Cuba is one of the hottest travel destinations around and it is easy to see why. The country has a unique and colourful history that still dominates most aspects of Cuban life. Cuba is a Latin nation but it has a feel all of its own and on this short adventure, we experience many of these interesting facets. There's Havana, in all its faded glory, waiting to be explored. Few cities in the world can conjure up such emotions. On the south of the island is colonial Trinidad, where we can wander the cobblestone streets and listen to Cuban rhythms in the Casa de La Trova. We enjoy a catamaran cruise and snorkel the reefs in beautiful clear waters. Throughout our Cuban holiday we are able to trace the history of the Cuban Revolution. In Santa Clara we visit the memorials dedicated to revolutionary hero, Ernesto Che Guevara. Further on is the Vinales region, well known for its tobacco growing and cigar factories. Towards the end of our adventure we arrive in Cayo Levisa, a beautiful island off the north-west coast. Here we can relax and enjoy the copious amounts of sun, sand and warm tropical waters of the Caribbean.
Day 1 - Havana
On arrival at Havana airport you will be transferred 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 (known locally as La Habana) is the centre of all things Cuban and to walk around its streets is like being on the set of a Hollywood movie. 1950s and 1960s American cars cruise wide boulevards, while paint peel from glorious Spanish colonial buildings. Old men in straw hats puff on huge Cuban cigars as Cuban 'son' music fills the air; it's hard not to be drawn in by this evocative atmosphere. There is much to see in Havana and we explore both old and modern districts. In the Old Town we take a walk to the various squares such as Plaza de Armas, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja (Old Square) and Plaza de Cristo). We also visit the Palacio de los Capitanes Gernerales (which now houses the City Museum) and the impressive Capitolio Nacional, which is remarkably similar to the US Capitol Building in Washington DC. Stopping outside the Morro Cabanas Fortress, we enjoy great views of the city looking back on the famous waterfront esplanade known as the Malecon. In the newer part of town we see Revolution Square, Miramar Vedado and Havana University.
Day 3 - Trinidad
Today we board our bus and drive to Trinidad. The town and its surrounding hills were declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. Established by the Spaniards in 1514 and lined with cobblestone streets and colourful houses, the town of Trinidad is easy to wander around and almost every scene offers superb photographic opportunities – from locals casually smoking their huge cigars on the doorsteps of their homes to old Chevrolets cruising by. It is easy to see why Trinidad is one of the most visited towns in Cuba.
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 4 - Trinidad
Today we have a walking tour of this small, charming town. We will visit the Romantic Museum, which is located right by the evocative Plaza Mayor and houses a collection of beautiful period pieces. We also stop at the Canchanchara Tavern and sample its famous cocktail made from rum, honey and lemon. In the afternoon there is free time to wander and further explore this ancient town. There is open-air music on most evenings at the Casa de la Musica, which spills over in the cobblestone stairway on the side of the main church.
Day 5 - Cayo Macho Boat Cruise - Trinidad
Today we board a catamaran for a journey across the water to Cayo Macho. This coral key, renowned for its pristine white beaches and thick mangroves teaming with bird life, is a great place to go swimming and snorkelling. We spend the day exploring the area and dining on a tasty seafood lunch before returning to Trinidad for the night.
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 travel back to Havana before continuing west to the Las Terrazas Community, where we arrive in this 5000-hectare biosphere reserve in the late afternoon. This community was conceived as a miniature city with basic facilities for its urban functioning and an architectural style that was designed to harmonise with the landscape. We stay overnight within the community in a hotel that is well laid out with interesting botanical displays that showcase the local flora.
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
After breakfast we return to Havana, where our tour ends. If you wish to extend your stay in Havana it is possible to book additional accommodation - this should be done at the same time you book your holiday. If you are planning to fly out from Havana today, we advise that you do not book to depart until at least after 2.30pm (14:30 hrs).