Cuba Explorer

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Cruise through Havana in a vintage automobile, watch local experts making the famous Cuban cigar, immerse yourself in the fascinating culture and history of Cuba, bliss out on a beautiful beach overlooking the blue Caribbean

Tour description provided by G Adventures

Explore a side of Cuba that few rarely get to experience on this 9-day adventure. Cruise Havana’s history-infused streets in a classic car and stroll along Trinidad’s cobblestone avenues to the rhythms of music floating from open windows. Tour a tobacco plantation for a taste of iconic Cuban culture and luxuriate in the view of the island’s rolling western hills. Travel by private air-conditioned van is well-paced, so you're refreshed and ready to explore the island’s vibrant culture and incredible Caribbean beaches.


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 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 with your CEO. 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 malecon (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.
Days 2-3 Viñales (2B,L)
A short trip west brings us to "The Garden Province" of Pinar del Rio and to the Valley of Viñales with the town of the same name. Enjoy an included cigar factory tour en route before getting your cameras ready for the lush vistas and pincushion hills around Viñales, called mogotes. Arguably one of the prettiest natural areas in Cuba, we have many options for exploring the area, whether it be horseback riding, hiking, or simply sitting back and enjoying the view. 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. Estimated Travel Time: 4h 30min Approximate Distance: 189km
Day 4 Havana (B,L)
Travel back to Havana in time for lunch and an included half-day city tour in vintage automobiles. Revel in the bustle, history and rhythms of this fascinating Caribbean capital city. Estimated Travel Time: 8h Approximate Distance: 359km
Day 5 Santa Clara/Sancti Spiritus (B,L,D)
Head east along the Carretera Central to the city of Santa Clara, a key location in the history of the Revolution. On your way into town visit three key historical sites, including the massive Che monument (Santa Clara is also the final resting place of Che Guevara) before settling in for the night. Santa Clara was founded in 1689 by Spaniards hoping to evade the pirate raids on the coastal cities. Today it is a modern, industrial centre and holds a special place in the history of the revolution as the first large city to be liberated by the Revolutionary Forces in December 1958. About 18 men, under the command of Comandante Ernesto (Ché) Guevara, fought against more than 400 heavily armed Batista government troops and captured an armoured train. Full of armaments, the train’s derailing was essential to the triumph of the revolution, and there is a large monument dedicated to the event; both the monument and the site are referred to as 'Tren Blindado'. The Museo Histórico de la Revolución chronicles the Battle of Santa Clara, and it is here that a gargantuan statue of El Ché was erected to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the revolutionary hero’s murder in Bolivia. After exploring some of the revolutionary sites, continue on to Sancti Spiritus, one of the best preserved cities in the Caribbean from the time of the sugar trade. It was one of the original seven Cuban cities founded in the 1500's by the Spanish. Take a stroll around its main square, the Plaza Serafin Sánchez, or check out the Iglesia Parroquial Mayor, a church originally built in the 1500's and then rebuilt in the 17th century due to being a victim of pirates several times. The church and the pictureque houses along Calle El Llano, along with the Puente Yayayo bridge are all national monuments. You will receive a guided tour of Sancti Spiritus while you are there.
Days 6-7 Trinidad/area (2B,L,2D)
A trip south brings us through the beautiful Topes de Collantes region 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. Or relax at the hotel located on the beach, just outside the city. 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. Estimated Travel Time: 2h Approximate Distance: 70km
Day 8 Havana (B)
Travel back to the north coast and to Havana and enjoy a walking tour of Old Havana before your final night on the town with the group. Estimated Travel Time: 8h Approximate Distance: 335km
Day 9 Depart Havana (B)
You are free to depart at any time on Day 9, though remember check out from the hotel is approx. 12pm midday.