An action-packed holiday for adventurous families. Swim in jungle pools, hike along forest trails and stay at traditional haciendas in the mountains. Cruise around Havana in a 1950s American car, snorkelling in the warm waters in the Caribbean and experience the thrill of zip-wiring through the tree tops. Cuba is the ideal destination for a fun-filled family holiday. Las Terrazes - Discover the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve - and a chance to zip-wire through the treetops Viva la Revolution! - Visit the most iconic reminders of the Cuban Revolution, including the Che Guevara Memorial and the Bay of Pigs Topes de Collantes - Wildlife walks and swimming in jungle pools in the Escambray Mountains
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. Our local Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 8am on the morning of day two. 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, perhaps you might choose head out to explore the city which is centrally located just a short walk from the elegant El Capitolio building and the scenic Malecon sea esplanade with fine views of the city. There are several restaurants and bars within walking distance and lively music with the hypnotic rhythms of salsa, trova and son being played along the Paseo del Prado adjacent to our hotel.
What better way to get a feel for this vibrant and fascinating city than to cruise the streets in classic 1950s American cars, a colourful legacy of pre-revolutionary days? Our route takes in the beautiful, neoclassical architecture of Havana's Vieja (Old) district and the art deco buildings along the waterfront (Malecon) as well as driving through the Vedado and Miramar suburbs, where kids play baseball below rusting street lights. In the afternoon we get active with a salsa dance lesson: a chance to learn the basics of Cuba's most characteristic dance style.
Leaving Havana we head west to the beautiful Vinales valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the most famous tobacco fields in the world. The valley sits in the Sierra de los Organos mountains, where millions of years ago underground rivers cut tunnels through the soft limestone hills leaving behind strange hills or 'mogotes' that rise like cliffs from the rich, red soil of the valley floor. We take a short guided walk through this remarkable landscape, passing immaculate tobacco fields and beautifully tended fruit and vegetable gardens, pausing to visit local farmers and see for ourselves the intricate process of harvesting, drying and finally rolling the classic Cuban cigars (tabacco growing season is between Oct-April). The valley floor is dotted with simple, colourful farmhouses, each with its characteristic thatched-roof tobacco drying barn. Most of the farming is still very traditional and you can expect to see the fertile soil still being ploughed by oxen.
Today we journey by ferry to the beautiful white sand beaches of the island of Cayo Levisa on the north coast of Cuba. Here, mangroves and pristine white sand welcome us for a day's relaxation on the beach. The more active among us may choose to take an optional snorkelling trip to explore the colourful marine flora and fauna on the reef. As there is little civilization on the island, you may like to bring your own snorkel and mask although they are often available for hire locally
Today we head east into the Sierra del Rosario at Soroa. We visit the beautifully tended orchid garden here, located on a steep hillside with views over the surrounding mountains. More than 700 orchid species are grown here (including one that smells of chocolate!) along with many other quite fascinating plants. This afternoon you may wish to take a walk to a beautiful nearby waterfall surrounded by dense, green forest which is rich in birdlife and home to many butterflies or you may wish to just relax by the pool
We start our day with a drive to Las Terrazas a small village in the heart of the Sierra del Rosario, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The region used to be severely deforested so in 1968 an ambitious regeneration project was started. The hillsides were terraced (to reduce rain erosion) and millions of trees were planted. Now the area is covered in thick tropical vegetation, with the distinctive tall, white trunks of the majestic royal palm standing out against its rolling green hillsides. We set out this morning with a local naturalist guide to walk through the rich flora and fauna of Las Terrazas, finishing two or three hours later at a small waterfall with rock-pools, perfect for a refreshing swim (water-shoes are useful as there can be lots of scrambling over rocks). The rest of the day is left free to enjoy this beautiful area. A popular option is to do the exhilarating zip-wire course: three long wires take you flying over the tree-tops, the lake and even over the red-tiled rooftops of Las Terrazas village (it is easy to sit out the zip-wire course if not all family members want to participate). We will the return to Soroa for the night.
Heading east across Cuba, we drive through giant citrus and sugar plantations and out into the flat marshlands of the Zapata Peninsula. We stop at the Cueva de los Peces (Cave of the Fish), a 70 metre deep flooded natural pool with subterranean tunnels connect it with the nearby sea. We stop for lunch here and a swim and snorkel before continuing to the infamous Playa Giron - the Bay of Pigs. This seemingly quiet, rural area propelled Cuba onto the world stage when the CIA backed an abortive coup attempt by Cuban exiles that resulted in humiliation for the Kennedy administration, the death and capture of some 1400 soldiers and the immediate elevation of Fidel Castro to hero status. We visit the museum here to learn how a 20th century superpower was humbled by a supposedly ragtag army of disorganised rebels, an event that practically threw Cuba into the waiting arms of the Soviet Union. We then drive to Cienfuegos, another beautifully preserved colonial city with UNESCO World Heritage status.
This morning we will start the day with a short city tour around the colonial heart of Cienfuegos. This city is often refered to as the 'Pearl of the South', originally founded by the French it boasts the impressive Terry Theatre where they host operas and ballet. This afternoon has been left free either to relax by the hotel pool or you may wish to take an optional boat excursion out to one of the local bays.
This morning we drive to Trinidad - A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cobbled streets and Spanish architecture of Trinidad make it one of Cuba's most impressive and best preserved colonial towns. It was founded in 1514 but only came to prominence when French settlers fleeing the slave revolt in Haiti began arriving in the early years of the 19th century. These plantation owners built sugar mills in the nearby Valle de los Ingenios and the region quickly became responsible for a third of all Cuba's sugar production, generating huge wealth for the town. We will walk through the colourful streets, squares and markets of the old town and visit the cathedral. This evening we stay in a Casas particulares, the term given to a homestay in Cuba. Staying in a casa offers a unique opportunity to experience Cuban hospitality in local accommodation adapted for tourism. Casas are generally run by the owner and members of the family that live there. Staying close to the town centre allows us easy access to the lively music and salsa on show in the evening. Check out the bands playing on the steps leading up to the Casa de la Musica. The steps are often overflowing with people so it's worth arriving early.
This morning we skirt the edge of the wooded Escambray Mountains with the turquoise waters of the Caribbean on our left, taking a steep, switch-back road into the densely wooded Topes de Collantes nature reserve. Transfer onto an open-sided 4WD truck which takes us deeper into the reserve, then set off on foot through the forests with our naturalist guide. Our trail takes us along a ridge with panoramic views on all sides, then into a valley cut deep by the Guayanara River. Our guide will point out the rich and varied flora and fauna along the way, including the rare Cuban trogon, Cuba's national bird, whose red, white and blue plumage mirrors the national flag. After a walk of around 3 to 4 hours we arrive at our 'hacienda', set in a beautiful valley. Lying alongside a river with bathing pools, Hacienda de Gallega is a converted farmstead with a dining area, a bar, simple toilet and shower facilities and some flat terraces where our tents will be set up. Surrounded by beautifully tended flowerbeds and the forests of Topes de Collantes, this is a wonderfully relaxing and peaceful place to stay. Please note it is possible to travel by truck to the hacienda if you prefer not to walk today. After lunch there's the chance to walk along the river to the Salto de Rocio waterfall, a 3 hour round trip, through an area rich with trogons, hummingbirds and woodpeckers. Close to the waterfall there are rock pools where we can swim and - for the intrepid - swing out Tarzan-style on a liana overhanging the deepest pool. In the evening we eat a wholesome dinner at the hacienda then settle down to sleep overnight in our tents. 2-man tents are provided along with foam mattresses and blankets, but we recommend you bring your own sleeping bag (or at least a sleeping sheet) in addition. If you prefer, sleep out on the verandahs at the hacienda, under the eaves, rather than in a tent.
In the morning we drive by truck to the start of our 3 to 4 hour walk. We follow a trail through forests and valleys, past streams and glades with flowers, butterflies and darting hummingbirds. Further on we reach La Batata, a cave through which an underground river gurgles, gently carving out rock pools. The water rarely exceeds 20°C so the swimming is exhilarating here! We walk on until we reach the beautiful, isolated Hacienda Codina, set in a green valley with manicured gardens all around. The traditional hacienda has a pleasant bar and verandah, with rocking chairs to sit back and enjoy the view. We enjoy a leisurely lunch in the dining area, surrounded by colourful flowers and birds, then rest through the heat of the day. Later in the afternoon we explore a short nature trail close to the hacienda, with rare orchids and unusual medicinal plants. At one point the trail actually passes through a cave (Cueva del Altar), emerging on the other side of the hill to beautiful views over the distant Caribbean. Later we have dinner, enjoying another traditional home-cooked meal, before settling down for the night in our tents (or, like last night, you can choose to sleep on the verandahs of the hacienda). Once again you can skip the walk today and travel to the hacienda by truck if you prefer.
After breakfast, bid farewell to the Hacienda staff, driving by open-sided 4WD truck to the park boundary, where we are reunited by our bus to take us the short distance to Playa Ancon, a 6km stretch of white sand beach located beyond Trinidad. These two days have been left free to make the most of the idyllic beaches near Trinidad, and the surrounding area. Relax on the beach and enjoy the facilities of the hotel which has an entertainment programme, traditional music band, aerobics classes, beach sports or just relax on the beach. Catamaran, wind-surfing, kayaking, and scuba diving are all possible.
There are various options available during our time here, giving you the chance to be as active or relaxed as you like. You may wish to head into the Escambray mountains for a 4 hour trek (approx 8km) up through an unspolit land of forest and water-eroded valleys. The trek is to an isolated hacienda where we would have lunch, before returning to Trinidad.
In the morning we drive west back to Havana. We will stop on route at the historically important city of Santa Clara. Here we visit the Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum, the final resting place of one of the world's most iconic and recognisable revolutionary figures. we will then continue onto Havana where the rest of the day is free either to enjoy exploring more, perhaps wandering through some of the artisan markets looking for souvenirs to take home, or relax around the lovely pool at our hotel.
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 airport.
14 Break Fast(s) 7 Lunch(es) 5 Dinner(s)
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