Grand Cuba


    enquire now 20 Days From NZD $3,658 pp twinshare
    Small group
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    Escape to Cuba on an adventure through this exotic Caribbean island.

    Discover the old and new faces of Cuba on an adventure through the country’s vibrant towns, vast plantations, myriad waterfalls and idyllic beaches. From the elegant streets of Havana to the colourful clubs of Trinidad, sip rum with the locals, practice your best salsa moves and discover the welcoming spirit of this island nation. With opportunities to explore the twisting colonial streets of Camaguey, immerse yourself in the legend of Che Guevara, and experience local life on a farm in Vinales, this adventure is sure to leave you captivated by Cuba’s beauty, rhythm and spirit.

    Highlights

    • Take inspiration from the locals and mix things up with a bicycle-taxi tour of the colonial city of Camaguey
    • Enjoy over two free days in Trinidad. Practice your Spanish in a language class, loll about on an unspoilt Caribbean beach or peddle through sugar plantations on a charmingly rickety bicycle.
    • After an informal salsa lesson, you’ll be ready to hit the dance floor with the locals. With its vibrant music scene and Afro-Cuban roots, sultry Santiago de Cuba is a great place to practice your moves.
    • The lush Soroa is known as the ‘Rainbow of Cuba’. Explore an orchid garden, learn the medicinal secrets of wild Cuban herbs and venture to a gorgeous nearby eco-village en route to Vinales.
    • Make like Castro and roll a cigar with a tobacco farmer in Pinar del Rio Province. The newly harvested tobacco will be used to produce some of the most prestigious and expensive cigars in the world.

    Itinerary

    Day 1: Havana
    Bienvenido a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting this evening. If you arrive early, the day is yours to explore. With so much to do in this eclectic capital, we recommend arriving a few days early to make the most of this exciting city.

    Day 2: Havana
    Havana’s history is as colourful as its cars and buildings, and today you’ll get to experience the magic of Old Havana on a walking tour with your local guide. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1982, this well-preserved area within Cuba’s capital remains virtually unchanged, making it one of the Caribbean’s most impressive historical cities. An air of faded glory comes through in the peeling paint of some of its grand old buildings and its narrow streets, spacious plazas and Spanish architecture make it a charm to explore on foot. Visit La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras and the Plaza de Armas. Also visit the Museo de la Revolucion, to learn about the history of the Cuban Revolution. Afterwards, enjoy some free time to further explore on your own – perhaps check out a cigar factory or cruise around outer-Havana in a vintage American car.

    Day 3: Cienfuegos
    On the way to Cienfuegos today, learn a bit of the local lingo during an informal Spanish lesson with your leader. Then, stop at the peaceful sandy arc of Playa Giron, which sits on the eastern side of the Bahia de Cochinos, better known as the Bay of Pigs. It was famously here that the CIA sponsored a failed invasion by exile forces in 1961. It’s not just the history that’s the attraction here – with crystal clear Caribbean waters, a deep underwater wall, and an outstanding variety of coral and fish, it’s a haven for snorkelers. If there’s time, hire a mask and some flippers and take a dive into sapphire-coloured water teeming with tropical marine life. Afterwards, travel on to Cienfuegos, known affectionately as ‘The Pearl of the South’. Part of the city’s appeal lies in its colonial centre, which features wide Parisian-style boulevards and elegant colonnades. Drive along the peninsula to see Cienfuegos’ architectural pride and joy, the Moroccan-influenced Palacio del Valle.

    Day 4: Trinidad
    Leave Cienfuegos and head north to Santa Clara and the final resting place of Cuba’s most famous son, Che Guevara, where you’ll visit his mausoleum and memorial. Che’s remains were brought here after they were found in a remote corner of Bolivia in 1997, where he was assassinated by the CIA-backed Bolivian army. Check out the impressive bronze statue of Che bearing his rifle and learn about his incredible life. Then it’s a short drive south, through the Topes de Collantes National Park to Trinidad, which sits on the scenic Caribbean coast. For many visitors to Cuba, Trinidad is a standout destination. No other colonial city in Cuba is as well preserved, and the residents are extremely friendly and festive. Trinidad is steeped in religion, including the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria, which has connections to Voodoo. On an orientation walk today, see the former wealth generated by the sugar industry in the town’s once-grand mansions, colourful public buildings, wrought iron grill work and cobblestoned streets. (B, L)

    Day 5: Trinidad
    Today is a good opportunity to visit the Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos and the Casa de los Martires de Trinidad – both chronicle the struggles of the revolutionary period in the town’s history. At some point while you’re here you’ll have the opportunity to get involved in an informal salsa class. Cuba has a hugely rich and varied dance and musical tradition that draws its roots from Africa and France. Many styles that have greatly influenced music worldwide originated in Cuba, such as Mambo, Cha-cha-cha, son and rumba.

    Day 6: Trinidad
    Trinidad is one of Cuba’s standout cities, but it’s also the gateway to the Valle de los Ingenios, and a bike is a great way to explore the local area. However, Cuba’s bicycles, like its cars, are vintage, which means a little bit of practicality may be sacrificed for the romantic element!

    Day 7: Camaguey
    Travel through the centre of the country to Camaguey. Despite its size, Cuba’s third largest city has managed to retain much of its colonial heritage. Exploring Camaguey’s winding streets is half the fun as the city was planned in a deliberately confusing pattern to disorient any would-be assailants, and as you walk through the city you may still see tinajones – large clay pots used for collecting water. On your explorations, stop by the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad to see its baroque frescoes. Camaguey also has a rich tradition of cultural and technological leadership within Cuba, it’s the birthplace of poet laureate Nicolas Guillen and home of the Ballet de Camaguey. Cuba’s first radio and television emissions were broadcast from Camaguey, and the country’s first airport and commercial flights were planned and executed here.

    Day 8: Camaguey
    Enjoy a tour of Camaguey by bicycle taxi. Cycling is a popular form of transport in Cuba, and bicycle taxis are very common – in the confusing streets of Camaguey, it’s a particularly good way to get around. On the tour, you’ll visit a local market, parks, plazas and an art gallery. Your leader may suggest visiting a local farmers’ market where you’ll get a fascinating insight into daily Cuban life and the local economy – this is where farmers can sell their produce after meeting the quota they have to sell to the state. Camaguey’s is a particularly busy and colourful market and there are separate areas for produce sold by the state and produce sold by farmers directly to the public. There are plenty of interesting tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs available. Later, your leader will take you to a local bar where you’ll get to compare a white rum to an aged rum – Cuba specifically is known as the origin of some of the smoothest and most sought-after rums on the entire planet. (B)

    Day 9: Santiago de Cuba
    Head west along the Carretera Central to Santiago de Cuba with a stop in Bayamo. Today is the longest travel day of the trip. Depending on how many stops are made, this usually takes 6 to 7 hours, so take the time to get to know your fellow travellers, or make sure your devices are fully charged and you’re ready to go with a good book! Santiago is the hottest place in Cuba – in terms of both temperature and the vibe of the city. Set between the indomitable Sierra Maestra mountain range and the azure Caribbean, this city’s historical centre and colonial architecture retain a timeworn air ideal for photographers. With no activities planned after your arrival, perhaps join with some of your travel buddies and head out for a group dinner. Alternatively, get a good night’s rest ready for a day of exploration tomorrow. (B)

    Day 10: Santiago de Cuba
    Set off on a 3-hour city tour of Santiago. You’ll visit El Morro Castle, Ifigenia cemetery and the Moncada barracks and learn about the city’s rich history. With a strong Afro-Cuban heritage it’s no surprise that Santiago has a vibrant music scene and is seen as Cuba’s capital of music. Santiago’s half million residents are proud of their cultural traditions, so you’ll find many museums and cultural clubs around the city. The city is also famous for its energetic Carnaval celebrations and its lively Festival of Caribbean Culture. (B)

    Day 11: Baracoa
    A spectacular journey to Baracoa will take you through the dry region surrounding Guantanamo, dotted with cacti and wiry goats, and then along the dramatic Atlantic coastline, before winding through verdant mountains to Baracoa. On the way, if time permits, you will get the chance to visit the Mirador de Malones for a pretty good view of the Guantanamo Naval Base and surrounding bay. Baracoa is set in a beautiful cove, this was the first colonial town, and remains one of the most beautiful in Cuba. You’ll have a couple of days here to explore and relax, perhaps take a walk around the town to get your bearings, then maybe head to a lovely black sand beach an easy walk from town. As one of Cuba’s major agricultural zones, Baracoa is a great place to try local foods including chocolate and local specialties like prawns in coconut sauce and banana-stuffed tamales. One particularly sought-after Baracoa specialty is the cucurucho, a sweet treat of coconut, sugar, and fruit wrapped in dried cone-shaped palm leaves. (B)

    Day 12: Baracoa
    Today is a free day to explore Baracoa. (B)

    Day 13: Baracoa
    Enjoy another free day in Baracoa. (B)

    Day 14: Havana
    After breakfast, take a short flight from Baracoa to Havana arriving at approximately 4 pm. After arriving back into the capital, head to Plaza de la Revolucion for your final taste of Cuban revolutionary history, watched over by the memorials of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Jose Marti and Camilo Cienfuegos. (B)

    Day 15: Havana
    Today is a free day in Havana.

    Day 16: Soroa
    Spend the morning enjoying a walking tour around Old Havana. Afterwards, take a private vehicle to Callejon de Hamel, an alley located in Havana’s working class Cayo Hueso quarter. Adorned with the evocative Santeria murals of local artist Salvador Gonzalez, this lively street is Havana’s centre of Afro-Cuban culture. You’ll also head on a short drive and take a quick visit to the eccentric neighbourhood of Jaimanitas, in Havana’s outer western suburbs. The artist Jose Fuster has brightened up the area by rebuilding and decorating over 80 houses (including his own) with ornate murals and domes.In the afternoon, head to Soroa, in the heavily forested Sierra del Rosario to check in to your guesthouse for the night. On your way, learn the lingo with your leader and practice some Spanish phrases to make interacting with the locals a breeze (or should we say brisa).

    Day 17: Vinales
    In the morning, enjoy a tour of a Soroa orchid garden, which boasts over 700 species of orchid. You’ll also have the option to take a steep 1-kilometre climb up a mountain path to a lookout. Next, travel to the community of Las Terrazas, a pioneering ecovillage that dates back to a reforestation project in 1968. Head towards Vinales, stopping by Finca de Plantas Medicinales (a herb farm) to learn about local herbs and their medicinal properties. Because of historical sanctions against Cuba, the country has had to find ways to be self-sufficient, with a prime example being to develop its own medicines, many of which are herbal. You’ll see how herbs are grown, dried and crushed before being sent to a factory to be processed into medicines. Afterwards, drive a short distance to the small town of Vinales in Pinar del Rio Province. On arrival, your leader will take you on a short orientation walk of the town. (B)

    Day 18: Vinales
    This morning, take an early guided walking tour of surrounding farmlands and the Vinales valley. Visit a local farm where you’ll have the opportunity to experience the guajiro (agricultural worker) way of life. Depending on the season, you can choose to help out with daily farm activities, such as toasting and grinding coffee or harvesting yuca, corn or tobacco. This is also your opportunity to marvel at the speed and skill of the local’s cigar rolling technique. In the afternoon, perhaps book in for a cave tour or a beach excursion to Cayo Jutias but be sure to get back in time for a relaxed salsa lesson with your group. After dancing your heart out, you would’ve worked up an appetite, so an optional dinner at one of Vinales’ farm-to-table restaurants is highly recommended. Eat organic like the locals at an eco-friendly ranch and learn how Cubans have lived off their land for decades. (B)

    Day 19: Havana
    Today travel back to Havana by private vehicle. You’ll have a free afternoon to explore the city’s Old Town and wander the harbourside esplanade called the Malecon. (B)

    Day 20: Havana
    With no activities planned for today, you are free to depart your accommodation at any time.

    Inclusions

    • Meals: 11 breakfasts, 1 lunch
    • Transport: Private vehicle, Plane, Taxi
    • Accommodation: Standard guesthouse (19 nights)

    TIN- QUSZC

    Images courtesy of IntrepidGroup