Based in premium hotels, this trip is an excellent opportunity to visit Cuba in style. Discover Fidel Castro's revolutionary headquarters, visit the infamous Bay of Pigs and sip rum cocktails under the stars. Two nights in Trinidad's characterful 'casas particulares', or homestays, offer a deeper experience of Cuban life. Havana - Experience the faded colonial splendour of Cuba's capital, from the historic Hotel Nacional Comandancia de la Plata - Hike through the jungle to Fidel's 1950's rebel headquarters Relaxation - Enjoy the white-sand beaches of Cayo Ensenachos.
Arrive in Havana. Built around a deep natural harbour, Havana is one of the most impressive cities in the Americas. It's also one of the most exciting: the modern city is a fascinating mix of old and new, with crumbling tenement blocks and 1950s American Cadillacs rubbing shoulders with grand colonial buildings and monuments to the revolution. Due to the number of evening flights into Havana, our local Leader plans to do the welcome briefing in the morning of day two, and will leave a message in reception with details on timings and everything else that you'll need for the day. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Havana at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (airport code HAV) which is 23km, around 45 minutes from the airport. A representative from our local partners in Cuba will meet you at Havana Airport and assist you with the transfer formalities. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you may wish to take a walk down the scenic Malecon esplanade with fine views of the city, or sit outside in the gardens of our hotel, sipping a mojito in front of the Caribbean Sea.
This morning, our tour explores the highlights of Havana's Vieja (Old) district; the art deco architecture of coastal Malecon and the Vedado and Miramar suburbs, where kids play baseball below rusting street lights. After taking in the opulent marbled grandeur of the Capitolio and the symbolic expanse of the Plaza de la Revolucion, we take a stroll through old Havana. Here we will find beautiful neoclassical buildings at the Plaza de Armas (main square) and an impressive baroque cathedral, before a lunch visit to the famous La Bodeguita del Melia, home to Hemingway's favourite Mojito. Havana truly is a city in which to immerse yourself and, after our brief introduction this morning, the afternoon has been left free to continue exploring at your leisure. You may wish to visit the City Museum, or the captivating Museum of the Revolution, where you can find the revered hull of the Granma, the boat that brought Castro back from exile and onto the world stage in 1956. Alternatively, you may wish to return to Old Havana to enjoy a stroll through its cobbled streets, stopping to enjoy a mojito at a local bar. In the late afternoon, once the freshening cool breeze blows in from the Caribbean, you may be tempted to enjoy a lively sunset stroll along the Malecon, where fishermen and locals take in the magical setting before the imposing ramparts of its old Spanish forts.
This morning we head into what is arguably the most picturesque part of Cuba - the Vinales Valley. In this World Heritage Site, surreal mountains jut out of the landscape, formed by the erosion of limestone over millions of years. These 'mogotes' translate as 'haystacks' - a good word for them considering their steep sides and rounded, jungly tops. Around them, the iron-rich, red soil creates a patchwork of fields growing some of the best tobacco in the world - the raw material for Cuba's celebrated cigars. We will walk through this spectacular landscape to El Palmaito, with mogotes towering above us as we pass tobacco and coffee plantations. This remarkably diverse area contains endemic flora and a rich selection of birdlife, including hummingbirds, Cuban trogons and mockingbirds. We will stop to have lunch before visiting the Cueva del Indio - the largest cave system in the country, filled with surreal rock formations and subterranean pools. Later this afternoon, we return to Havana.
Today, we head east on our journey to Trinidad, driving through giant citrus and sugar plantations and out onto the Zapata Peninsula. Our journey is broken up with a wonderful swimming opportunity in a 'cenote', where the ceiling of an underground river has collapsed. We plan to arrive in Playa Giron by mid-afternoon. Here we will visit the museum dedicated to the infamous 'Bay of Pigs' invasion - a US-supported attack by Cuban exiles which failed to overthrow the Communist regime in 1961. We then travel to Cienfuegos, a colonial seaport, where we take a walking tour of the town, including the Marti Park overlooked by the grand Italian-style Tomas Terry Theatre. Our journey continues, past the wooded Escambray Mountains and hugging the coastline, with views over the sparkling turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Upon arrival in Trinidad, you will have some free time to wander through the old centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, cobblestone streets and colonial architecture make it one of the most bewitching heritage sites in the country. Please note that the specified hotel in Trinidad is our preferred option, but is subject to last minute changes. If it changes prior to your trip we will inform you, and if we are unable to accommodate you in a hotel of premium standard, we will advise you of any refund payable.
This morning, a walking tour takes us through the cobbled streets of the old centre of Trinidad, discovering its fine palaces, churches and cafes. A paradise for photographers, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a perfectly preserved colonial settlement unlike any other. In the early 19th century, French settlers fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti, landed here and started to grow sugar cane in the Valle de Los Ingenios. This crop generated considerable wealth and consequently the town had to be regularly defended from pirates. Subject to opening hours, we will visit a local museum before our free afternoon. You may choose to relax on the six kilometres of Playa Ancon's white-sand beach nearby, or take a boat trip to the equally stunning beach on Cayo Blanco. There is also the opportunity to take a salsa lesson with a local teacher. Alternatively, you might prefer to wander for longer through Trinidad's streets to soak up more of the unique atmosphere. Later, those keen to sample some of Cuba's famed nightlife can visit the open-air Casa de la Musica, just off the main square.
Today's drive to Bayamo in South East Cuba takes us via two of the original seven settlements founded by Diego Velasquez when he claimed Cuba for Spain. After a brief stop in Sancti Spiritus, we continue to Camaguey for lunch. Cuba's third largest city is a cultural centre for music, ballet and art. It has a beautiful colonial heritage hidden amongst a labyrinthine network of narrow streets that we will have time to wander through during our time here. Bayamo, our base for the night, is another of the original seven Spanish settlements. Despite its inhabitants burning much of it to the ground in an act of rebellion in 1869, it has retained some of its colonial architecture. Today, it is known for its laid back atmosphere and its chess players, who while away hours playing the game in the main square. On the 15th February and 21st March departures, we will be staying at Hotel Sierra Maestra in Bayamo.
An early start sees us heading into the beautiful mountain landscapes of the Sierra Maestra to enjoy one of the country's most fascinating and authentic experiences - a trek deep into the jungle to the revolutionary headquarters of La Comandancia de La Plata. We transfer into 4WD vehicles at Bartolome Maso to allow us to ascend the steep asphalt road to Alto de Naranjo, 950 metres above sea level. From here, we trek for three kilometres through virgin rainforest. The path is uneven and can be muddy, helping us to understand the appeal of our destination's remoteness. Upon reaching the hideaway where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara took refuge for two years, we discover what seems like a snapshot in time of one of the most pivotal periods in Cuba's history. It was here that Fidel began to formulate his plans for the future of the country and the site presents us with a captivating glimpse of life during those dangerous days. Castro's simple camp bed and fridge (which someone impressively carted up the mountain for him) still remain, along with a trap door for a speedy exit if under attack. Also, the original broadcast hut for 'Radio Rebelde' still stands, as well as Che's hospital hut where he worked as a doctor. Previously forbidden, it is now possible to take photos around the site for a small fee. We will complete our day with a journey to Santiago - Cuba's second city and the epicentre of revolutionary ideals since the time of Cespedes. Founded by Diego Velazquez de Cuellar in 1514, the city has been at the heart of Cuban culture and history since its inception. Briefly the country's capital, it rose to prominence during the 17th and 18th centuries, with first the arrival of Spanish settlers from Jamaica, then French plantation owners from Haiti. The region saw much of the fighting of both wars for independence and it was in Santiago that success against Batista's forces was finally, and very publicly, acknowledged by Fidel Castro on 1st January 1959. Little wonder then that the city has earned itself the moniker of 'Hero City of the Republic of Cuba'. Santiago itself is an eclectic mix of all the best and worst of Cuban life. Its colonial architecture glimmers in attractive shades of pastel, whilst its Afro-Caribbean mix affords it the unmistakable vibrancy of a true city of the revolution.
This morning, we will enjoy a guided tour of Cuba's second city, taking in many of the colonial buildings which are painted in attractive, traditional pastel shades. We plan to stop-off at the Plaza de la Revolucion with its fine monument to the heroes of the Independence Wars, before visiting the remarkable cemetery where independence hero, Jose Marti, is buried. The Moncada Barracks are a particular highlight as you can still see the bullet holes on the outside of the building which Castro and 118 students unsuccessfully attacked in 1953. There may also be an opportunity to visit a rum museum / shop. The afternoon is left free for you to explore in your own time. There are many museums, squares and churches to discover, or it may be possible to arrange dance lessons. This evening, we have the opportunity to experience Santiago's lively nightlife.
Today we have a long drive to return to Sancti Spiritus, where we can spend the remainder of the day wandering through the colonial architecture remnants from the great days of the sugar cane production in the area. Please note that the specified hotel in Sancti Spiritus is our preferred option, but is subject to last minute changes. If it changes prior to your trip we will inform you, and if we are unable to accommodate you in a hotel of a premium standard, we will advise you of any refund payable.
Our destination today is the all-inclusive resort of the Iberostar Ensenachos on the island of Cayo Ensenachos, lying close to the spectacular Caribbean jewels of the Archipelago de Sabana. The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway. On arrival, there will be time to relax and enjoy the luxurious pleasure of two of Cuba's most pristine beaches.
Today is left free for you to do as you wish. Whilst enjoying the many water-based activities on offer, you are likely to see interesting birdlife, such as flamingos, who make a home for themselves on the small sandy islands that dot this archipelago. On dry land, activities such as tennis and volleyball can be enjoyed. Alternatively, you may choose to simple relax on one of the glorious beaches or in a hammock while sipping a Cuban cocktail.
Once again, today is left free to enjoy at your leisure.
After a last free morning at the resort, we return to Havana. En route, we will visit Che's Mausoleum in Santa Clara, the final resting place of one of the world's most iconic and recognisable revolutionary figures. Guevara was buried here with full military honours in 1997 after his exhumed remains were discovered in Bolivia and returned to Cuba. A flame lit by Fidel Castro burns eternally to honour him. We will also visit the museum dedicated to Guevara's life, containing many interesting letters and artefacts. On arrival in Havana, you will have a free evening to wander the streets of the Vieja district, enjoying the live music and perhaps a final Cuban cocktail, or two. Please note that the specified hotel in Havana is our preferred option, but is subject to last minute changes. If it changes prior to your trip we will inform you, and if we are unable to accommodate you in a hotel of premium standard, we will advise you of any refund payable.
Today we will spend the day at Las Terrazas - a fascinating eco-tourism centre where valuable biodiversity research is being undertaken. Here, we can enjoy interesting walks through old coffee plantations within a picturesque hill setting. Bird watching opportunities abound and we hope to sight the rare Cuban trogon, Cuba's national bird, as well as small songbirds, including nightingales. Other wildlife includes reptiles, such as water lizards, and one of the smallest species of frog in the world. You may also choose to enjoy an optional zip wire ride in the canopy or swim in the San Juan River before our return to Havana.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Havana. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Havana at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (airport code: HAV) which is 23km, around 45 minutes from the hotel.
14 Break Fast(s) 6 Lunch(es) 3 Dinner(s)
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