Travel to Cuba and experience the enthralling history of this seductive Caribbean island.

Travel to Cuba and enjoy a relaxing week-long adventure while immersing yourself in the history, culture and natural beauty of this colourful Caribbean island. Cuba's imminent political and cultural change makes it something to experience now before it evolves. Wander through Havana’s glittering colonial architecture, soak up the clear mountain air among Soroa’s vibrant mountain orchards, relax on Playa Ancon’s vast white beaches and admire Trinidad’s unrivalled ambience. From old cars to fragrant cigars and with plenty of salsa in between, this trip has it all and is the perfect introduction to all things Cuban.

Start
Havana, Cuba
Finish
Havana, Cuba
Countries
Cuba
Themes
Explorer
Code
QUKA
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
172kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • On the south of the island you'll discover colonial Trinidad, where you can wander the cobblestone streets and listen to Cuban rhythms in the Casa de La Trova
  • Discover the history of the Cuban Revolution. In Santa Clara you will visit the memorials dedicated to revolutionary hero, Ernesto Che Guevara
  • A guided walking tour of Havana helps you to understand the difference between country and city life in Cuba
  • Take in the colours and smells of the plants in Soroa, the valley known as the 'Rainbow of Cuba'.
  • Stroll along the rural dirt roads of lovely Vinales as tractors, vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages pass by
  • This trip offers the chance to get to know the hard-working tobacco farmers behind Cuba's famous cigars
  • Marvel at the unique architecture of Palacio del valle in Cienfuegos on a guided tour

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2014 to 08 May 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 May 2016 - 31 December 2016

Bienvenido a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba!

A complimentary transfer is included with your trip. Please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised.

After collecting your luggage, please continue walking through the 'Main Arrivals Hall' of the airport (Do not exit through the side door). An Intrepid representative holding a sign with your name on it will be waiting to take you to your pre-arranged transfer. If you can't locate the Intrepid representative, please call +53 52506496 (Do not rely on somebody else to call for you as they may be seeking commissions to direct you to another transfer company).

In the evening, approximately 7pm, you will meet your local guide and the other members of your group for a pre-tour briefing. Please ask reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. The briefing is generally followed by an optional group dinner.

If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).

Havana grew from an obscure port to a bustling hub when gold and silver was being pillaged by the Spanish from New World and taken to Spain. While the ships gathered in growing numbers, the pirates were not far behind and the treasures resting in Cuba's ports were attacked again and again by Dutch, English and French pirates. The Spanish built fort after fort for protection but the English eventually captured the territory. An economic boom followed due to the English lifting the Spanish trade restrictions. Spain eventually exchanged the Florida territory for the island, but these years left an indelible mark on the city and the country, and Havana is slowly restoring its beautiful colonial buildings.

The best place to start any Havana experience is in the Old City. Havana's Old City is one of the best preserved and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th century fortresses and countless churches. Make sure you visit La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, described by the novelist Alejo Carpentier as 'music set in stone'. Also worth seeing is the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras (now a restaurant) and the Plaza de Armas, complete with a statue of Manuel de Cespedes, one of the leaders of the independence movement. There are plenty of good museums to check out including Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

While in Havana you must try a Coppelia ice cream. You can join the hundreds of locals who line up to eat the delicious ice-cream that is heavily subsidised by the government to keep the populace happy. There is a Coppelia in every major town in Cuba and the one just up the road from our Hotel in Havana is the biggest on the island. Sometimes there is just one flavour available, a whole bowl of which could set you back about 10 cents. You can however pay up to $3 if you want to skip the queue and go the section where the prices are in Convertible Dollars (CUC) rather than the local pesos (CUP).

Ice cream in hand, why not head to a local baseball game. This is a great experience as the local atmosphere is very colourful and unique and can get quite rowdy at times. Baseball is by far the number one sport in Cuba so the locals can get very passionate about it. Its also interesting to note that the only advertising is government community announcements such as: sport is good for your health! The season runs from October to May.
On the morning of day 2 in Havana your leader will take you on an walking tour of the Old Havana. This tour includes a visit to the cathedral, Plaza de Armas, San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja and Central Park amongst other sites. Entry fee to the Camara Oscura lookout at Plaza Vieja is included.

Next we head west toward Vinales, which is approximately a 3 hour drive in our private bus but we break the journey in Soroa. Soroa is a tiny town in the heavily forested Sierra del Rosario. We have lunch here and also have enough time to take a tour of the impressive orchid garden which boasts 700 different species.

Later we continue on toward the dramatic limestone pin-cushion hills of the Pinar del Rio province and the rural town of Vinales.
Vinales is a small and charming rural village. Its probably the easiest place to mix with locals in Cuba who are very sociable and love nothing better than to drink rum and dance the night away. There are only 3 bars in this town so it is difficult to get lost!

The scenery around Vinales is some of the most picturesque in Cuba. There are many outdoor optional activities available including exploring the area by bicycle or hiking through the tobacco fields or to exploring the caves in the mountains.

Tonight we stay in a Guesthouse. Room facilities include air-conditioning or ceiling fan.
Enjoy some free time today in Vinales, which you'll soon see is home to some extraordinary scenery – some of Cuba's best. Soak up the slow, old-world pace of rural Cuba as oxen plod gracefully along the streets. There are many optional activities on offer here. These include a beach excursion to Cayo Jutias, a visit to the Santo Tomas cave complex (one of the biggest in all of the Americas), and the Cueva del Indio cave walk and boat trip. Or you can simply hire a bicycle and do some exploring of your own.
Travel back to Havana before continuing east to Trinidad, another beautiful colonial city and World Heritage Site (approx. 9 hours).

For most visitors to Cuba, Trinidad is their stand-out favourite destination (well, for the ones that make it this far anyway). No other colonial city in Cuba is so well preserved, and the local residents are extremely friendly and festive. Trinidad is steeped in religion, none the least of which is Santeria, which is one of the Afro-Cuban religions (related to Voodoo) that is practised in Cuba.

La Villa de la Santisima Trinidad was founded by Velazsquez in 1514 and the defender of indigenous rights in the Americas, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, attended over the settlement's first mass. The future conqueror of Mexico, Hernan Cortes recruited sailors here for his future expedition into that land. The town was fairly inactive until the 1800s, when French refugees fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti landed here en mass and brought with them sugar cane cultivation. The new residents settled and farmed in the Valle de Los Ingenios, just northeast of the town. Vast wealth flowed into the local economy from sugar cane cultivation and the area produced one third of the country's sugar at one point. The sugar boom was terminated by 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 cobble-stoned streets. The town and area also saw a lot of action during and following the triumph of the Revolution, as gangs of counter revolutionaries hid out and struck from the 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.

There are some great Spanish-style churches to explore here and nearby is the Valle de los Ingenios, where sugar plantations stretch out as far as the eye can see. For some beach side fun head down to Playa Ancon for some long stretches of white sand. This is a good place to pull on the snorkel and have a peak and Cuba's underwater world but please be careful of the sea urchins! For more land based activities go horse or bike riding, but be warned, Cuba's bicycles, just like its cars, are vintage. There are also some great treks to be made in the nearby Sierra del Escambray mountains.

While in Trinidad, you can visit a folklore dance and music show at an open-air venue. Cuba has a hugely rich and varied dance and music tradition that draws its roots from as far a field as Africa and France. Many musical styles that have greatly influenced music worldwide originated in Cuba, such as Mambo, Cha-cha-cha, son, and rumba.

Trinidad has a strong Afro-Cuban community and some of the Afro-Cuban religions are also represented in these shows. By now hopefully you have learnt a few steps of salsa and can join in with the locals.
Today is a free day in Trinidad. For some beachside fun and perhaps a little snorkelling, head down to Playa Ancon. Just be careful you don't stand on a sea urchin. At some point while you're here, a great activity is to go to a folklore show at one of the town's numerous open-air venues. Cuba has a rich and varied music and dance tradition that draws roots from Spain, Africa and France, and this is your chance to experience it all first-hand, from the Mambo to the rumba.
It's a short drive from Trinidad to our next destination of Cienfuegos (approx. 1 hours).

Cubans are known to be very proud people, and the citizens of Cuba's third largest port city call their town La Perla del Sur (The Pearl of the South).

Cienfuegos' appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial centre, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades. There is ambience enough here to have inspired Cuba's most celebrated 'son' singer to write the words 'Cienfuegos is the city I like best'. He was born nearby, which may have helped.

While here we take a visit to the Palacio del Valle. Once a modest home for a local trader, this palace is now Cienfuegos' architectural pride and joy. The entire edifice drips with ornate carvings in Venetian alabaster.
On the way back to Havana, we pass by Santa Clara to visit the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial. Che's remains were brought to rest here after they were found in a remote corner of Bolivia in 1997, where he was assassinated by the CIA-backed Bolivian army. There is an impressive bronze statue of Che bearing his rifle. Inside the museum, you can learn about his amazing life and see photos and exhibits such as his famous black beret.

On reaching Havana we return to our hotel and it's time for a final night of salsa. Hit the streets and celebrate a fantastic adventure.
There are no activities planned for day 8 and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is at 10am. If you are departing later, you may be able to organise luggage storage direct with the hotel at a cost.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
7 breakfasts, 3 lunches
Transport
Private Bus
Accommodation
Guesthouse (5 nights), Hotel (2 nights)
Included activities
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Havana - Walking tour of Old Havana
  • Soroa - Orchid Garden tour
  • Vinales - Valley walking tour
  • Vinales - Informal Salsa lesson
  • Trinidad - Afro-Cuban folklore show
  • Cienfuegos - Visit to the Palacio del Valle
  • Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum

Dates

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip.
2. An airport arrival transfer is included. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Beautiful Cuba trips score an average of 4.64 out of 5 based on 78 reviews in the last year.

Beautiful Cuba , March 2016

Beautiful Cuba , March 2016

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