Bienvenido a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba. Attend a welcome meeting at approximately 6 pm. Please expect a letter from your leader in the afternoon of Day 1 to confirm the place of your meeting (if by 5 pm you cannot locate this letter then please ask your guesthouse owner if one has been delivered, or ask to call our assistance line listed in the ‘Problems and emergency contact information’ section of this document). We’ll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. The tour briefing is generally followed by an optional group dinner. As there’s a great deal to do in Havana, we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist. If you arrive early, please note most activities in Cuba can only be booked through the tourist desk in the lobbies of the larger hotels or direct with the venue. Otherwise, there are plenty of good museums to check out, including the Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
Take a walking tour of Old Havana, a perfect first taste of the city. Your local guide will show you the cathedral, Plaza de Armas, San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja and Central Park. After the tour you will have an casual Spanish lesson to help with blend in with the locals. Then, enjoy your free afternoon exploring Havana further.
Santa Clara / Camaguey
After lunch, start heading to the East of the island which overall will take about 8 hours without stops. On the way (approximately 3 hours), stop in Santa Clara, one of the first major cities to be liberated by Castro’s army in December 1958. Today a number of monuments commemorate this important period of Cuba’s history, including the mausoleum of the legendary Che Guevara. After this stop you will have an casual Spanish lesson on the bus to help pass the time before the included dinner and to prepare you to blend in with the locals. After another four or so hours driving, arrive in Camaguey at approximately 9pm. This is simply a stop for you and the driver to rest before continuing on tomorrow; so don’t stress as you’ll have time to explore Camaguey on the way back.
Santiago de Cuba
Stop somewhere along the way for breakfast before arriving in Santiago de Cuba (5-6 hours drive) around lunch, hopefully at check in time for your guesthouses. Head out for an orienation tour then enjoy some time for further exploration. Santiago is the cradle of the revolution and home of the traditional son music, a mix of Spanish guitar and African percussion. With a strong Afro-Cuban heritage it’s no surprise that Santiago has a vibrant music scene that will entice the shyest, most left-footed dancer out to learn some salsa moves. The city is also well known for its vibrant and energetic Carnaval celebrations, and its lively Festival of Caribbean Culture. Later, discover whether you were born with two left feet in a salsa class.
Santiago de Cuba
Today your leader will take you on a three-hour city tour of Santiago. You’ll visit El Morro Castle, Ifigenia cemetery and the Moncada barracks. For nearly a century, the city was the island’s seat of power and it holds the title of ‘Hero City of the Republic of Cuba’ for its leading role in significant events during 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 in a broadcast message to the country and the world. Santiago’s half million residents are proud of their cultural traditions, so you’ll find many museums and cultural clubs around the city. Enjoy a free afternoon to soak up the best that Santiago has to offer – explore the city’s incredible contributions to music and literature at one of its many museums, or pop in at Barrita de Ron Havana Club to sample some authentic local rum.
Today head east along the Carretera Central back to Camaguey. You will get a chance to stroll around Bayamo along with lunch to break it up. If there is time on arrival into Camaguey, you will be shown around the city by bicycle taxi, otherwise you’ll do this tomorrow morning. Despite its size, Cuba’s third largest city has managed to retain much of its colonial heritage, and exploring the city’s winding streets is half the fun. The city was planned in a deliberately irregular and confusing pattern hoping to disorient any would-be assailants. 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 with its baroque frescoes. Camaguey is also home of the Ballet de Camaguey, the second most important dance company in Cuba.
Drive approximately six hours to Trinidad. Get accustomed to the slow pace of island living on an orientation walk. For most visitors to Cuba, the World Heritage site of Trinidad is their standout favourite destination. No other colonial city in Cuba is so well preserved, and the local residents are extremely friendly and festive. The town rose to prominence during the sugar boom and 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.
Trinidad is also steeped in religion, such as Santeria, which is one of the Afro-Cuban religions (related to voodoo). In your free time today, why not pay a visit to a Santeria priest and learn more about this fascinating religion. Alternatively, soak up the sun in beautiful Playa Ancon, a postcard-perfect coastal spot. A hike to the northern mountains is also highly recommended.
Leave behind the pictureqesue beaches and mountains of Trinidad and return to Havana. There is still time to visit a cigar factory, learn more about Ernest Hemingway or simply to take the time to appreciate the city’s diverse architecture. Perhaps celebrate the last night of the tour with a show at one of Havana’s famous cabaret clubs such as Tropicana. Or show off your moves at one of the many salsa clubs.
Your trip comes to an end this morning after breakfast. Check-out time is 10 am.
Havana - Leader-led walking tour of Old Havana
Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
Informal Spanish lesson with leader
Santiago de Cuba - Orientation walk
Santiago de Cuba - Salsa lesson (1 hour)
Santiago de Cuba - half day city tour
Bayamo - Orientation Walk
Camaguey - Bicycle taxi city tour
Trinidad - Orientation walk