Old-world charm, rich history, exciting nightlife – evocative Havana is like nowhere else on Earth. See the difference between city and coastal life on a guided walking tour of the old capital.. Take inspiration from the locals and mix things up with a bicycle-taxi tour of Camaguey – roll through the winding streets on two-wheels, visiting markets, plazas and an art gallery.. Experience old-world charm in the colourful coastal town of Trinidad. Delve into the city’s sultry Latin rhythms with a salsa class and enjoy plenty of free time for seaside relaxation.. Receive a fascinating insight into the rise and fall of the charismatic and highly celebrated Cuban revolutionary – Che Guevara – at his mausoleum and museum in Santa Clara.
From Cuba’s historical streets of Havana to the pristine shores of the Caribbean, stroll through World Heritage cities, relive a fascinating colonial history and experience the rich heritage of music and dance that Cuba is renowned for. Dive into the incredible marine world and history of the Bay of Pigs, prepare to be wowed as you discover Baracoa’s mountainous surrounds, visit the birthplace of salsa and admire Trinidad’s unrivalled ambience on this two-week adventure. From historic cars to fragrant cigars, and with plenty of rum and rumba in between, this adventure will take you into the heart of all things Cuban.
Bienvenido a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, the day is yours to explore. Consider a stroll through Old Havana to acquaint yourself with its colourful mix of '50s Americana, colonial architecture and budding modernity. There are plenty of good museums to check out, such as the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts). Perhaps line up with the locals for a taste of the legendary Coppelia ice cream, or wander along the Malecon (ocean walkway), the sea wall that skirts the coastline. With so much to do in this eclectic capital, we recommend arriving a few days early to make the most of this exciting city.
Havana's history is as colourful as its cars and buildings, and today you’ll get to experience the magic of Old Havana on a walking tour with your local leader. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1982, this well-preserved area within Cuba’s capital remains virtually unchanged, making it one of the Caribbean’s most impressive historical cities. An air of faded glory comes through in the peeling paint of some of its grand old buildings and its narrow streets, spacious plazas and Spanish architecture make it a charm to explore on foot. Visit La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras and the Plaza de Armas. Also visit the Museo de la Revolucion, to learn about the history of the Cuban Revolution. Afterwards, enjoy some free time to further explore on your own – perhaps check out a cigar factory or cruise around outer-Havana in a vintage American car.
On the way to Cienfuegos today, learn a bit of the local lingo during an informal Spanish lesson with your leader. Then, stop at the peaceful sandy arc of Playa Giron (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. 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 haven for snorkelers. If there's time, hire a mask and some flippers and take a dive into sapphire-coloured water teeming with tropical marine life. Afterwards, travel on to Cienfuegos (approximately 1.5 hours), known affectionately as 'The Pearl of the South'. Part of the city's appeal lies in its colonial centre, which features wide Parisian-style boulevards and elegant colonnades. Drive along the peninsula to see Cienfuegos' architectural pride and joy, the Moroccan-influenced Palacio del Valle.
Leave Cienfuegos and head north to Santa Clara (approximately 1 hour) and the final resting place of Cuba’s most famous son, Che Guevara, where you’ll visit his 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. Check out the impressive bronze statue of Che bearing his rifle and learn about his incredible life. Then it’s a short drive south, through the Topes de Collantes National Park to Trinidad, which sits on the scenic Caribbean coast (approximately 1.5 hours). For many visitors to Cuba, Trinidad is a standout destination. No other colonial city in Cuba is as well preserved, and the residents are extremely friendly and festive. Trinidad is steeped in religion, including the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria, which has connections to Voodoo. On 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 cobblestoned streets. Party the night away at one of the town’s live music venues or why not take in a folklore show at one of the town's numerous open-air venues.
Today is a good opportunity to visit the Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos and the Casa de los Martires de Trinidad – both chronicle the struggles of the revolutionary period in the town's history. At some point while you're here you'll have the opportunity to get involved in an informal salsa class. 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. There’s also a chance to get a hands-on lesson with the musical instruments themselves in a percussion workshop. By now, hopefully you've learnt enough of the local rhythms to join in with the locals – maybe at a certain venue hidden within a cave!
Trinidad is one of Cuba’s standout cities, but it's also the gateway to the Valle de los Ingenios, and a bike is a great way to explore the local area. However, Cuba's bicycles, like its cars, are vintage, which means a little bit of practicality may be sacrificed for the romantic element! There are also some great treks to be made in the nearby Sierra del Escambray mountains – maybe drive along the legendary twists and turns of the road to El Nicho, then hike to its beautiful waterfall. Playa Ancon is also close by – there’s plenty of opportunity for relaxing on its long, unspoilt beaches or snorkelling through the clear waters (just watch carefully for sea urchins, which can be a problem here).
Travel through the centre of the country to Camaguey (approximately 5-6 hours). Despite its size, Cuba's third largest city has managed to retain much of its colonial heritage. Exploring Camaguey’s winding streets is half the fun as the city was planned in a deliberately confusing pattern to disorient any would-be assailants, and 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 also has a rich tradition of cultural and technological leadership within Cuba, it’s 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.
Enjoy 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. 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. Camaguey's is a particularly busy and colourful market and 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. Later, your leader will take you to a local bar where you'll get to compare a white rum to an aged rum – Cuba specifically is known as the origin of some of the smoothest and most sought-after rums on the entire planet.
Santiago de Cuba
Head west along the Carretera Central to Santiago de Cuba with a stop in Bayamo. Today is the longest travel day of the trip. Depending on how many stops are made, this usually takes 6 to 7 hours, so take the time to get to know your fellow travellers, or make sure your devices are fully charged and you’re ready to go with a good book! Santiago is the hottest place in Cuba – in terms of both temperature and the vibe of the city. Set between the indomitable Sierra Maestra mountain range and the azure Caribbean, this city's historical centre and colonial architecture retain a timeworn air ideal for photographers. With no activities planned after your arrival, perhaps join with some of your travel buddies and head out for a group dinner. Alternatively, get a good night’s rest ready for a day of exploration tomorrow.
Santiago de Cuba
Set off on a 3-hour city tour of Santiago. You'll visit El Morro Castle, Ifigenia cemetery and the Moncada barracks and learn about the city’s rich history. 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 January 1st, 1959 that Fidel Castro declared the triumph of the Revolution. With a strong Afro-Cuban heritage it's no surprise that Santiago has a vibrant music scene and is seen as Cuba’s capital of music. It’s the home of son music, which is a mix of Spanish guitar and African percussion. 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. All this will entice the shyest, most left-footed dancer and the non-musically inclined to learn some salsa moves or take a lesson in local music.
A spectacular 5-hour journey to Baracoa will take you through the dry region surrounding Guantanamo, dotted with cacti and wiry goats, and then along the dramatic Atlantic coastline, before winding through verdant mountains to Baracoa. On the way, if time permits, you will get the chance to visit the Mirador de Malones for a pretty good view of the Guantanamo Naval Base and surrounding bay. Baracoa is set in a beautiful cove, this was the first colonial town, and remains one of the most beautiful in Cuba. You'll have a couple of days here to explore and relax, perhaps take a walk around the town to get your bearings, then maybe head to a lovely black sand beach an easy walk from town. As one of Cuba’s major agricultural zones, Baracoa is a great place to try local foods including chocolate and local specialties like prawns in coconut sauce and banana-stuffed tamales. One particularly sought-after Baracoa specialty is the cucurucho, a sweet treat of coconut, sugar, and fruit wrapped in dried cone-shaped palm leaves.
Today is a free day to explore Baracoa. The town was only accessible by sea until 1960, and even after a road linking Baracoa to Guantanamo was built, the settlement maintained a small-town colonial feel. Uncover its individuality as you wander along its beautiful malecon or ramble over various forts that were built to withstand pirate attacks. The Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion boasts a bust of the indigenous leader Hatuey, who was burned at the stake for refusing to accept the Spanish and their Catholicism. You might prefer to chill on a beach or get active with a hike to El Yunke, the famous table-top mountain sighted by Columbus during his first voyage to the island.