Get behind the scenes and discover real Cuban life. Explore avant-garde sculpture with a local artist in Ciego de Avila, visit the tobacco fields for a snapshot of rural life in Vinales and take a private tour of a ballet theatre in Santiago de Cuba. History enthusiasts will not be disappointed. Visit the Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum in Santa Clara, and learn about the Bay of Pigs Invasion at the Gion Museum. The French-founded port town of Cienfuegos is a real slice of heaven. Enjoy a drink on the roof of its crown-jewel building, the Palacio del Valle. See why Trinidad is a favourite among so many Peregrine travellers. Your time in this old-world Cuban town includes a salsa dance lesson and plenty of time for seaside leisure
Experience Cuba’s finest on a 13-day journey across the colourful Caribbean island. Combining leisure, culture, coast and country, discover the depth of Cuba’s most fascinating traditions. Look behind the legend of Che Guevara, witness daily life in Vinales’ verdant tobacco fields, peel back the curtain on Santiago de Cuba’s ballet culture, wander the French-infused waterfront of Cienfuegos, dance to Cuban rhythms in Trinidad and go snorkelling in the Bay of Pigs. Finish it off with a cruise through Havana’s grand old streets in a classic American convertible.
Independent travel, without the stress. This tour has been specifically designed for independent travel for 1-4 people. It departs on any day and comes accompanied by a Peregrine guide in each location and 24/7 support from the local Peregrine office.
Bienvenido a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba! Arrive at Havana's Jose Marti International airport, where you'll be transferred to your hotel. 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.
If you are staying at Hotel Riviera, please ask reception staff to view the welcome letter for Peregrine Adventures.
If you are staying at Hotel Nacional, after checking in please look for a collection of folders opposite reception where companies can leave communication for their travellers. The folder should be named "Peregrine Adventures" and inside there will be a copy of the welcome letter for you to read.
The welcome letter will detail where the pre-tour briefing will take place. If by 5pm you cannot locate this letter then please ask reception, or ask to call our assistance line listed in the "Problems and emergency contact information" section of this document. Please come to this meeting with your passport, travel insurance and next of kin information. The briefing is followed by a welcome 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.
Today is a full day and you will get to know all of the well known suburbs of Havana. Firstly, around 8:30am your leader will take you to the neighbourhood of Jaimanitas, also known as Fusterlandia. The artist Jose Fuster has brightened up the area by rebuilding and decorating over 80 houses (including his own) with ornate murals and domes. The project includes a park with giant chess boards and an Artists’ Wall, which has been compared to Antonio Gaudi's mosaic wall in Barcelona. Unfortunately there isn't time to enter Fuster's house but the area is still well worth a visit.
Next, head on a walking tour of the lovely Old Havana (approximately 2.5 hours). You'll go to the cathedral, Plaza de Armas, San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja and Central Park. Your entry fee to the Camera Obscura lookout at Plaza Vieja is included. A time to eat lunch will be slotted in depending on how you are doing for time. Next, jump in classic american style cars for a Havana city tour (1 hour urban adventure) that cruises via points of intrerest such as the Malecon, Revolucion Square and ending in the suburb of Vedado to drop you at the infamous Hotel Nacional. Your leader will take you around the historic grounds and the photo wall of fame.
Santiago de Cuba
Take a flight to the opposite end of the island. Santiago de Cuba is the hottest place in Cuba – both with respect to the temperature and the atmosphere! In the evening get a slice of real Cuban life with dinner in a very humble average Cuban home. Here you will sample local food on the beautifully decorated patio of a simple family home far from the touristic centre of town and a place where foreigners generally do not visit. Perhaps you will listen to a local Cuban band, dance to the energetic rhythms, or just sit in the rocking chairs watching the neighbours go about their business as evening falls.
Brochure description Take a flight across to Santiago de Cuba. It's the hottest place in the country – arguably in terms of atmosphere and vibrations as much as the climate. This 'cradle' of the revolution is home to a large AfroCuban population and a vibrant music scene. This evening, enjoy the unique chance to dine in a humble, average Cuban home with the locals for a real slice of Cuba life.
Santiago de Cuba
Today your leader will take you on a three-hour city tour of Santiago. You'll visit El Morro Castle, Ifigenia cemetery and the Moncada barracks. For nearly a century, the city was the island's seat of power. As well as being the 'cradle' of the revolution, Santiago has a large Afro-Cuban population and a vibrant music scene. It is the home of son music, which is a mix of Spanish guitar and African percussion. This is great place for even the shyest dancer to learn some salsa moves. Santiago's half million residents are proud of their cultural traditions, so you'll find many museums and cultural clubs around the city. The city is also famous for its energetic Carnaval celebrations and its lively Festival of Caribbean Culture.
Today, head west along the Carretera Central to Camaguey. Today is the longest travel day of the trip. Depending on how many stops are made, this usually takes six to seven hours but it will be broken up with a walk around Bayamo, plus your leader may utilise the bus time for your informal Spanish lesson. Despite its size, Cuba's third largest city Camaguey has managed to retain much of its colonial heritage. Exploring the city's winding streets is half the fun. The city was planned in a deliberately confusing pattern to disorient any would-be assailants. As you walk through the city you may still see tinajones – large clay pots used for collecting water. On your explorations, stop by the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad to see its baroque frescoes.
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.
Today you’ll take a tour of Camaguey by bicycle taxi. Cycling is a popular form of transport in Cuba, and bicycle taxis are very common. In the confusing streets of Camaguey, it's a particularly good way to get around. On the tour, you'll visit a local market, parks, plazas and an art gallery. Each taxi carries two passengers and the tour is led by an English-speaking local guide. Your leader may suggest visiting a local farmers' market, where you’ll get a fascinating insight into daily Cuban life and the local economy. This is where farmers can sell their produce after meeting the quota they have to sell to the state. There are separate areas for produce sold by the state and produce sold by farmers directly to the public. There are plenty of interesting tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs available. This is where the locals come to buy their food once their monthly food ration runs out.
Then you will take a a marvellous tour of the famous ballet school in Camaguey, the precursor to the National Scool of Ballet. From here the majority of dancers go onto the National Ballet company or other large national and international dance companies. Meet some of the important people who keep this school running: the directors, the dancers (we can sit in on a rehearsal) the seamstresses, the shoe makers, the costume designers – it takes a large team of people to keep the ballet school operating. As it is not possible to purchase things such as ballet shoes in Cuba, everything for the ballet school is made on the premises. This is a truly fascinating experience.
Ciego de Avila / Trinidad
Today travel through the centre of the country to Trinidad (approximately 5-6 hours), which sits on the scenic Caribbean coast. Stop on the way at Ciego de Avila to visit a well-known local gallery. The Pauyet group was founded by Víctor Rafael Blanco Montaño in 1998 and showcases sculptures made with silver cutlery peices. Enjoy a guided tour of the gallery with one of the artists. You will be encouraged to ask questions about their own art and Cuban art in general.
Continue on to Trinidad – for many visitors to Cuba, this is a standout destination. No other colonial city in Cuba is as well preserved, and the local residents are extremely friendly and festive. Trinidad is steeped in religion, including the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria, which has connections to Voodoo. You'll have over two days to explore the area and soak up the atmosphere.
There's no doubt Trinidad is one of Cuba's most alluring destinations – a great place to wander around, with almost every scene offering a photo opportunity. Watch as locals casually smoke their huge cigars on the doorsteps of their homes, and hear the old Chevrolets rumbling by. Start with an orientation walk today, see the former wealth generated by the sugar industry in the town's once-grand mansions, colourful public buildings, wrought iron grill-work and cobble-stoned streets. In the afternoon, dive into the sultry rhythms of Trinidad with an informal salsa class.
Take a final day to explore Trinidad and the surrounding area. Spend it snorkelling and swimming at Playa Ancon (just watch carefully for sea urchins, which can be a problem here), or simply wandering the cobblestoned streets in town and photograph some of the colourful buildings. No other colonial city in Cuba is so well preserved, and the local residents are very friendly. At some point while you're here, why not take in a folklore show at one of the town's numerous openair venues. Cuba has a hugely rich and varied dance and musical tradition that draws its roots from Africa and France. Many styles that have greatly influenced music worldwide originated in Cuba, such as Mambo, Cha-cha-cha, son and rumba.
It’s a short drive south (approximately 1 hour) to Cienfuegos, known affectionately as 'The Pearl of the South'. Have a short orientation of this port town who's unique culture is attributed its ancestry as a French enclave. The final stop for the day is the Palacio del Valle where you will hopefully get to rest with a drink while watching the sunset descend into the ocean from the rooftop bar, before checking in to your accommodation for the night. If there's time, perhaps walk along the promenade or stroll alongside the broad colonnaded avenues.
Santa Clara / Havana
Start early to drive north to the final resting place of Cuba’s most famous son. In Santa Clara (approximately 1.5 hours), you'll visit the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial. Che's remains were brought here after they were found in a remote corner of Bolivia in 1997, where he was assassinated by the CIA-backed Bolivian army. Here you'll get a rare insight into the legacy of the revolutionary leader, with some interesting ephemera and artefacts on display – letters, firearms, even medical devices.
Next you’ll stop at the peaceful sandy arc of either Playa Giron or Playa Larga (approximately 2.5 hours), which sits on the eastern side of the Bahia de Cochinos, better known as the Bay of Pigs. It was famously here that the CIA sponsored a failed invasion by exile forces in 1961. You’ll discover the story of the Cuban victory at the Museo Giron, which holds displays of various military equipment and photos of the men who fought here. It’s not just the history that’s the attraction here – with crystal clear Caribbean waters, a deep underwater wall, and an outstanding variety of coral and fish, it’s a lovely place for a swim. There are beach-side restaurants that provide a perfect opportunity to reflect on the history that took place here while enjoying an included lunch. Return to Havana for the evening.
Havana / Vinales / Havana
Take a day trip to another province, beautiful Pinar del Rio. Vinales is where tobacco and agricultural fields lie side by side and limestone outcrops dot the landscape. This is some of Cuba's best scenery. Enjoy a walking tour of the verdant farmlands for an insight into rural life and see the tobacco destined for the most expensive cigars. Dine at an organic eco-farm for lunch with sweeping views over the valley. Spend the afternoon here before returning to Havana.