Havana – Viñales – Las Terrazas – Cienfuegos –
Trinidad – Varadero
February 4–14, 2019 (11 days)
• Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Old Havana, where old-time American automobiles and an eclectic tapestry of architectures evoke a colourful past, as well as the colonial towns of Cienfuegos and Trinidad.
• Discover the rich heritage of Cuban literature following the footsteps of Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway and the diversity of Cuban culture, from the almost romanticized legends surrounding Che Guevara to the music of Ibrahim Ferrer and the Buena Vista Social Club, and from coffee to richly-scented cigars.
• Enjoy the tropical landscapes of the island dotted with citrus trees, sugar cane, tobacco and coffee plantations, and swim in its crystal-clear waters full of colourful coral and fish.
Depart for Cuba. After arrival at the airport, transfer to your hotel in Havana.
Street view, Old Havana © Pedro Szekely
Today discover Cuba’s capital, starting with a walking tour of the UNESCO-listed historic centre of Old Havana, which retains an interesting mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments, and a homogeneous ensemble of private houses with arcades, balconies, wrought-iron gates and internal courtyards. See the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de la Catedral and Plaza de Armas. Take a coco taxi to the old lumberyard for a tour and beer tasting. This afternoon, enjoy a panoramic tour through modern Havana. Stop at Central Park and the Capitol, former seat of the Cuban Congress until the end of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Visit the Callejon de Hamel, Havana’s high temple of Afro-Cuban culture – a narrow alley filled with colourful murals and sculptures made from bathtubs, hand pumps and pinwheels.
Tonight transfer by vintage car to the Buena Vista Social Club, the birthplace of great Cuban musicians. Enjoy dinner and traditional rhythms such as the Cuban son, the unique guaguanco, salsa, bolero, rumba and other typical Caribbean sounds. Enjoy the night view of the Malecón on your way back. (B,L,D)
National Capitol Building, Havana © Nigel Pacquette
Travel along the route of famous American writer and Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway. Visit the Hemingway Museum in Finca Vigía, a Cuban residence where he lived and wrote The Old Man and the Sea in 1951. Afterwards head to Cojímar and have lunch at La Terraza restaurant, which Hemingway often frequented between fishing trips. Continue to El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio – two of his favourite drinking haunts.
Tonight, you may wish to book the optional Tropicana Show – the crown jewel of Havana’s nightlife (USD 75 per person, to be booked locally). This famous cabaret and club was launched in 1939 and is an extravagant spectacle with a revue of glamour and nostalgia. Sculptural dancers in feather costumes defying gravity and the rhythm of bongos and trumpets will take you on a journey through all Cuban genres. (B,L,D)
La Bodeguita del Medio, Havana © Momo
Depart Havana and travel to Pinar del Río, the westernmost province of Cuba, which produces about 70% of the country’s tobacco crop. This lush, green oasis is dotted with tobacco farms blessed with some of the world’s most fertile soil. Stop at Las Barrigonas, the Information Centre for the Tobacco Route. Continue to the Finca Quemado del Rubí for a tour of the farm and plantation. The site is run by Héctor Luis Prieto Díaz, known for his ‘Habano of the Year’ award in 2008.
After a creole lunch, learn how a typical Cuban cigar is rolled. Late afternoon arrival in the slow and relaxed agricultural town of Viñales. (B,L,D)
Viñales Valley © Alfredo Avila
Depart Viñales and stop at the Mural de la Prehistoria, designed in 1961 by Leovigildo González Morillo, a follower of Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Visit the Indian Cave to see impressive rock formations as you take a short boat trip on the cave’s underground river. Continue to the rural village of Las Terrazas, located in a mountain range built around a creek.
At Rancho Curujey, enjoy a welcome cocktail overlooking Lago Palmar. Visit the community terraces and enjoy a coffee tasting. Then head to Río San Juan and the partially restored Buenavista Coffee Plantation, built in 1801 by French refugees from Haiti. Late afternoon arrival at your hotel. (B,L,D)
Las Terrazas © Royal Tropical Tour
Depart Las Terrazas for the Bay of Pigs Museum in Playa Girón, site of the botched invasion launched by 1,400 Cuban exiles in 1961 aimed at overthrowing the new government of Fidel Castro. Continue to Ciénaga de Zapata National Park, one of best birdwatching areas in the world, and visit the crocodile farm.
After lunch, depart to Cienfuegos – also known as the ‘Pearl of the South’. Founded in 1819 by French émigrés, the historic centre blends European elegance with a flourish of Caribbean spirit. Enjoy a tour of this beautiful city and visit the Paseo Martí and the Tomás Terry Theatre, built between 1887 and 1889 to honour the Venezuelan industrialist. (B,L,D)
Parque Marti, Cienfuegos © Stephen Colebourne
Travel to Trinidad. Nestled between the ocean and the mountains, Trinidad is Cuba’s best example of a Spanish colonial town, and it has been wonderfully restored with funding due to its UNESCO status. Discover the town on a tour of the historic centre including Plaza Mayor and the Plaza Real del Jigue. Stop at Bar Canchánchara to taste its famous eponymous house cocktail made from rum, honey, lemon and water.
Join a dance class at Casa ARTEX cultural centre, before enjoying live music and traditional Cuban rhythms at Casa de la Trova. (B,L,D)
Trinidad © Stephen Colebourne
Head to Peninsula Ancón for the day. Enjoy a cruise on the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea and stop at a coral reef for snorkelling. Visit the small white-sand island of Cayo Macho de Afuera, famous for its variety of corals, sea fans sponges and gorgonians, as well as colourful fish. After lunch, enjoy some free time at the beach, before returning to Peninsula Ancón and Trinidad. (B,L,D)
Playa Ancón © Neiljs
Depart Trinidad for Santa Clara – site of the last conflict of the Cuban Revolution. Fulgencio Batista’s last attempt to retain power was disrupted by forces commanded by Che Guevara, who derailed an armoured train carrying ammunition, heavy weapons and 300 soldiers. Ultimately overrunning the city’s demoralized defensive forces, the revolutionaries achieved ultimate victory with Batista’s flight from Cuba a mere 12 hours after the Battle of Santa Clara. Visit the Che Guevara Mausoleum.
Continue your journey to Varadero. Late afternoon arrival at your all-inclusive resort. (B,L,D)
Che Guevara Mausoleum, Santa Clara © Sputnik
Full day at leisure to relax at the beach under billowing palm trees, dip into clear aquamarine waters and enjoy the facilities of your resort. (B,L,D)
Transfer to Airport International José Martí in Havana for your flight back to Canada, arriving on the same day, or extend your stay in Varadero. (B)