- Day 1: Arrive Havana
Today is set aside as the arrival day of the tour, so you are free to arrive in Havana at any time. There is a chance that some of your fellow tour participants will arrive quite late at night, so we haven't included any group activities for today.
If you do happen to arrive early, you can go for a walk around the area that surrounds your homestay in Old Havana. After booking on the tour, we will send you a set of maps with the latest information, and some of our recommendations, for all the cities you will visit in Cuba. You can use these maps to visit specific places that you are interested in, or otherwise you can just explore. Don't forget to take a business card from your homestay so that you can easily show people where you are staying, just in case you do get lost (not always such a bad thing!).
If you prefer your time to be more organised, we recommend you book one of our Havana Day Tours. Please note that this tour includes the "Walking tour of Old Havana" on Day 14, so there is no need to book this separately.
Your tour guide will leave a note for you with details about the evening gathering for those tour group members that have arrived early. The guide usually has a formal group meeting on the morning of Day 2, however if you are keen to get to know the other group members today, you can meet up with the guide and go for dinner and drinks on the old town.
- Day 2: Cienfuegos via Bay of Pigs
After the morning group meeting with the tour guide and some quick formailities, we hit the road. Today we use private transport. For small groups this will either be a taxi or some sort of microbus, and for larger groups a minibus.
Today's road trip takes about 5 hours. We head East from Havana towards the French founded city of Cienfuegos. On the way we drive through a densely vegetated area called the Peninsula de Zapata. Its a swampy area full of alligators, snakes, and other wildlife, just before we the Caribbean coast at Playa Larga. We then drive along the Bay of Pigs, which is where that famous US-backed failed invasion of counter-revolutionary exile militia occured in 1961. Your guide will explain in more detail the dramatic events.
If the conditions are favourable, we can stop for a swim at a beautiful spot on the bay that is ideal for snorkelling. Snorkelling masks are available at a small cost.
Once arriving in Cienfuegos you might notice a slightly European flavour with the architecture of its main buildings and wide pedestrian boulevards. Most visitors are charmed by the setting on a wide and traquil bay and by its friendly and peaceful residents.
- Day 3: Trinidad via Santa Clara
Today we travel to Trinidad via the historic city of Santa Clara. There is lots to see so we only spend a short time in Cienfuegos before setting off. The local residents are up early, so if you are a keen photographer, this is a great time to take photos.
Again today we take private transport, and after heading inland for an hour or so, we reach Santa Clara where we visit the Che Guevara museum. On top of the museum is a massive bronze statue of the famous revolutionary, and there is also a mausoleum where Che's remains are kept (since 1997). We take time to visit the musuem and learn about Ché's fascinating life.
We then head back towards the Caribbean coast eventually reaching the beautiful colonial town of Trinidad.
- Day 4 & 5: Trinidad
Trinidad, for many visitors to Cuba, is their favourite place. It has a very well preserved colonial centre with numerous churches and many beautiful colonial buildings. It has the feel of a village rather than a city and because of the sometimes steep cobblestone streets, most residents get around on foot.
Nearby are several points of interest such as the lovely Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugarmills), Ancón beach, and the Escambray mountains - that contain coffee plantations, abundant birdlife, and some refreshing waterfalls. Including diving, snorkelling, and horseback riding, there are no shortage of activities for those who want to get out and about.
In town there are craft markets and many small bars, restaurants, and night spots where you can enjoy some fantastic Cuban music and dance in an intimate setting. If that is still not enough to win you over, there is even a disco in a nearby
- Day 6 & 7:Camagüey
About 5 hours travel further East we reach Cuba's third largest city - Camaguey. It lies about half way between Havana and Santiago de Cuba. For groups sizes that are 6 or fewer travellers, today for the first time, we take a public bus with other tourists. There is not a lot to see on the way and these public buses for tourists are modern and comfortable. For larger group sizes we continue with our private minibus.
Camaguey has a reputation as being fiercely proud and independent, and its with this spirit that the city has embraced with enthusiasm the idea of restoring its colonial centre, which now boasts some lovely small plazas, public squares, and pedestrian streets. The story goes that the city was originally designed in the 17th century in such a way as to disorientate potential invaders such as pirates, so the street layout is a jumble of narrow alleys where no two streets are parallel.
The city is a regional centre of culture and education with a large population of students, many of whom are foreigners who have come here on scolarships offered by the Cuban government to students who wouldn't normally get the chance to go to university in their own countries. There are various private art galleries and cultural centres, and we include a guided visit to a ballet school.
- Day 8 & 9: Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is known as the origin of many important things in Cuba. Its where Fidel first started his revolutionary stuggle against the Batista government, and its from this area of Cuba that much of Cuba's famous traditional music originates. Its where rum was invented by Emilio Bacardi, and the rhythms of the Son, Guaguanco, and the Conga are all said to come from Santiago. When you go to one of Santiago's traditional music houses (such as the Casa de la Trova or the Casa de las Tradiciones) you can actually hear (or rather 'feel') the difference in the music from the rest of Cuba. Somehow it seems richer and more traditional.
As Cuba's second city, and for a time the nation's capital, the city also has some interesting buildings such as the former Bacardi family residence (now a museum), and the Casa Velazquez, which is known as Cuba's oldest building. There are also museums, colonial churches and buildings of more recent historical importance, such as the Moncada Barracks, which are well worth visiting.
Some of the best views of the region can be had from the fort at the entrance of the Bay, called the Castillo del Morro. This place was the centre of the a battle between the US and Spanish navies in 1898. Many of the Spanish ships from that battle are still at the bottom of the ocean just beside this fort.
- Day 10,11,12: Baracoa
To get to Baracoa we drive past Guantanamo city and near to the area of land around Guantanamo Bay that is leased by the US military. For groups of 5 or more we use private minibus and for smaller groups we use the public bus for tourists.
Either way, some spectacular scenery can be seen along the way. The rugged coastline beyond Guantanamo is replaced by the deep green hues of the densely vegetated mountains of eastern Cuba. The well-built road was only made in the 1960's and previous to that the main way to get from Santiago to Baracoa was by sea. This explains why Baracoa feels even more lost in time than the rest of Cuba. Many of the houses are still made from wood and some of the locals show physical traits of the indigenous people that populated this part of the world before the Spanish obliterated most of them.
The natural environment that surrounds the town of Baracoa is nothing short of spectacular. In fact Christopher Columbus noted in his log-book that this was the most beautiful land that human eyes could set upon. Apart from the forested mountains, you can find pristine beaches with sand of various colours, coffee and chocolate plantations, and some stunning freshwater rivers (in fact, the biggest rivers in Cuba are found here), and your tour guide can organise for you the best ways to explore it.
- Day 13,14,15: Havana
A domestic flight (included in the tour) takes us back to Havana. You will arrive in the late afternoon of Day 13, so you have 3 nights and 2 whole days to experience the Caribbean's largest and most famous city in this middle part of the tour. Your tour guide will provide an introduction with the included walking tour of the Old town scheduled for the morning of Day 14. You always have the option to skip this and explore on your own. We also offer a range of other day tours in Havana that you can add to your package.
This concludes the first section of your tour. On Day 15 you may lose some of your travelling companions and possibly welcome some others to the group who are only doing the last section of this tour. Its also possible that you will have a change of tour guide, however we do always try to schedule things so that the same guide takes you for the entire 20 days.
- Day 16: Las Terrazas - via Jaimanitas
Heading west of Havana in private transport, we stop in a couple of Havana neighbourhoods to see some community art projects. The first one is an alley called the Callejon de Hammel. This is where local artist Salvador Gonzáles Escalona has done some colourful decorations of the street with a distinctive African flavour. In fact, many of the works are dedications to specific Afro-Cuban religious demi-gods.
Next we visit a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Havana called Jaimanitas. It is here that Jose Fuster has made a very impressive project called Fusterlandia in which works are made in mosaic ceramics. It extends from his own residence to surrounding houses and streets. Even the local medical clinic has been targeted by his creative efforts.
We spend the night in a hotel in a mountainous area called Las Terrazas. The town itself was built as part of an environmental project in the early days of the Revolution. We should arrive early enough to have time for a walk around the town and to meet some of the locals. Apart from its environmental characteristics, Las Terrazas is also known as for its art, and there are a few woodwork, painting and pottery studios, that are open to the public.
- Day 17: Viñales - via Soroa
On the way to Vinales we check out a Soroa which is beautiful area in the mountains with quite a few interesting things to see. There is an excellent orquid garden with about 200 different types of orquids, more than half of which are Cuban species.
For the more actively minded, there are a couple of short walks. One short one to a waterfall and a longer one to the peak of a mountain with some fantastic views.
Before reaching the town of Vinales we can stop at a lookout which has some great views of the Vinales valley. Parts of this stunning area are listed with UNESCO for the value of their rural scenery and hertiage.
In the afternoon we have time to take you to the home of a local tobacco farmer, who will show you his life and how he rolls his own cigars.
- Day 18: Viñales
Today you have a full day with no included activities. This is you opportunity to do as you please, and there are plenty of options available that your guide can arrange for you. Our travellers in the past have highly recommended the walk through parts of the valley with a guide that is local to the Vinales area. There are also caving, horseriding, and biking excursions available.
Another option is to do some voluntary work on a local organic farm (and staying for dinner!), or heading to one of the beautiful beaches nearby - Cayo Levisa or Cayo Jutias.
There are a couple of hotels on the outskirts of the town with some swimming pools you can use for a small fee - a good option if you just want to relax and enjoy the views while drinking a cocktail or two.
The nightlife in Vinales is very friendly and active, and the locals are always enthusiastically involved. There is live music nightly and usually a dance performance or two. But the main emphasis is on participation and the locals are not shy in asking visitors to share a dance. In fact, many travellers will tell you that Vinales is one of the best places in Cuba to interact with the locals.
- Day 19: Havana
We return to Havana to celebrate the last night of the tour, and for some, their last night in Cuba. With recent changes to the laws in Cuba, and legal opportunities for Cubans to open their own businesses, there are many more good options for restaurants, bars, and night spots. Your tour guide will no doubt suggest a few for a group celebration.
- Day 20: Depart Havana
Today is the departure day of the tour, and you are free to depart at anytime. Don't hesitate to ask your guide for help if you want to organise a few extra days in Havana at the end of your tour.