Day 1 - Havana
On arrival at Havana airport you will be transferred by Havana Tours to your centrally located hotel. In the evening you will meet your local guide and the other members of your group for a pre-tour briefing. Please check the notice board at Reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. The briefing is generally followed by an optional group dinner.
Day 2 - Havana
Havana is the quintessential Cuba, with old American cars cruising the wide boulevards, dilapidated colonial buildings dominating the street and cigar-smoking locals squatting in doorways contemplating the day's events. Typical Cuban music fills the air and it's difficult not to be immersed in the relaxed atmosphere. We explore the sights of both old and new Havana, including the five squares, the museum of Capitanes Gernerales and the Morro Cabanas Fortress in old Havana and the Revolution Square, Miramar Vedado and Havana University in new Havana.
Day 3-5 - Trinidad
Today we board our bus and drive to the ancient town of Trinidad. Established by the Spaniards in 1514AD, Trinidad and the surrounding hills were declared a world-heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. It is easy to see why Trinidad is one of the most visited towns in Cuba with its cobblestone streets and colourful houses; just about every scene is picture perfect and a photographer's dream come true. On our final day in Trinidad we board a catamaran for a journey across the sea to Cayo Macho, an area renowned for its swimming, snorkelling, pristine white beaches and thick mangroves teaming with bird-life. We spend the day exploring the region and dining on a sumptuous seafood lunch, before returning to Trinidad for the night.
Please note that there is a shortage of reliable accommodation in
Trinidad and many of the hotels experience constant water and electrical
shortages. From time to time it is necessary for us to stay just out of town.
Day 6 - Santa Clara
We get an early start after breakfast and drive into the hills to Topes de Collantes, located near the top of a range that separates the Provinces of Villa Clara and Cientfuegos with the coastal part of Sancti Spiritus Province. Here we embark on an easy hike along the beautiful Sendero Codina Trail and enjoy sweeping views over the surrounding countryside. After lunch we continue on to the city of Santa Clara, the site of a major battle in the Cuban Revolution. It was here that Ernesto Che Guevara defeated government troops, even though his forces were significantly outnumbered. Upon hearing of this defeat President Batista fled Cuba, thus assuring victory to Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries. Murals of Che Guevara and revolutionary slogans are plastered all over the city, commemorating the significant part it played in the revolution. We visit the Tren Blindado (Armoured Train) Monument, which marks the spot where the actual victory took place. Che Guevara was killed in Bolivia and his remains were uncovered and identified in 1987. They were brought back to Cuba and interred in Santa Clara along with those of other revolutionaries who were killed with him. We visit the impressive Ernesto Che Guevara Monument which is part mausoleum, part museum and undoubtedly one of the most significant memorials in the country. We visit the Che Guevara memorial and the Armoured Train. There is a dearth of reasonable standard hotels in Santa Clara, so we need to stay in one on the outskirts of town.
Day 7 - Las Terrazas
After breakfast we transfer to the Las Terrazas Community, a 5000-hectare biosphere reserve. The project combines sustainable development and tourism in the mountainous Las Terrazas Community. The architectural style of the city is designed to harmonise with the landscape. We overnight in a hotel in the community.
Day 8 - Vinales
We have time for an optional tour of the Las Terrazas Comunity before we depart and travel past several villages en route to Vinales, a town surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in Cuba. Closer to Vinales, tobacco and sugarcane fields lie side by side and limestone outcrops dot the landscape. Cuba is renowned for its cigars and in Pinar del Rio we visit a cigar factory and find out why this Cuban produce is so famous worldwide. Arriving in Vinales we take a boat trip inside the Indian Caves - an ancient site that was once a dwelling for indigenous people. In the afternoon we take a walk to Palmarito o Laguna Piedra and also make the most of incredible views of the surrounding landscape from the Los Jazmines viewpoint. We also visit the Prehistoric Wall, a 120-metre-long outdoor mural painted between 1961 and 1966 that depicts some weird and wonderful scenes!
Day 9 - Cayo Levisa
After two weeks of exploring Cuba's towns, cities and landscapes, could there be a better way to finish the trip than kicking back on the white sandy beaches of Cayo Levisa – a small coral island off the northern coast. The area is famous for fishing and was once a favourite haunt of renowned game fisherman (literary giant and big game hunter!), Ernest Hemmingway. We travel to the island by boat on a full day and we have the opportunity to swim, snorkel and explore the island – or do nothing at all! Whatever we choose to do, it's a great place to reflect on our time in this unusual country. In the late afternoon we return to our country lodge in Soroa on the mainland, located in the Sierra del Rosario mountains. Soroa is nicknamed the 'rainbow of Cuba', as the area boasts huge trees and colourful orchids.
Day 10 - Havana - Mexico City
After breakfast we return to Havana, where you will board your flight to Mexico City for the start of your Mexican adventure. This flight is not included in the tour price and is to be booked separately. Please ensure the flight is not booked to depart Havana prior to 14.30 (2.30pm).
On arrival at Mexico City Airport you will be transferred to your hotel in the very heart of the downtown area. In the evening you will meet your new tour leader and the other members of your group for another pre-tour briefing. Please check the notice board at Reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. Please bring along to the meeting your passport and travel insurance documents. The briefing is generally followed by an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Situated in the middle of a vast valley, this energetic metropolis with a population exceeding 20 million is one of the largest cities in the world. Aztec dancers perform to the sound of beating drums in this enormous paved plaza, which is flanked by the Presidential Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral and Templo Mayor Museum. We also visit the fascinating National Museum of Anthropology, which houses a huge and absorbing collection of artefacts from all over Mexico.
Day 11 - Teotihuacan
Located 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City are the 'must-see' archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan - the site of the massive Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon which dominate the skyline of the complex. This was once the country's biggest ancient city and capital of the Aztec people, who ruled over the largest empire in the pre-Hispanic era. Guarded by mountains this magnificent city is thought to have been founded early in the 1st century AD and reached its peak around 500 AD, when its influence extended down to Guatemala and as far north as present-day Texas. With the help of a local guide we have time to stroll down 'The Avenue of the Dead', uncover its many wonders and imagine what life must have been like nearly 2000 years ago. We will also visit Virgen de Guadalupe, the city’s major religious landmark.
After our exploration we return to Mexico City in the afternoon.
Day 12 - Mexico City
Mexico City is an exciting mix of cosmopolitan glamour and ancient and colonial history. If it happens in Mexico, it happens in Mexico City, and today our guide will take us on a walking tour of its historic heart. In the afternoon we have free time to discover the city's many museums, plazas and buildings.
Day 13 - Oaxaca
We leave the metropolis of Mexico City and travel via Puebla, one of Mexico's oldest Spanish cities, to the colonial splendour of Oaxaca. If you're interested in purchasing traditional Mexican handicrafts, this is the place! Oaxaca is famous for its colourful markets and unique shopping opportunities, as well as its relaxed, laid-back feel. It is also a great place to try out some regional delicacies, from 'mole' sauces and banana leaf-wrapped 'tomales' to the baked chilli and lime grasshoppers. These are sold by the little old ladies at the markets, with each of them declaring their's to be the best! If the frenzy of finding a bargain becomes too much, chill out in one of the many laid-back cafés and soak up the ambience by observing everyday life passing by.
Day 14 - Monte Alban - Oaxaca
Today we drive the short distance to the ancient Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban, located on top of a hill near the city. The Zapotec civilisation began construction of this city around 200BC and it reached its peak during the period between 300 to 700AD, when the population was estimated to be around 25,000. Monte Alban exercised political, economic and ideological control over the local communities and surrounding mountain regions. With the help of our local guide, we have plenty of time to explore the remnants of plazas, tombs, palaces and temples that comprise this fascinating site. We return to Oaxaca for the night.
Day 15 - Chiapa de Corzo
After breakfast we hit the road for a long day of travelling via the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez, capital of the State of Chiapas. Our final destination is the colonial town of Chiapa de Corzo, where the most impressive feature is an elegant water fountain. Constructed in 1562 in the Spanish-Moorish style, the fountain is said to have been built to resemble the Spanish Crown. It was once the main source of water for the local inhabitants and a popular gathering place for them to do their laundry and also socialise. The town is well known for its local crafts, particularly the beautiful lacquered gourds which are painted with colourful flowers and animals.
Day 16-17 - Sumidero - San Cristobal de las Casas
We visit the magnificent Sumidero Canyon where we take a two-hour boat ride. During the boat ride you are likely to see crocodiles, some bird life and with a bit of luck some spider monkeys.
Next we travel into the Chiapas highlands and up to the enchanting town of San Cristobal de Las Casas.
Surrounded by mountains and nestled in a valley of pines, San Cristobal is renowned for its superb colonial architecture, but also has a large indigenous Mayan population. Often described as mystical, the spirit of this ethereal town ensures that it remains a popular destination for travellers. We visit some of the many beautiful churches and it is possible to purchase some bargains at the colourful local market, which sells a wide assortment of local artisan handicrafts and textiles. In the hills surrounding the town are villages such as Chamula and Zinacantan, where the indigenous people have retained their traditional way of life and are seen dressed in their own distinctive colourful costumes. We take time out to explore these villages and to learn more about the culture and history of these communities, who are mainly Mayan groups.
Day 18-19 - Palenque - Campeche
The Mayan ruins of Palenque were hidden from the modern world until the late 1700s, when Mayan hunters told a Spanish priest about the great stone palaces that lay in the jungle. The priest's report and those of other early Spanish explorers helped to unearth one of the most amazing Mayan sites in Mexico. The ruins span 15 square kilometres, of which only a small portion has been excavated. No doubt archaeologists still have a great many ancient buildings, sculptures and historical artefacts to unearth at this incredible site. We have the assistance of a local guide to help us uncover the secrets of these ruins as well as the noble but mysterious history of the Mayan people.
Day 20-21 - Merida - Uxmal - Merida
We continue to Merida, the capital of the State of Yucatan, stopping en route at the Mayan ruins at Uxmal, where we have the opportunity to climb the Pyramid of the Magician. The view from the top is well worth the effort but be warned, as the steps are extremely narrow and steep and those who do not like heights should not contemplate going up! Known as the 'White City' due to its great use of limestone and white paint, Merida has been a centre for Mayan culture long before the arrival of the conquistadors. Today Merida is a bustling city with much of its colonial influences intact. We have plenty of time to explore the many sites and our guide will be able to recommend a number of sightseeing options, including the highly impressive Regional Anthropology Museum of the Yucatan.
Day 22-23 - Chichen Itza - Cancun
Chichen Itza is arguably the most famous Mayan site in Mexico. Its name came from the deep, natural well known as a 'cenote' (sinkhole containing groundwater) located near the centre of the site, which was used during the city's heyday as a place for human sacrifices to appease the Mayan rain god Chaac! The magnificent Temple of Kukulkan stands over the ruins and those feeling energetic can climb to the top and be rewarded with fantastic views over the entire site. Not far from the temple is the 'Ball Court', where it is believed many disputes were settled in a game with combatants hitting a ball by using only their elbows, hips and wrists. Stone carvings depict the violence of the play around the ball court walls, suggesting it was not such a casual sport! After our visit, we continue towards the Caribbean Coast and to the lively resort city of Cancun. The beautiful white, sandy beach of Playa del Carmen is only a short bus ride away and is an ideal place to soak up the warm rays of the sun.
Day 24 - Cancun
Your tour ends after breakfast in Cancun.