On this walking trip in western Cuba experience the wonderful local hospitality whilst appreciating the natural landscapes, walking in tropical forests and beautiful valleys. Discover the glamorous past of Old Havana and enjoy Cuban music in Trinidad. Casas particulares - Gain a unique insight into this colourful and interesting county staying with local families Topes de Collantes - Hike through forests rich in flora and fauna and swim in waterfalls Vinales Valley - Walk amongst the tobacco field and through the striking limestone landscape
Arrive in Havana, a fascinating city. In 'Old Havana' Spanish grand colonial buildings rub shoulders with those of glorious art deco style, as the ubiquitous old American cars and taxis cruise past. After years of neglect some of these magnificent buildings are being restored, and it is not hard to imagine back to Havana's glamorous heyday when it was a popular haunt of the rich and famous. One of the first to be restored was the impressive art deco style Bacardi Building. Today Havana has something for everyone including museums, shopping and street cafes. At night the city's legendary music and cocktails bars come into their own. Throughout this trip we stay in casas particulares, family-run guesthouses. On arrival to the main joining point casa in the Vedado district of Havana (Mara's House, as detailed in your Joining Instructions) you will be met by your host and shown to your room in one of their local guesthouses in the surrounding area. Each casa can only accommodate a handful of guests, giving you a great opportunity to interact with your hosts. Due to the number of evening flights into Havana, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two at 8am after breakfast. There are no 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 Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), which is a 30 minute drive away.
After breakfast in the main guesthouse, we make a short city tour of Havana as we drive out of the city. En route sights we will see include Plaza de la Revolucion and the grand mansions of Miramar district. We then drive to Las Terrazas a small community and nature reserve to the west of the city, and part of the UNESCO Biosphere of Sierra del Rosario. Here we take a walk in the reserve, the result of an extensive regeneration project. We take a picnic lunch and have the opportunity to swim in the nearby natural pools of River San Juan, surrounded by lush, tropical forest. Later we drive to the small town of Vinales where we have a short walk around the centre and meet our homestay hosts for the next two nights. Vinales is situated in one of the most picturesque areas of Cuba - the Valle de Vinales is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is known for its distinctive landscape of limestone mogotes (steep sided dome formations) rising out from the floor of the valley, and for using traditional techniques to grow some of the best tobacco in the world in its red, iron rich soil. This tobacco is used in the famous Cuban cigars. Today's six kilometre walk is expected to take around two hours with 50 metres of ascent and 100 metres of descent. The terrain is mainly forest trails.
This morning we take a walk in the Valle de Vinales, through the mogotes and tobacco fields, where the green of the vegetation contrasts with the red of the soil and the grey of the limestone. En route we visit a small-holding growing local crops. We learn how the tobacco is grown and harvested, and how the celebrated cigars are made. The afternoon is free to relax in Vinales, visit the local small botanical garden or take an optional local walk with our trip Leader. Today's seven kilometre walk is expected to take around three hours with 150 metres of descent. The terrain is mainly on unmade paths and access roads. The optional walk will be between one and three hours, and on similar terrain.
Starting out early we drive east for approximately six hours towards the Bay of Pigs. We drive through large citrus and sugar plantations and down onto the Zapata Peninsula to the coastline where the infamous 1961 'Bay of Pigs' attack (Cuban exiles supported by the US) failed to overthrow the Communist regime. After an optional lunch and swim in the area we continue on for another two hours to Cienfuegos, where we take a walking tour of this sheltered colonial seaport and have a free evening.
This morning we drive inland to Topes de Collantes Natural Park in the beautiful, wooded Escambray Mountains, famous for its many endemic species of flora and fauna. After a short bus ride up a steep, switch-back road into the forest we arrive at the park entrance. Here we meet our local guide, who along with our tour Leader will accompany us in the park, and climb into an old Russian military style truck for the journey to the start of our walk. Our hike may vary depending on the weather and the group but will take us well off the beaten track and reward our efforts with great views. We walk through tropical forest, and along rivers to arrive to Hacienda Codina, a small isolated lodge in the forest with beautiful gardens visited by hummingbirds, where we can relax and take refreshments. This afternoon we reach the beautiful colonial town of Trinidad where we meet our homestay hosts for the next two nights. Trinidad was founded in 1514 by the Spanish and was strategically important for their conquest of Latin America. However during the 18th Century the sugar industry became well established in the nearby Valle de Los Ingenios and Trinidad prospered, leaving a legacy of beautiful 18th and 19th century buildings now in varying states of repair. During this time the town was regularly attacked by pirates and it is said that the street layout is deliberately complicated so as to confuse attackers. Today the winding streets of Trinidad still have their own charm; we take a short city tour, including a cocktail making lesson. Just off the main square is a great place to enjoy a cocktail and dance the night away under the stars on the steps of the local Casa de la Musica. Today's four kilometre walk is expected to take around one-and-a-half hours with 150 metres of ascent and 50 metres of descent. The terrain is mainly unmade forest trails.
Today we take a walk in the nearby local El Cubano Reserve, following the river as it leads up into the tropical forest. We'll look out for local flora and fauna en route before reaching a waterfall and one of the best natural swimming pools in Cuba. We have plenty of time for a swim and to relax at this beautiful place before retracing our steps to where our bus is waiting for us. The afternoon is free to explore Trinidad at your own pace, visit the beach or take a salsa lesson. Today's 12 kilometre walk is expected to take around four hours with 800 metres of ascent and 450 metres of descent. The terrain is mainly unmade forest trails.
Driving north we travel for a couple of hours to Santa Clara, home to the monument and mausoleum of Cuba's national hero Che Guevara. We visit the mausoleum and small museum before continuing our journey for approximately another four hours. We arrive to Havana in time for an afternoon walk around 'Old Havana' visiting Capitol, Parque Central, and the main squares before returning to our Centro Habana guesthouses for our last night. Our trip Leader will organise an optional last dinner in 'Old 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 Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) which is around 40 minutes' drive from the hotel. If you are extending your stay you'll travel onto Playa Jibacoa.
7 Break Fast(s) 1 Lunch(es)
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