Cuba 8 Day Original
|BETWEEN||Havana and Havana|
|COUNTRIES VISITED – 1||Cuba|
|MAXIMUM GROUP SIZE||16|
|WHATS NOT INCLUDED||
This is a great introduction to the wonderful island of Cuba. On this tour we will get the three of the most popular destinations in Cuba: Havana, Vinales and Trinidad. We travel in private vehicles and stay in peoples homes. Cuban people are justifiably known for their warm welcomes and friendly hospitality and by staying in their homes we get to experience this first hand. Get beyond the beach resorts to get a deeper insight into Cuba, its wonderful people and its distinctive culture.
Cuba 8 Day Original
The tour takes your from the bustling and vibrant Havana, to the historic Santa Clara, and gives you the chance to experience the more traditional and rural sides of Cuba, with stays in Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Viñales. These places are common favourites for travellers who have come to Cuba seeking authentic cultural experiences. While Trinidad presents us with beautiful white sand beaches, colonial architecture, waterfalls, and a charming village atmosphere, Viñales offers stunning mountainous scenery, sprawling tobacco fields and friendly locals. A local Cuban tour guide accompanies the group throughout, and all accommodation is in guesthouses, which are small private businesses that are typically owned and run by local families.
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Day 1 – Havana
Havana has to be one of the most exciting cities in the world. It’s definitely intriguing and unique. Your included airport arrival transfer will take you to your guesthouse for the first night. If you arrive early today, you’ll have time to do some exploring on your own before meeting the rest of your group, and your guide, tonight. Your guide will leave you a note at your guesthouse with details about the group meeting time and place. The base house for your tour group will either be in Old Havana, Central Havana, or Vedado. The neighbourhoods of Old Havana and Central Havana are some of the places where you will feel Cuba at its most intense – narrow streets with old crumbling buildings and full of locals who are not placed there for the tourists but rather because this is their home. You will see them working, going to school, socialising, and going about their daily lives. Simply wandering the streets will give you a new experience and fill you with many questions about how the country functions. Vedado is another interesting part of town where there is a concentration of restaurants, bars, majestic mansions, and historic mafia built hotels.
The tour package itself does not include much time in Havana, so we recommend that you book an extra night or two in Havana, either before or after the tour. After the tour is probably preferable, as by then, you will have learnt a bit about how things work in Cuba and how to get around. Plus you’ll have the chance to talk to your tour guide and get some recommendations of what to do and see in Havana. When you book the tour you can request these extra nights.
Day 2-3: Viñales
Before departing Havana, we have a guided walking tour of the historic centre of Havana (approx 2 hours).
From Havana to Viñales it’s about a 4 hour drive, and on the way we usually stop for lunch. Surrounded by picturesque limestone pincushion hills (“mogotes”), Viñales is a small and culturally rich village, with friendly and welcoming residents and wide variety of outdoor activities available. Exploring caves, hiking, biking, horseback riding or simply enjoying the views of the valley and sprawling tobacco fields below are all options. Viñales is one of the more agriculturally productive areas, so an abundance of local seasonal fruit and vegetables is always on offer such as enormous avocados and mangoes, pineapples, papaya, guava, and a several varieties of sweet potatoes. It’s one of the cooler areas of Cuba, so it’s also a nice escape from the hotter parts of the country. The nightlife is very active in this village with the local residents more than willing participants in dancing to the local live music.
Day 4: Bay of Pigs / Cienfuegos
We head back past Havana to the French founded city of Cienfuegos through the densely vegetated Peninsula de Zapata swamp-lands, and along the beautiful Bay of Pigs. This is where the landing of counter-revolutionary exile militia occurred in 1961. There is a museum here that recounts the events of this conflict which resulted in the first defeat of a U.S backed take-over in Latin America. We will also make stops at a beautiful swimming hole (cenote) which resembles a huge natural tropical fish tank, and if the conditions are favourable, at beach for snorkelling.
Cienfuegos appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial hub, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades, and there is an ambience to inspire Cuba’s most celebrated Son singer to write the words “Cienfuegos is the city I like best”.
Days 5-6: Trinidad
For many visitors to Cuba, 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. Trinidad is steeped in religiosity, none the least of which is Santeria, which is one of several Afro-Cuban religions.
The thing however that visitors most love about Trinidad is the nightlife. There are no less than 10 live music venues all within a short walking distance. Many of these have lovely outdoor settings, in courtyards, and within the walls of old colonial ruins.
Not far inland is the Valley of Sugarmills. This area of rich fertile soil is where the Trinidad colonists got most of their ludicrous weath from. A 10 minute drive in the opposite direction will get you to a beautiful calm Caribbean beach called Playa Ancón. If the weather is fine, your tour guide might propose a dinner bbq here to witness the sunset over the ocean. Other optional activities in Trinidad are snorkeling, scuba diving, and a popular trek to a waterfall where you can swim in the fresh clear water spring.
Day 7: Santa Clara / Havana
On the way back to Havana we stop in at the town of Santa Clara, a key city in the Cuban Revolution. Upon entering Santa Clara, there is a huge statue of Ernesto Ché Guevara, to commemorate his death and that of the revolutionaries who died along with him in Bolivia. There is also a museum here dedicated to his amazing life.
It’s one final night of the tour in Havana, and your tour guide will have some suggestions for a farewell dinner and fun night out.
Day 8: Depart Havana
Today you are free to depart at anytime.
Tour Dossier Notes
Airport transfers – Includes arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers.
Local Payment – Local payment made to your leader of 200CUCs (Cuban Convertible Peso) at the group meeting on Day 1.
Accommodation – Accommodation are casas particulars (like local B&B’s). Guesthouses, Bed and Breakfast, B&B, casas, casas particulares, family stays, and homestays – these are all names for the same type of accommodation in Cuba.
Many travellers discover that the guesthouse accommodation is a major highlight of their visit to Cuba. This is not because of comfort levels, but typically because the casas are run by local families and located in residential neigbourhoods, so they provide a great opportunity for travellers to interact with everyday Cubans.
The style and comfort levels still vary quite a lot. We make big ongoing efforts to select the best casas we can find in this category. Every house and every room is unique. Our standard guesthouses are more likely to be run by a family, where the family members provide the services to the guests.
Guesthouse rooms are generally quite basic but reasonably comfortable and very clean, and the families in Cuba will try to make you feel at home as much as possible.
They are usually not as roomy as typical hotel rooms, however the casas are consistently rated by travellers, as more enjoyable than staying in hotels and about the same comfort level as perhaps a 3 star Cuban hotel. It’s the level of service and personal attention in the casas that is generally far superior to the hotels in Cuba. This is because the casas are privately run, profit making enterprises that rely on word-of-mouth recommendations among travellers, so the owners and staff are highly motivated to provide the best service they possibly can. They take pride in their work. This is in contrast to government run hotels where the staff are poorly paid – the consequence of which is low staff morale, poor maintenance, inefficiencies, and generally poor service.
Variety is the Spice…
While every family and every casa in Cuba is unique, with slightly different levels of comfort, the guesthouses we use in Cuba on our tours are much nicer than the average Cuban dwelling. The casas particulares are a form of accommodation for foreigners in Cuba that is legal and formalised, and the rooms for guests are required to meet a certain standard of comfort for the house to obtain a licence to rent. The owners pay a fee to the government for this licence and they also pay tax on their income.
Guides – Local Cuban guides on every tour
Meals –Breakfast is included every day except the arrival day. No lunches or dinners included. However for a small fee dinners can be bought at your casas particular with advance notice to the hosts, which is a great way to help supplement their income
Entrance fees – Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.
Visas – For most travellers a Tourist Card can be obtained on at the connecting airport on the way to Havana. Or we can make arrangements in advance, contact us to help with this.
Airport taxes – If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to pay these yourself.