Best of Cuba Westbound

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Best of Cuba Westbound

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Description

From Cuba’s historical streets of Havana to the pristine shores of the Caribbean, stroll through World Heritage cities, relive a fascinating colonial history and experience the rich heritage of music and dance that Cuba is renowned for. Discover the history and incredible underwater world of the Bay of Pigs, then prepare to be wowed as you discover Baracoa’s mountainous surrounds, visit the birthplace of salsa and admire Trinidad’s unrivalled ambience on this two-week adventure. From historic cars to fragrant cigars, and with plenty of rum and rumba in between, this adventure will take you into the heart of all things Cuban.

Trip Name
Best of Cuba Westbound
Last Updated
2020-02-19
Days
15
Capacity
16
Highlights
  • Old-world charm, rich history, exciting nightlife – evocative Havana is like nowhere else on Earth. See the difference between city and coastal life on a guided walking tour of the old capital.
  • With its vibrant music scene and Afro-Cuban roots, sultry Santiago de Cuba is a great place to bust out some moves and hit the dance floor with the locals.
  • Take inspiration from the locals and mix things up with a bicycle-taxi tour of Camaguey – roll through the winding streets on two-wheels, visiting markets, plazas and an art gallery.
  • Experience old-world charm in the colourful coastal town of Trinidad. Delve into the city’s sultry Latin rhythms with a salsa class and enjoy plenty of free time for seaside relaxation.
  • Receive a fascinating insight into the rise and fall of the charismatic and highly celebrated Cuban revolutionary – Che Guevara – at his mausoleum and museum in Santa Clara.

Itinerary

ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Havana
Bienvenido a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, the day is yours to explore. Consider a stroll through Old Havana to acquaint yourself with its colourful mix of '50s Americana, colonial architecture and budding modernity. There are plenty of good museums to check out, such as the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts). Perhaps line up with the locals for a taste of the legendary Coppelia ice cream, or wander along the Malecon (ocean walkway), the sea wall that skirts the coastline. 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 - Baracoa
After breakfast, take a 1.5-hour flight from Havana to Baracoa. Set in a beautiful bay, Baracoa 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.
Day 4 - Baracoa
Today is a free day to explore Baracoa. The town was only accessible by sea until 1960, and even after a road linking Baracoa to Guantanamo was built, the settlement maintained a small-town colonial feel. Uncover its individuality as you wander along its beautiful malecon or ramble over various forts that were built to withstand pirate attacks. The Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion boasts a bust of the indigenous leader Hatuey, who was burned at the stake for refusing to accept the Spanish and their Catholicism. You might prefer to chill on a beach or get active with a hike to El Yunke, the famous table-top mountain sighted by Columbus during his first voyage to the island.
Day 5 - Baracoa
Enjoy another free day in Baracoa. Why not set out on a hike through the rainforest to explore nearby caves and waterfalls. Perhaps pay a visit to Humboldt Nation Park, looking out for colourful parrots, lizards and hummingbirds. Take a boat tour down a nearby river, spotting wildlife along the way, or maybe stop in at a working farm to learn about life on the land. After the sun goes down, enjoy a cocktail near the beach or check out the town's nightlife.
Day 6 - Santiago de Cuba
A spectacular 5-hour journey to Santiago de Cuba winds through verdant mountains, then along the dramatic Atlantic coastline, before taking you through the dry region surrounding Guantanamo, dotted with cacti and wiry goats. Time dependent, on the way you might get the chance to visit the Mirador de Malones for a pretty good view of the Guantanamo Naval Base and surrounding bay. Continue on to Santiago de Cuba, picking up some Spanish during an informal Spanish lesson from your leader along the way. Set between the indomitable Sierra Maestra mountain range and the azure Caribbean, Santiago de Cuba’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.
Day 7 - 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. For nearly a century, the city was the island's seat of power and it also played a vital role in the Revolution. The people of Santiago were the first to rise up in arms against government troops in 1956, and it was in Santiago on January 1st, 1959 that Fidel Castro declared the triumph of the Revolution. 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. It’s the home of son music, which is a mix of Spanish guitar and African percussion. 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. All this will entice the shyest, most left-footed dancer and the non-musically inclined to learn some salsa moves or take a lesson in local music.
Day 8 - Camaguey
Today, head west along the Carretera Central to Camaguey with a stop in Bayamo (approximately 6-7 hours). 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 9 - 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.
Day 10 - Trinidad
Today travel through the centre of the country to Trinidad (approximately 5-6 hours). 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. With over two days to explore the area and soak up the atmosphere, why not kick off by partying the night away at one of the town’s live music venues or perhaps take in a folklore show at one of the town's numerous open-air venues.
Day 11 - 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. There’s also a chance to get a hands-on lesson with the musical instruments themselves in a percussion workshop. By now, hopefully you've learnt enough of the local rhythms to join in with the locals – maybe at a certain venue hidden within a cave!
Day 12 - 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! There are also some great treks to be made in the nearby Sierra del Escambray mountains – maybe drive along the legendary twists and turns of the road to El Nicho, then hike to its beautiful waterfall. Playa Ancon is also close by – there’s plenty of opportunity for relaxing on its long, unspoilt beaches or snorkelling through the clear waters (just watch carefully for sea urchins, which can be a problem here).
Day 13 - Santa Clara - Cienfuegos
On the way to Cienfuegos today, drive north through the Topes de Collantes National Park to Santa Clara (1 hour) 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 (approximately 1.5 hours) 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 14 - Bay of pigs - Havana
On the way to Havana today, stop at the peaceful sandy arc of Playa Giron (approximately 2.5 hours), 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. 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. In the evening perhaps take a stroll along the malecon or soak up the atmospheric vibes of the Old Town. At the end of a long day, it's time for a mojito or cuba libre and final night of salsa in Habana Vieja's bars. Hit the streets and celebrate the end of a fantastic adventure.
Day 15 - Havana
Your trip comes to an end this morning. Check-out time from the guesthouse is 10 am.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
27-02-202012-03-2020AUD $ 2,835-
02-04-202016-04-2020AUD $ 2,206-
09-04-202023-04-2020AUD $ 2,076-
16-04-202030-04-2020AUD $ 2,595-
07-05-202021-05-2020AUD $ 2,465-
28-05-202011-06-2020AUD $ 2,595-

Accommodation

Standard guesthouse (14 nights)

Transport

Private vehicle,Plane,Taxi

Map