Learn the local customs, folklore and beliefs behind Afro-Cuban religion as you’re welcomed into the homes of devoted residents on a colourful and unconventional Urban Adventure in Havana.. Relish a real garden-to-plate dining experience at a privately-owned organic eco-farm in picturesque Vinales – indulge in a variety of fresh produce all while gazing across sweeping views of the valley.. 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.. Experience Cuban hospitality and old-world charm in the coastal town of Trinidad. Wander through cobblestone streets among colourful colonial buildings and relax on the picturesque Playa Ancon.
Experience the splendour of Cuba – a cobblestoned Caribbean gem where the rum is plentiful, the smiles infectious and dancing is essential. Join our Hola Cuba adventure and wind your way from sultry Havana and its crumbling churches, through the valleys and farms of Pinar del Rio, and on to the Afro-inspired beats of Trinidad. Along the way we’ve assembled a cast of Cuban characters to give you a proper welcome – tobacco farmers, expert chefs, local artists, historians and salsa dancers that understand where Cuba came from, where the country sits now and, more importantly, where it’s going.
Breakfast Included: 8 Lunches Included: 6 Dinner Included: 7
Bienvenido a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba! Upon arrival, soak in the decaying beauty of Havana and the surreal feeling that you have entered a bygone era. This is a very historic time to visit Cuba, as the gates finally creak open to a country so long forbidden, an opportunity has arisen to support the Cuban people and explore their incredible country. As there are no activities planned until your important welcome meeting at 6 pm – why not take a stroll to get acquainted with Cuba’s capital, where vintage cars, plumes of cigar smoke, Neo-Gothic churches and Art Deco theatres come together in a unique mesh of histories. After your welcome meeting, enjoy dinner at a local paladar, a privately-owned restaurant and a great example of Cuba’s incremental shift to a more free-market economy. Paladar means ‘palate’ but the popular usage of the word to describe this kind of restaurant references a Brazilian soap opera popular in Cuba in the 1990s.
This morning, find out more about the local customs, folklore and beliefs of Cuba’s Afro-Cuban religion from an insider on a colourful and unconventional tour with Urban Adventures. Be welcomed into private homes and take the opportunity to learn from the devoted residents as you explore one of Havana’s sub-cultures at a grassroots level, something not often experienced by tourists. Next, you’ll get to see outer Havana in a convoy of classic American vintage cars. Cruise via points of interest – such as the Malecon, Revolution Square, Avenida de los presidentes and ending in Old Havana. Next, your leader will take you on a walking tour around the charming neighbourhood of Old Havana (approximately 2.5 hours). The best place to start any Havana experience is in the Old City, which is one of the best-preserved towns and in 1982 was designated a World Heritage Site. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th-century fortresses and countless churches. Visit La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras and the Plaza de Armas. After a full day of exploration, enjoy an evening at leisure.
Las Terrazas / Vinales
At about 8 am, head east to Vinales. En route stop by an outer-Havana suburb to see the passion project of Jose Fuster, an artist who has turned an entire neighbourhood into a lively and colourful series of mosaics. Known as 'Fusterlandia', the inspiring and whimsical scenery is a perfect spot for pictures, and potentially have the chance to say 'hola' to the artist as he works! Continue your journey to a local community in Las Terrazas (approximately 2 hours). The village was built as part of a government reforestation project and has since received a UNESCO biosphere listing. Meet up with local community leaders who will share some insight into Las Terrazas and how the society works. You’ll also visit the ecological research centre and take a guided walk around the complex.
After lunch take a 2-hour drive to Vinales – situated in one of the most picturesque parts of Cuba, it’s a small and culturally rich village, with friendly and welcoming residents. On your way into the village, stop by the vibrant (and somewhat psychedelic) Mural de la Prehistoria – a phenomenal painting that stretches 130 metres across a cliff-face, at the foot of the verdant Sierra de Vinales. The elaborate artwork, which includes a dinosaur, sea monster and a snail, was created to symbolise the theory of evolution and took eighteen people four years to complete. Take the short journey into the centre of town and arrive in time for a brief orientation walk before heading to a privately-owned organic farm to learn about sustainable farming in Cuba. Hopefully meet local farmer Wilfredo Garcia Correa or at least his family who will show us around the farm and explain the methods used to cultivate crops without the use of pesticides, then enjoy a deliciously fresh and diverse meal prepared by the family, a truly authentic farm-to-fork experience!
Today at 9 am, spend the morning (approximately 3 hours) finding out more about Cuban agriculture with a visit to a local tobacco farm to learn about the tradition of Cuban cigars. Get an insight as to how the communist system works, how much tobacco they keep, how much produce they give back to the government and how they make ends meet. Learn about the process of tobacco planting to rolling the final cigar. Share in the secret recipe of how they cure their leaves, which originated from one family and has been passed down through three generations – then drink some freshly roasted coffee from the farm while watching an expert roll a cigar. In the afternoon, get involved in a 1-hour salsa dance lesson, followed by a cooking demonstration from a local chef. Vinales is one of the more agriculturally productive areas of Cuba, so an abundance of homegrown seasonal fruit and vegetables are always on offer such as avocados, mangoes, pineapples, papaya, guava, and several varieties of sweet potatoes. Sit back, relax and enjoy the well-prepared meal while overlooking the lush scenery of Vinales.
Bay of pigs / Cienfuegos
Depart Vinales at 8 am and head to Cienfuegos – drive for approximately 4.5 hours before stopping for lunch. This afternoon you’ll visit the Korimakao Cultural Project in Ciénega de Zapata, an area famous for its wetlands. Founded in 1992, Korimakao is a project to bring theatre, music, and dancing to remote areas of Cuba. You’ll have the opportunity to meet a director of the project, who will talk to you about the importance of this venture and the number of students that have benefited from it. Continue along to the picturesque town of Cienfuegos, a slice of Paris in the Caribbean. Founded in 1819 by pioneering French immigrants – the elegant architectural influence that these settlers brought with them, earned the city a UNESCO World Heritage Site listing in 2005.
This morning at approximately 8.30 am, your leader will show you around the charming streets of Cienfuegos before getting back on the road around 10 am to head to the beautiful city of Trinidad (approximately 1.5–2 hours). Located near the lovely Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of Sugar mills) and Playa Ancón, Trinidad enjoys long stretches of unspoiled, white sand beaches and is home to numerous churches and well-preserved colonial buildings. After lunch, begin with a guided cultural tour of the city (approximately 3 hours) – this includes an opportunity to visit two museums such as Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra Bandidos, Museo Romantico or the History museum. Later, visit the privately-owned pottery workshop of the Santander family. This family are well known in the Cuban cultural landscape for having produced pottery for generations as well as assisting in the restoration of sculptures that once existed in this UNESCO world heritage site. Support the Cuban economy by taking the chance to purchase your own pottery as a reminder of your time in Cuba. In the evening, perhaps seek out the dance scene in Cuba. You may wish to see the local Afro Cuban Folkloric dance group that perform shows at the club Palenque, which has cultural and social importance in this region. Nightlife in Trinidad is probably the most accessible and intense in all of Cuba, with numerous live music venues and many dance performances every day of the week.
This morning is yours to explore Trinidad by selecting one of the many optional activities on offer. Perhaps you’d like to hire a bike and cycle along the city’s colorful streets, past once-grand mansions, pastel buildings and wrought iron features – or instead you might choose to explore one of the excellent walking trails in the nearby Sierra del Escambray mountains. Your leader can suggest a lunch place at a local paladar. In the afternoon head to Playa Ancon for some beach time fun and maybe a little snorkeling, followed by a sunset picnic prepared for you by one of the privately-owned guesthouses.
Leave Trinidad around 9 am heading towards the National park of Topes de Collantes. Here there is a stop for a swim in a waterfall and to have lunch at a small privately-owned family farm. Head to Santa Clara (approximately 2 hours), a key city in the Cuban Revolution to see the iconic statue of Ernesto Ché Guevara, built to commemorate his death and that of the revolutionaries. There will be time to explore the museum which honours Che's life. Drive back to Havana (approximately 3 hours) where there will be some time to freshen up before a final fun-filled night of music, dinner and dancing at Rosalia de Castro – where you’ll enjoy an ensemble of Cuban classics performed live by Buena Vista Social Club!
Your adventure ends today after breakfast. There are no activities planned for the final day so remember to say good-bye to your leader before you head back to the U.S.