Cruise through Havana in a vintage automobile, bliss out on a beautiful beach overlooking the Caribbean, explore Indian Cave by boat, walk among karst peaks, visit a crocodile farm, learn about fascinating Cuban history.
Tour description provided by G Adventures
Cuba’s past is well-known, but what of its present? Take the family and find out for yourself on this jam-packed 12-day adventure that celebrates the island’s colonial past and vibrant modern-day culture. Here, you’ll learn to salsa in Havana, go swimming in Cueva de los Peces, explore colonial Trinidad and learn about the revolution in historic Santa Clara. Blessed with history, culture and unspoiled natural splendour, Cuba is captivating, indoors and out.
- Day 1 Arrive Havana
- Arrive in Havana at any time. A G Adventures representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to our joining point hotel. There are no planned activities, so check into to the hotel (check-in time is 3pm afternoon) and enjoy the city. In the late afternoon/evening you will meet your fellow group members to go over the details of your trip. Check the notice board (or ask reception) to see the exact time and location of this group meeting. After the meeting we will be heading out for a meal in a nearby local restaurant (optional). If you arrive late, no worries, the leader will leave you a message at the front desk. One of the oldest cities in the western hemisphere, Havana was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. It contains a wealth of colonial architecture, and the old city and streets around the malecón (ocean-side walkway) are best discovered on a walking tour. In 1519 the Spaniard Diego Velázquez moved San Cristobal de la Habana from its original site to its present one. The city remained a port of relative obscurity, within the empire, until gold and silver began to flow from New World mines back to Spain. Havana became the gathering hub for shipments of treasure from the ports of Cartagena (Colombia) and Veracruz (Mexico). Soon pirates turned their attention to the port and the city of Havana and its annual treasure trove became the number one target for the Dutch, English and French. Eventually the Spanish began construction of various forts and a protecting wall to repel the invaders. Nevertheless, the city was sacked in 1762 and held by the British under the command of Lord Albermale for nearly a year. Eventually, the Spanish exchanged the territory of Florida for the island. The end of the British occupation also signalled the beginning of more economic freedom for the islanders, as they were given the right to trade with cities other than Cadiz in Spain. The ensuing economic boom translated into steady growth in population and material progress. The main area of interest to visitors is La Habana Vieja (The Old City), where walking or bicycle taxis are the best modes of transportation. Points of interest in this part of town include La Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana, the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras (which now houses a restaurant), the Museo de Arte Colonial and the Plaza de Armas, with its statue of Manuel de Céspedes, one of the leaders of the Cuban independence movement. The Palacio de los Capitanes Generales is also located on the Plaza de Armas, which now houses the Museo de La Ciudad. You will find the oldest colonial fortress on the plaza’s northeast sector, the Castillo Real de la Fuerza, whose construction began in 1558. The city is home to various museums, and depending on your area of interest, there is practically a museum for everyone. One of the city’s (and the island’s) most prominent attractions though, are its music and clubs. Everywhere you go you will hear and feel the music and see people freely dancing in the streets. The island literally pulses with the beat and blend of Afro-Hispanic rhythms and movement.
- Day 2 Havana (1B)
- After arriving into Havana, we spend today exploring the city. We uncover the history and culture of La Habana Vieja in style, taking a classic American car tour through the city. Points of interest in this part of town include La Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana, the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras (which now houses a restaurant), the Museo de Arte Colonial and the Plaza de Armas, with its statue of Manuel de Céspedes (one of the leaders of the Cuban independence movement). The Palacio de los Capitanes Generales is also located on the Plaza de Armas, which now houses the Museo de La Ciudad. You will find the oldest colonial fortress on the plaza’s northeast sector, the Castillo Real de la Fuerza, whose construction began in 1558. In the afternoon we get a chance to stretch our legs as we take a salsa class. A chance for dad to show off his dancing skills! We stay in Havana this evening.
- Days 3 Viñales (1B)
- Venture further into Pinar del Rio province to the small town of Viñales, cradled in a fertile valley and surrounded by an unusual landscape of limestone pincushion hills known as mogotes. Arguably one of the prettiest natural areas in Cuba, we have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the area, whether it be horseback riding, hiking, or simply sitting back by the pool and enjoying the view. Here we take a sightseeing tour of the valley, including a visit to the Cueva del Indio ("Indian Cave"), where we can get up close to the valley’s incredible geological formations, including a section of the cave toured by boat! On Viñales’ main plaza there are both a cultural centre and a municipal museum, however most visitors to the area come for the views and the nearby outdoor activities. The region has extensive cave systems, a result of the slow dissolution of the limestone bedrock by underground rivers; the conditions also created the striking mogotes, reminiscent of the hills of Guilin in southern China. There are plenty of outdoor activities here, including horseback riding or hiking to incredible views of the valley and sprawling tobacco fields. Travel time to Viñales: approx 2 hours.
- Day 4 Las Terrazas (1B)
- From Viñales we continue a short journey to the nature reserve of Las Terrazas. Locted in the Sierra del Rosario mountains, the reserve is filled with lakes and waterfalls and a great place for the kids to play in all day.
- Day 5 Playa Giron (1B)
- We continue to the south of the island, heading for Playa Giron, the scene of the attempted invasion of Cuba by American forces. Along the way we stop to visit the crocodile farm at Guama,. Here, crocodiles are raised and conserved, and you can see how they are looked after and cared for. We stop at Cueva de los Peces where the kids can swim among brightly coloured fish and stop to enjoy lunch. We continue on to Playa Giron for the evening, where we can stop on the beach and watch the sun go down.
- Day 6 Cienfuegos (1B)
- Take a short ferry crossing this morning across the bay to Castillo de Jagua. Located in the entrance of the Bay of Cienfuegos, the fortress was built in the 1740s by the Spanish to protect the bay from pirates. You and the kids can pretend to be protecting the bay from invaders all over again. We continue to Cienfuegos, where the rest of the day is free and we spend the night.
- Days 7-8 Trinidad (2B)
- It's a short drive along the coast this morning to the southern coastal city and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trinidad. We include a tour of the area to get your general bearings; the rest of the time is free to wander the cobblestone streets, shop and experience the great music scene that has made this city famous. La Villa de la Santísima Trinidad was founded in 1514 by Velásquez; the defender of indigenous rights in the Americas, Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, attended over the settlement’s first mass. The future conqueror of Mexico, Hernán Cortés recruited sailors here for his future expedition into that land. It is a charming, small town with the green mountains of the Sierra del Escambray in the background, and the turquoise waters and pure white sand beaches of the Caribbean Sea just a short distance away. The area saw a lot of action during and following the triumph of the Revolution, as gangs of counter revolutionaries hid out and struck from the nearby safety of the mountains. The Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos and the Casa de los Mártires de Trinidad chronicles the struggles of this period in the town’s history. Trinidad is a musical hub (and in Cuba this is saying a lot), and you are never out of earshot from a group of musicians playing local salsa or son. The town has the requisite Casa de la Trova, a mainstay of Cuban musical culture in every town, and most nights of the week you can find locals and tourists alike dancing and enjoying live music in front of the Casa de la Musica, on the corner of the main plaza. Those visitors looking for outdoor activities will find Trinidad a haven for horseback or bicycle riding (don’t expect any modern mountain bikes though!). If an unspoiled, white sand beach sounds like what you're looking for, try snorkelling or diving in nearby Playa Ancón, just 12km (7.5 miles) from town. The nearby Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of Sugarmills), also a World Heritage site, is dotted with remains of the island's vast sugar cane plantations. Valle de los Ingenios was fairly inactive until the 1800s, when French refugees fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti landed here en masse and brought with them sugar cane cultivation. The new residents settled and farmed in the valley, and wealth flowed into the local economy; at one point the area produced one third of the country’s sugar. The sugar boom ended with the two wars of independence, but the wealth generated by the industry remains visible in the town’s once grand mansions, colourful public buildings, wrought iron grill work and cobblestone streets. Indeed, the last three centuries have both changed the landscape and left over 70 architectural and archaeological sites to be explored: the boiler house, dregs house, manor house, slave quarters, warehouses, stables, distilleries, tile factories, bell towers, as well as other masonry works to dam and conduct the water of brooks and cisterns used in the collection of rain water, among others.
- Day 9 Topes de Collantes (1B)
- Cuba is an island well known for it's natural beauty, and during our journey we get to see a lot of the natural wonders here. Today we visit Topes de Collantes nature reserve, in the Escambray Mountains. Filled with caves, rivers, waterfalls and natural pools this is a natural playground. We have the day here, before we transfer to our hacienda accommodation for the night.
- Day 10 Santa Clara (1B)
- Heading inland today we visit the site of some of the most important moments in Cuban history at Santa Clara. Kids will be fascinated by the stories of the Cuban revolution, and can see the armoured train used by the revolutionaries to attack the government troops that helped to turn the revolution for them. Che Guevara's mausoleum is here, so the whole family can learn all about the history of one of the most important people in Cuban, if not world history. Overnight in Santa Clara
- Day 11 Havana (1B)
- We drive this morning back to Havana. On our return, the rest of the day is free here. Explore the city at leisure, visit some of the bars and restaurants in the city, or sit at a cafe and watch the world go by. This evening is a great opportunity to have one final meal with newfound friends and family together.
- Day 12 Havana (1B)
- We transfer to the airport where the trip ends and we say goodbye to our newfound friends.