), it’s recommended you bring extra water to keep you hydrated. Today’s hike also includes lunch. Return to Trinidad in the afternoon.
Enjoy a day of free time. There are some great Spanish-style churches to see, and nearby is the Valle de los Ingenios, where sugar plantations stretch out as far as the eye can see. For some seaside fun, head down to Playa Ancon and stroll its long stretches of white sand. You can go for a snorkel too. Just be careful when you're in the water, as sea urchins can be a problem here. Back on the land, you can go cycling or hiking. If you rent a bicycle, be careful on the cobblestones, and remember your bike will be of the vintage variety. A folklore dance and music show in one of the open-air venues is highly recommended – a great chance to be immersed in Cuba's African, French and Spanish-influenced music and dance culture.
Trinidad - Bayamo
Today is a long travel day to Bayamo (approximately 10 hours in total). The journey will be broken up with a stop in Ciego de Avila to stretch your legs before continuing on to Bayamo. To pass the time there will be a Spanish lesson on board the bus. It’s a good idea to pack some card games, a book or load some podcasts onto your phone. This is also a great opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers. After arriving and settling in at Bayamo, join your tour guide on an orientation walk of the city. Bayamo is one of Cuba’s oldest cities, even predating Havana and Santiago! It’s a typically Cuban destination – laid back, friendly and with lots of horses clopping through the streets. Head to bed early tonight before climbing the Sierra Maestra mountain ranges early tomorrow.
Bayamo - Sierra Maestra
Rise early this morning for a 7am departure to head to Balcon de la Sierra, the base of the Sierra Maestra mountain range (approximately one hour). Climb into a jeep to Santo Domingo (30 minutes) to meet the national park guide and eat breakfast before heading further up the mountain to Altos del Naranjo (approximately 15 minutes).
From here, begin the three-hour hike to Comandancia de la Plata. This site, now a museum, was the headquarters of the revolutionary army for nearly two years during the early days of the war against the Batista government. Visit several of the buildings at the Comandancia, including the medical hut where Che Guevara treated farmers and injured revolutionary fighters, as well as Fidel Castro’s private quarters. In the afternoon, begin the second trek (approximately two hours) to La Platica. The trek here is easier and the group should arrive at around 3pm. The afternoon is then free to relax at camp or enjoy some of the shorter trails around the camp site.
Accommodation tonight is in simple multi-share wooden buildings, with up to six bunk beds per room. The huts are mixed dorms. Each of the bunk beds has a simple mattress and generally no pillows or sheets are provided. Only a few blankets are available. Considering the cool night time temperatures, which can reach as low as five degrees Celcius (40 degrees Fahrenheit), it is advisable to bring your own sleeping bag that is adequate for these temperatures, otherwise a sleeping sheet and a good blanket.
Today you’ll be given a choice to trek or not. There is the option to set out on a looped trail to Pico Turquino (1974m/6,476ft). This trek is physically demanding and suited to those who enjoy prolonged physical exertion in challenging conditions. The trail is well maintained and basic steps and wooden handrails have been installed along sections of the trail. The trail can be slippery and steep in some sections. While this optional trail might sound like hard work, the views of the Sierra Maestra mountains are spectacular and the upper reaches of the cloud forest are home to a great variety of flora and fauna. This trail covers 10 kilometres and takes approximately six hours to complete. Please note that when it is not raining, the conditions will be hot and humid. This is because the area is mostly cloud forest and rain showers are frequent.
If you’re feeling sore, or have had difficulties with the trek the first day, it might be a good idea to spend the morning relaxing or depending on the availability of local guides, perhaps exploring shorter nearby tracks.
Sierra Santiago de Cuba
Hike the 5km back to Alto de Naranjo (approximately 3 hours) then travel by jeep back down to the base of the mountain and then catch a bus to Santiago de Cuba (approximately 3 hours).
Santiago de Cuba
Today your leader will take you on a three-hour bus tour of Santiago de Cuba, including visits to El Morro Castle, the Moncada Barracks and the Ifigenia Cemetery, where Fidel Castro is buried. For nearly a century, the city was the island’s seat of power and it also played a vital role in the Revolution. The people of Santiago were the first to rise up in arms against government troops in 1956, and it was in Santiago on 1 January 1959 that Fidel Castro declared the triumph of the Revolution. The city also has a vibrant music scene thanks to its strong Afro-Cuba heritage. After the city tour, enjoy an afternoon to explore Santiago’s waterfront and, in the evening, perhaps practice your salsa moves at the city’s many clubs.
Santiago de Cuba
Today is a free day to explore Santiago or simply relax. However, if you want to keep hiking there is the optional tour to Gran Piedra Park (approximately two hours) and climb the 500 steps up to a 63,000-tonne boulder with impressive views of the valley and sea. From here, enjoy an easy two-three kilometre hike across level terrain to the UNESCO-listed ruins of a French plantation. After a day of hiking, cool down with a refreshing swim in pools created by mountain water.
Santiago de Cuba to Camaguey
Travel on to Camaguey (approximately five hours). Despite its size, Cuba's third largest city has managed to retain much of its colonial heritage. Explore the city's winding streets on an orientation walk with your tour leader (approximately one hour). Camaguey has a rich tradition of cultural and technological leadership within Cuba. It is the birthplace of poet laureate Nicolas Guillen and home of the Ballet de Camaguey. Cuba's first radio and television emissions were broadcast from Camaguey, and the country's first airport and commercial flights were planned and executed here. After the orientation walk, the rest of the days is free to explore.
Camaguey - Santa Clara - Varadero
Today is a long travel day, with approximately seven hours spent on the bus from Camaguey to Varadero. The trip will be broken up with a stopover in Santa Clara to visit the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial. In the museum you can get a rare insight into the legacy of the revolutionary leader, with some interesting ephemera and artefacts on display – letters, firearms, and even medical devices. Afterwards, continue on to Varadero (approximately three hours). After arriving in and settling at the guesthouse, explore the city with your tour leader. Varadero is the largest resort in the Caribbean, home to a plethora of hotels, shops, and water ports. The uninterrupted 20 kilometre stretch of beaches is the city’s star attraction and the best place to unwind after a big day of travel.