Saturday 22 April – Saturday 6 May 2017 (15 days/16 nights*)
US $2,875 p/p twin share, US $400 single supplement
We commence our tour in the atmospheric city of Havana (La Habana) with its haunting legends of revolution, Che Guevara and the Cold-War. Our journey takes us across the length of the island. All over the country we witness many changes that are taking place in modern day life. We visit the small agricultural town of Viñales with its extraordinary landscape; French influenced Cienfuegos and the historically significant Bay of Pigs; artist-inspired Camaguey; the well-preserved Spanish colonial towns of Trinidad and Remedios; and cosmopolitan Santiago de Cuba, once home to Fidel Castro. Soulful, vibrant music and dance that unites the best of Spanish and African rhythm and movement are a daily encounter. Tour ends: Havana.
*Pre-tour: The tour commences in Havana on the morning of Saturday 22 April. N.B. The tour price also includes accommodation in Havana on the night of Friday 21 April.
Day 1: Saturday 22 April. Havana. (Pop. 2.1 Million). Tour commences.
After discussing tour logistics we ‘hitch a ride’ in a vintage Chevrolet, Ford or Dodge through the most significant quarters of La Habana. En route we pass the Capitolio National (that is remarkably similar to its namesake in Washington D.C.) and the Gran Teatro (home of the Cuban National Ballet). Our route takes us via the stately European inspired boulevard called the Prado and along the attractive ocean-side esplanade, the Malecon. We stop for photos at the impressive Plaza de la Revolucion with its enormous images of two of the country’s most notable heroes. Our taxi drops us off at the Museo de la Revolucion** where we are introduced to historical events surrounding the tumultuous years of the last century. The afternoon is free for participants to pursue individual interests. In the evening we share a Welcome Group Dinner and are serenaded by colourful street musicians.
Accommodation: Havana. Meals: Breakfast (B) and Dinner (D).
Day 2: Sunday 23 April. Havana
This morning we explore the four main squares of La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) on foot. We pass buildings designed in many different architectural styles and partially built structures untouched for over 50 years. We visit places of interest such as the Cathedral and lively Obispo St. passing contemporary art galleries and cafes once frequented by Ernest Hemmingway. Following a siesta there is free time to explore the fascinating streetscapes and museums in the central zone and perhaps to take a sunset stroll along the Malecon before dinner. Those keen to do so might opt to go to the theatre or to join in the pulsating rhythm and dance of the Buena Vista Club.
Accommodation: Havana. Meals: B.
Day 3: Monday 25 April. Havana
This morning with help from a local guide we learn about preservation and social programs** that are helping to transform La Habana. This is a chance to find out more about the changes that are currently occurring in Cuba following decades of diplomatic and economic isolation. The afternoon is free for further sightseeing and a spot of shopping before packing our bags in readiness for tomorrow’s early departure into the Cuban countryside. Some might decide to cross the harbour to visit the strategically located 18th C. Fortaleza de la Cabana where one can take photos of missiles that held centre stage during the crisis of 1962. Others might opt to visit Hotel Nacional once frequented by Frank Sinatra and the mafia or Hotel Habana Libre (formerly the Hilton) from which Fidel Castro first led the nation after his victory in the Cuban Revolution.
Accommodation: Havana. Meals: B.
Days 4 & 5: Tuesday 25 & Wednesday 26 April. Vinales (Pop. 10,000)
Heading west we travel along a stretch of road that was once an airport runway passing billboards on which commercial advertising is noticeably absent. Our destination is the small town of Viñales, a UNESCO listed World Heritage site situated in a fascinating geological setting and with a microclimate that produces the world’s best tobacco. On arrival we meet the host family in our casa particular. In the afternoon we take a guided walking tour through the lush green Valle del Silencio** experiencing the natural beauty and tranquility of this amazing area. There’s a chance to sample a handmade Cuban cigar! In the evening we enjoy a home cooked meal and perhaps a mojito before reclining in a rocking chair on the porch to watch the world go by. Tomorrow we take a day trip** to the coast. We travel by boat to Cayo Levisa a spectacular isolated beach located on the Gulf of Mexico. There’s time for a swim, to join in a salsa lesson and to sample local seafood before returning to Viñales. Those still with ‘energy to burn’ might choose to take an evening stroll or a bicycle ride.
Accommodation: Vinales. Meals: B.
Days 6 & 7: Thursday 27 & Friday 28 April. Cienfuegos (Pop. 170,000)
We travel back to the coast to the small city of Cienfuegos, first settled by the French early in the 19th C. On the way we stop at Playa Giron and the infamous ‘Bay of Pigs’ with its recently refurbished museum** where we learn more about the turbulent events of 1961 when the Cold war was at its height. By late afternoon we arrive in Cienfuegos situated beside one of the most magnificent bays in the country. Next day those who are up early can visit a natural bird sanctuary called Laguna Guanaroca.** This park is well known as a habitat for its migratory birds such as flamingos and other exotic species. There is plenty of free time to wander through the city centre to admire the monumental buildings and French influenced architecture, stroll along the island’s longest seafront promenade and perhaps take a swim.
Accommodation: Cienfuegos. Meals: B.
Days 8-9: Saturday 29 & Sunday 30 April. Trinidad and Camaguey (Pop. 320,000)
An early start sees us travelling eastward along the coastal road to the 500 year old colonial town of Trinidad (Pop. 55,000). Here we are free to wander through the cobbled streets and visit the outdoor artisan market. In the afternoon we travel inland through the World Heritage listed Valle de los Ingenios. We pass by the ruins of 19th C. sugar mills where once over 30,000 African slaves labored under the harsh management of Spanish plantation owners. By early evening we arrive in Cuba’s most Mediterranean city, charming Camaguey. The historic quarter of is an intricate maze of narrow, winding streets, cleverly constructed to confuse pirates and other invaders. The predominant architectural style is Baroque with a smattering of Art Deco and Art Nouveau. This is Cuba’s a cultural capital, home to many of the country’s leading artisans and the internationally acclaimed Ballet de Cameguey. Stately historic buildings and churches, flower filled plazas, art galleries and street sculpture are a particular attraction. After orienting ourselves with a guided tour by three-wheeled bici-taxi**, there’s plenty of free time to explore the city centre on foot.
Accommodation: Camaguey. Meals: B.
Days 10 -12: Monday 1 – Wednesday 3 May. Santiago de Cuba (Pop. 510,000)
Before leaving Camaguey those keen to do so have an opportunity to observe the festive atmosphere that accompanies the May Day celebrations. Late morning we head southeast towards Cuba’s second largest city Santiago de Cuba, situated between the rugged mountain range called the Sierra Maestra and the Caribbean Sea. En route we break our journey in easy going Bayamo with its attractive central plaza. In these next few days we experience the more dominant Afro-Carribean culture of this fascinating region with its distinctive music and traditional dance. Over the centuries Santiago has been home to many notable revolutionaries. It was here that Fidel Castro pronounced the victory of the Cuban Revolution in January 1959. We visit significant historic buildings in the city centre and two small museums** that should not be missed. The first is dedicated to Fidel Castro and his comrades in the underground movement and the second to Vilma Espin Guillois (the deceased wife of Raul Castro) who was central to the revolution’s success. There’s so much to see in this fascinating city that we have extended free time to pursue individual interests. Some may even decide to take a day trip to Comandancia de la Plata, the remote mountain campsite where Fidel and his revolutionary companions hid from the Batista forces in 1958. One night we share a Group Dinner and join in the pulsating beat at Casa de la Trova.
Accommodation: Santiago de Cuba. Meals: B. and D. x 1.
Days 13-14: Thursday 4 & Friday 5 May. Remedios (Pop. 40,000)
This morning we retrace part of our road trip, heading north-west towards the central coast. Our destination is the small colonial town of Remedios, reputed to be the second oldest settlement in the country. On arrival we stretch our legs, taking a gentle stroll around the impressive main monumental square with its two historic churches: the Iglesia Mayor containing 13 gold altars and the less fortunate Iglesia del Buen Viaje. Next day we indulge ourselves with a trip along a 16 km key that overlooks the magnificent Bahia de Buena Vista. We have a relaxing lunch in Cayo Santa Maria and take a stroll along the white sandy beach followed by a well-deserved swim in the azure blue sea.
Accommodation: Remedios. Meals: B. Lunch x 1.
Day 15: Saturday 6 May. Santa Clara and Havana
After breakfast we travel to near-by Santa Clara the site of the last battle in the Cuban Revolution. It was here in late 1958 that guerilla forces led by Ernesto Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos destroyed railroad tracks and derailed a train full of troops and supplies, leading to a decisive victory for Castro’s troops. We visit a vast museum and mausoleum complex** built to commemorate the life of Che and his comrades. In the afternoon we head back to Havana to prepare for our departures to another world.
Accommodation: Havana. Meals: Breakfast (B).
What costs are covered?
- Services of one Australian and one Cuban tour guide
- Accommodation in 3 – 4 star hotels or casa particulars, all with private ensuites
- Continental breakfast daily
- Activities marked ** in this itinerary
- Transfers during the tour, including transport of one medium sized piece of luggage
- Two (2) group dinners (Days 1, 11) and 1 group lunch (Day 14)
- Tips and Gratuities throughout except at meals not included in the itinerary.
Entrance fees, excursions & other activities included in tour price:
- Walking tours in La Habana and Santiago de Cuba
- One hour tour of La Habana by vintage car
- Museo de la Revolution, La Habana
- Guided tour of preservation and social programs, La Habana
- Guided tour of the Valle del Silencio, Vinales
- Day trip to Cayo Levisa, near Vinales
- ‘Bay of Pigs’ museum, en route to Cienfuegos
- Laguna Guaraoca bird sanctuary, en route to Cienfuegos
- Guided tour of Camaguey city centre by bici-taxi, Camaguey
- Day trip to Cayo Santa Maria, near Remedios
- Museum and Che Guevara mausoleum complex, Santa Clara
- Dancing at the Casa de la Trova, Santiago de Cuba
- Two museums dedicated to a) Fidel Castro and his companions and to b) Vilma Espin Guillois and the women of the revolution, Santiago de Cuba.
What is not included in the cost?
- International air flights and taxes
- Visas (required for Australian passport holders)
- Airport transfers, taxes and excess baggage
- Meals other than those specified in the itinerary
- Any optional activities that are not marked ** on the itinerary
- Personal expenses eg. laundry, telephone calls
- Personal taxis and excess luggage transfers (more than 1 medium size piece of luggage)
- Travel Insurance: Unlimited medical, additional & evacuation insurance is compulsory.
This itinerary should be read in conjunction with the Travel Enriched Pty. Ltd. Booking Conditions.
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