Day - 1
Location: 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
Location: 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 leader. 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
Location: Sancti Spiritus - Say goodbye to Havana for now and head towards Santa Clara (approximately 4 hours), 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, continue to Sancti Spiritus (approximately 1.5 hours) and arrive around late afternoon. Founded in 1514 as one of the original seven settlements by the Spanish, Sancti Spiritus is now declared as a historic monument and the well-preserved architecture of long-gone centuries lives on. On arrival, enjoy some free time to explore this ancient town and perhaps check out Cuba’s oldest bridge and church.
Day - 4
Location: Holguin - Hit the road this morning for a longer drive to Holguin (approximately 6 hours). The journey may be long, but there will be plenty of chances to stop and stretch and the awe-inspiring scenes of central Cuba will make you wish it would never end. On arrival to Holguin, don’t be surprised if you don’t encounter any tourists – this lesser-visited city provides a real look into local life. Follow your leader on an orientation walk to get acquainted with the buzzing streets, charming plazas and colourful buildings, then make the short climb the Loma de la Cruz lookout point to see the city bathed in the sunset.
Day - 5
Location: Baracoa - This morning, hop back on the bus and travel to Baracoa (approximately 5 hours) through central Cuba, tucked between lush green forests and the vast Caribbean sea. Clinging to the coastline, Baracoa was Cuba’s first town, and stories of its past are every bit as intriguing as the beautiful city you see today. Join your leader on an orientation walk to get your bearings, plus some tips on how to spend your time here. You'll have a couple of days to explore the city and relax on its dazzling beaches. 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 - 6
Location: Baracoa - This morning, head to Boca de Yumuri Canyon to experience the stunning nature that awaits. Stop enroute to visit a local cocoa plantation and learn about these magic beans that concur the world. On arrival at Boca de Yumuri,take a walk in the nature and ride in cayuca (typical boat of the area) along the canyon formed by the Yumurí river and take the chance to cool off by taking a swim in the Yumuri river. Get back to Baracoa early afternoon and enjoy some free time. 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 or chill on a beach.
Day - 7
Location: Santiago de Cuba - A spectacular journey to Santiago de Cuba will take you through verdant mountains from Baracoa, along the dramatic Atlantic coastline to the dry region surrounding Guantanamo, dotted with cacti and wiry goats. The drive to Guantanamo Bay is about 3 hours, then if time permits, you will get the chance to visit a lookout for a view of the Guantanamo Naval Base and surrounding bay (Mirador de Malones tower fee not included). In the afternoon continue to Santiago de Cuba (approximately 2.5 hours), the hottest place in Cuba – both in temperature and atmosphere. Set between the indomitable Sierra Maestra mountain range and the Caribbean, this city's historical centre and colonial architecture retain a timeworn air ideal for photographers. After an orientation walk with your leader, 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 - 8
Location: 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.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. 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. In the evening, a visit to a live music venue awaits to experience this vibrant music culture in Santiago de Cuba.
Day - 9
Location: Camaguey - Head east along the Carretera Central to Camaguey. The journey takes about 5-6 hours with plenty of stops for you to relax and stretch your legs. An essential stop on the way is Bayamo, also one of the original Spanish settlements and a city that’s frozen in time – you’re more likely to see locals travelling on horses than in cars. Take a walk through this delightful, slow-paced city, then get back on the road and continue to Camaguey. Despite its size, Camaguey, 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 - 10
Location: 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 - 11
Location: Trinidad - Travel through the centre of the country to Trinidad, which sits on the scenic Caribbean coast. First stop is at Ciego de Ávila (after approximately 2 hours) for a lovely visit to a local jewellery workshop that sprung from a community-based project that trains the youth and the unemployed and much of the work on display are from local artisan made from discarded old silverware repurposed and recycled from stocks left over from the past more prosperous times in the country. Continue for about 1 hour to your lunch stop and then arrive at Trinidad in about 2.5 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.
Day - 12
Location: 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!
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). Party the night away at one of the town’s live music venues or why not take in a folklore show at one of the town's numerous open-air venues.
Day - 13
Location: Cienfuegos - Travel on to Cienfuegos (approximately 1 hour), 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. On the way, stop at Guanaroca Lagoon, one of the most unique ecosystems in Cuba, constituting an essential link in sustaining marine life in Cienfuegos bay. A large number of waterfowl find refuge in its waters, such as pink flamingos, sea corúas, gannets, Florida ducks. Take a boat tour on the lagoon for a unique opportunity to see these birds in their natural habitat. Then continue onto Cienfuegos. Drive along the peninsula to see Cienfuegos' architectural pride and joy, the Moroccan-influenced Palacio del Valle. On arrival, join your leader on an orientation walk to admire the city’s elegant architecture and glittering bay, visit a cigar factory where you'll learn the elaborate process of manufacturing this most popular product of Cuba from start to its final product - the cuban cigar. Then enjoy an afternoon for your own discoveries. The province is known for its coffee production, so perhaps find a spot to enjoy a fantastic brew, visit the Jardin Botanico de Cienfuegos, Cuba’s oldest botanical gardens, or head to Club Cienfuegos to watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand.
Day - 14
Location: Havana - Onwards to the peaceful sandy arc of Playa Giron (approximately 2 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. Then continue your journey after your lunch back to Havana (approximately 3 hours). On arrival, you may like to 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
Location: Havana - Your trip comes to an end this morning. Check-out time from the guesthouse is 10 am.