Discover the colonial splendour of vibrant Havana

Visit Castro’s and Che’s basecamp hideout in the Sierra Maestra mountains

Walk through stunning Viñales, Cuba´s famous tobacco growing region

Explore tiny Baracoa town where Christopher Columbus first set foot on Cuban soil

Visit important places in Revolutionary history including the Che memorial, Bay of Pigs and Moncada Barracks

Day by Day

Day 1 ➤ Arrival in Havana

A Cubania representative will be waiting for you on arrival at Jose Martí International Airport in Havana. Once you’ve collected your luggage you’ll be transferred to your local accommodation with time to relax after your long flight. If you fancy a bite to eat or drink you can take a short walk into the old town where there are numerous bars and restaurants to choose from. (not included)
Casa particular, Havana

Day 2 ➤ Havana city tour in American classic cars followed by walking tour of old Havana

After an early breakfast, your guide will meet you at an agreed location to take you on your tour of Havana, the largest city in the Caribbean. You’ll set off in classic 40´s and 50´s American convertible cars and drive through the Vedado and Miramar districts, where you´ll be able to see the grand mansions that were once homes to the very wealthy prior to the Revolution. We stop at the Plaza de la Revolución for an opportunity to take pictures at this famous square where many historic speeches and marches have taken place. We then head back to the old town stopping briefly at the Museum of the Revolution and carry on to the Plaza de Armas where we leave the cars and head to one of the nearby restaurants for lunch. Havana was where writer Ernest Hemingway lived for many years and where he is still fondly remembered, particularly at the drinking establishments he frequented. ‘La Bodeguita del Medio’ was one of his favourite haunts and we´ll drop in for a quick visit before continuing our orientation tour of the old town.

Old Havana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and millions of dollars have gone into the area in order to bring it back to its original splendour. It has the finest surviving Spanish colonial architecture in the Americas preserved by a combination of little war damage, post revolution restoration work and the current restoration project. The late afternoon and evening are free for you to continue exploring on your own. Tonight you can take in a show (optional) at the famous Tropicana night-club, in its heyday considered the most flamboyant in the world. The show is still very glamorous and is accompanied by an excellent orchestra, offering a glimpse of those extravagant pre-revolutionary days. (lunch and dinner not included)

Casa particular, Havana (B)

Day 3 ➤ Head to Viñales, where Cuba’s world famous tobacco is grown

After breakfast we drive in a westerly direction to the Piñar del Rio province. The route crosses typical landscapes of cane fields, tobacco plantations and palm trees. Straw-hatted guajiro peasants farm what is considered to be the finest tobacco growing countryside in Cuba where the tobacco leaves are planted, harvested, dried, and then rolled into the world famous cigars. After visiting a tobacco factory in the provincial capital of Pinar del Rio, we head north on a scenic road which climbs into the Sierra de los Órganos towards the sleepy village of Viñales. On arrival enjoy beautiful panoramic view of Viñales from Los Jasmines Mirador and then drop down into the valley for lunch ( not included ) and time to explore the Viñales before checking into your casa for the night.

We recommend eating dinner in your casa tonight to get a real feel for local tasty home-cooked food!
Casa particular, Viñales (B)

Day 4 ➤ Free day to explore Viñales

The Viñales valley boasts the oldest geological formations in Cuba, unique to the area. Spectacular mogotes – sheer-sided, conical towers of limestone, some over 300m high – are all that is left of a great plateau after millions of years of erosion by wind and water. The resultant archetypal karst terrain is reminiscent of southern China or Vietnam – especially when a layer of mist carpets the valley floor in the early morning. It’s a beguiling scene – all the more so when oxen are working the fields and the heady scent of tobacco fills the air as the plants reach maturity between January and April. You have a free day to enjoy country walks in the area – by far the best way to appreciate the stunning nature of the area. This evening we dine out in one of the local paladars. (lunch not included)
Casa Particular (B, D)

Day 5 ➤ Visit the site of the Bay of Pigs invasion at Playa Larga and continue on to Cienfuegos
Setting off early we head back towards Havana then south into Matanzas province. Our route takes us into the wetlands of the Zapata Peninsula, Cuba’s largest marshland area which sticks out into the Caribbean. This is one of the principal wildlife reserves on the island where most of the endemic bird species can be found. We leave the wetlands and then head to Playa Larga where the famous CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion took place in 1961 to try and over-turn the newly victorious revolution. Further along the coast at Playa Girón, we visit the small museum which commemorates the failed event.

After a long drive, we approach Cienfuegos, also known by the locals as La Perla del Sur or the Pearl of the South due to its beautiful architecture, mini Malecon boulevard and its cleanliness. After checking into our hotel we have time for a short orientation tour. Cienfuegos is a pleasant city with a European feel – largely due to the influence of French settlers who arrived in the early 19th century. The beautiful architecture is well worth seeing including the Parque José Martí, with its elegant Tomas Terry theatre and the Casino, formerly the sugar-planters’ club. This evening is free for you to enjoy at your leisure and dine out locally in the city centre. (lunch and dinner not included today)
Casa particular, Cienfuegos (B)

Day 6 ➤ Visit the Che Memorial in Santa Clara and then on to Trinidad via Sancti Spiritus

After breakfast there is time for you to have a last minute walk around Cienfuegos city centre before we head north for Santa Clara, a university city, and more importantly the site of the last battle of the Revolution which ultimately led to victory. It was here that Che and his men ambushed an armoured train heading for Havana. The event was to change the course of Cuba´s history. We’ll visit Che’s mausoleum and museum where the exhibits include his famous iconic beret and leather jacket.

From Santa Clara we head East towards Sancti Spíritus, skirting round the Escambray Mountains. We stop just outside the city to take a look at the old part of town around Puente Yayabo, after that it’s about another hour until we reach Trinidad, our destination for the next 2 nights.   We’ll be enjoying Cuban hospitality, staying in a Cuban style bed and breakfast (casa particular).   Accommodation is simple but rooms are clean, with air conditioning and en-suite bathrooms. You’ll enjoy tasty home cooked food in your casa this evening before you head out into Trinidad to explore this charming World Heritage Site by night.

Once you’ve had a chance to shower and change, we set off in the afternoon on a sight-seeing tour of one of Cuba’s best loved cities, prized for its beautiful colonial architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Included in the tour is a visit to the Casa Cantero, former home of one of Trinidad’s wealthy sugar barons, followed by lunch at the Plaza Mayor restaurant. (not included) There’s also time to explore the local handicrafts market and pick up some souvenirs to take back home.

Trinidad is probably Cuba’s most famous provincial town and rightly so. It’s a picture perfect colonial town with cobbled streets, pastel painted colonial homes and very little traffic in the centre – other than horse drawn carts and the occasional vintage car. Walking around the town is like stepping back in time! In the evenings Trinidad welcomes visitors with live music and local bars where you can kick back and enjoy a rum cocktail or practice your salsa steps.

This evening we’ll have the chance to enjoy Trinidad by night, a city that comes alive with music and dance after dark.   It’s a great opportunity to meet the locals and have a go at practicing your salsa moves to those Cuban salsa rhythms. You can dine out at one of the many local paladars in town. (not included)
Casa Particular, Trinidad (B)

Day 7 ➤ Guided walk in the Topes de Collantes Natural Park and free afternoon to explore Trinidad

This morning we take a short drive into the Sierra de Escambray, Cuba’s second-highest mountain range, dominated by Pico San Juan (1140m). Here the beautiful natural surroundings include the Caribbean pine tree, bamboo and eucalyptus, as well as a number of waterfalls. The water is crystal clear and perfect for taking a refreshing dip. The area known as Topes Collantes is stunning and ideal for catching sight of the plentiful birdlife including the bee hummingbird, the world’s smallest bird. We take a guided walk in the area this morning before returning to Trinidad at around noon in time for lunch. The rest of the afternoon and evening are free to spend at your leisure. (lunch and dinner not included)
Casa particular, Trinidad (B)

Day 8 ➤ Visit the Valle de los Ingenios in Trinidad and continue on to Camaguey, UNESCO World Heritage Site

After breakfast we set off to visit the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), once one of the most principal sugar production mills in the country until a drop in price ended the area’s importance. From here we head on along the central highway through the cattle country of Ciego de Avila province to Camaguey. Prior to the Revolution Camaguey was once a prosperous town, today it´s a simple place, easy to explore on foot despite the winding roads which were designed to confuse raiders attacking the city centuries ago. We have an orientation tour on arrival before checking in to our accommodation for the night. (lunch and dinner not included)
Gran Hotel or Similar (B)

Day 9 ➤ Discover Bayamo and later overnight in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra

This morning we head east to Bayamo in the Granma, initially heading east in the direction of Las Tunas. San Salvador de Bayamo as it was originally called was the second town founded in Cuba by Diego de Velázquez after Baracoa and we have an orientation tour of the city when we arrive. We continue through coffee plantations and green foothills to Bartolomé Maso, a small town where the abrupt climb into the Sierra Maestra begins. We over-night at the Hotel Villa Santo Domingo. (lunch and dinner not included)
Hotel Villa Santo Domingo (B)

Day 10 ➤ Visit the basecamp from which Che Guevara and Fidel Castro launched the Revolution

The Sierra Maestra mountains is where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara took refuge after arriving in Cuba aboard the Granma from Mexico in 1956. They set up a base camp in this isolated rugged terrain and waged their revolutionary war over the next 2 years before finally toppling the Batista regime and declaring victory on 1st January 1959. This morning we visit this original command post, set off up the steep road to Alto del Naranjo where a short trail brings us to the spot of this historic revolutionary site.

In the afternoon we return to Bayamo along the highway that runs along the northern side of the Sierra Maestra mountains to Santiago de Cuba, originally the island’s first capital until 1553 and also known as the City of Heroes and the Cradle of the Revolution. Today it´s Cuba’s second most important city and time permitting, we’ll do a short orientation tour of this vibrant city with its rich culture and wonderful architecture that dates back to the 1520´s. Santiago is also hugely important in terms of Cuban music and is the birthplace of many of the country´s most famous musicians. It’s also where Cuban son, the forerunner of modern salsa was created. In Santiago city there are plenty of great places to hear excellent live music, the most famous of which is the Casa de la Troba. Anyone who is considered a respected Cuban musician will have performed here at some point. (lunch and dinner not included)
Hotel Villa San Juan (B)

 

Day 11 ➤ Guided city tour of Santiago, City of Heroes and the Cradle of the Revolution

This morning we take a half-day tour of the city, leaving the afternoon free for you to continue exploring on your own. The Parque Céspedes is the central square of Santiago city where the beautiful Catedral La Señora de la Asunción dominates one side of the square. This is also the spot where Fidel Castro gave his first speech as Cuba´s new leader on 1st January 1959. The square is also where the Casa de Diego Velázquez stands, one of the first houses ever to be built in Cuba and now a musuem. Santiago is also home to the Moncada Barracks which were attacked on 26th July 1953 by Castro and his men in an attempt to seize weapons to attack the corrupt Batista regime. The attack failed completely but the event changed the course of Cuban history and the date is still commemorated each year as a public holiday.

We’ll also head a little further out of town to the Castillo del Morro, a well-preserved multi-tiered fort that commands the entrance to the bay on which Santiago stands. (lunch and dinner not included)
Hotel Villa San Juan (B)

 

Day 12 ➤ Leave Santiago and head to Baracoa through the magnificent Sierra Maestra Mountains

Today we leave Santiago, travelling along the precipitous cantilevered El Farola road through the mountains to Baracoa, a laid-back little town that sits between two bays. It is said to be the place where Christopher Columbus first landed on Cuban soil and planted a wooden cross which is kept in the Iglesia the la Asunción in the centre of town. In the morning we have a short orientation tour with the afternoon free to enjoy at your leisure. (lunch and dinner not included)
Hotel Porto Santo or Castillo (B)

Day 13 ➤ Morning guided tour of Baracoa with free time later to continue exploring

For many, Baracoa is the highlight of their holiday. Having spent the last two weeks travelling across the entire island, this tiny little town is the perfect place to enjoy a slower pace of life.

Baracoa is all about the lush nature surrounding the town.   After a short bus ride we explore coffee, banana and cacao plantations and meet local farmers to learn about life in this remote part of Cuba. The remainder of the day is free for you to spend at your leisure.

Despite its small size, there is still plenty to do in the area, so if you want a truly active day you could challenge yourself to climbing the anvil-shaped mountain of El Yunque (575m) and Baracoa´s symbol. From the summit you´ll get great views of Porto Santo Bay and the Toa and Duaba rivers. There are numerous alternative walks for the less active!

Lunch and dinner are not included today giving you the option to try Baracoa´s uniquely flavoured cooking.   Influences from Haiti and Jamaica have given Baracoan food a very tropical flavour using plenty of coconut milk and spices.

In the evening enjoy live music and the streetlife of this friendly town.
Hotel Porto Santo or Castillo (B)

Day 14 ➤ Travel day flying from Santiago to Havana

This morning we leave Baracoa and head to Santiago for our flight back to Havana. Today is considered a travelling day and whilst we´ll be running according to flight departure times, these can be subject to change or delays. When we arrive in Havana, a transfer will take us to our local accommodation in the old town. Depending on timings you may still have time to enjoy the afternoon and evening at your leisure in the capital. (lunch and dinner not included)
Casa particular, Havana (B)

Day 15 ➤ Departure day

Enjoy your last morning in Havana doing some last minute souvenir shopping, or having a final wander around the old town. You can have an early relaxed lunch before your transfer to the airport in the afternoon. Check-in is three hours prior to flight departure.
(B)

Trek Route

Activity Level

Trekking Profile

*all distances shown are approximate
Day 1
arrival day
Day 2
km
Day 3
km
Day 4
km
Day 5
km
Day 6
km
Day 7
free day
Day 8
departure day

Essential Information

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Health & Medical Insurance

No need for any complicated jabs to visit Cuba but you will need to ensure you have medical insurance in order to enter the country. Pack a copy in your hand luggage along with your passport in case Immigration asks for proof of insurance on arrival in Cuba. Drink bottled water and pack a good insect repellent and you should have a problem free trip.
See trip notes for more info

Passports, Visas, Departure Tax

You´ll need a visa (Tourist Card) to enter Cuba which can be obtained from the Cuban Consulate. Your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months beyond your entry into Cuba. Make sure you keep 25CUC per person for a departure tax which is payable in cash after check in for all passengers leaving Cuba.
See trip notes for more info

Money Matters

Cuba currently runs a complicated 2 currency system: the CUC (Convertible Peso) has the same value, more or less, as the USD. Most of your transactions will require this currency. The CUP (Moneda Nacional ) is used by Cubans to buy food, pay utility bills and buy certain goods. It’s unlikely you’ll use these at all during your trip.

Cuba’s economy is cash driven so make sure you bring plenty of money in small denominations (GBP, EUR and CAD are the best options). Only exchange cash at a bank or the official exchange house CADECA (Casa de cambio) on arrival to avoid being ripped off. There is very little variation in exchange rates as all banks and CADECAs are government owned!
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Food & Drink

Cuba is as famous for its delicious rum cocktails as it is infamous for its dreary food. Luckily the food is improving and you can now expect to eat, as well as drink, quite well! However, expect little variety and plenty of rice and black beans, especially when you’re travelling in the provinces. Cuba’s repertoire of ingredients is quite limited and those with special dietary requirements (especially gluten free, vegetarians and vegans) should consider bringing some extra food with them to supplement their diet.
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What to Bring

Light cotton and linen clothing suitable for tropical climates. A jacket or fleece for cooler evenings.  Cubans dress casually but are always impeccably turned out. Avoid bringing expensive or flashy jewellery. Ensure you bring all necessary medication as well as a good insect repellent and some antihistamines in case you get bitten. We also recommend you bring a small first aid kit to cover any basic needs you may have.
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Tipping

Tipping is part and parcel of everyday life in Cuba. Wages here are very low so people who look after tourists expect a tip for good service. 10% is the minimum expected amount when eating out, and if you have a guide and/or driver you should budget for a tip which you can give them at the end of your tour. Usually we will recommend you on the amounts but when in doubt, set aside CUC5 per guide/driver per day for each person. Tip the bell boy 1CUC for carrying your bag to your room.
See trip notes for more info
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Safety Matters

Cuba is one of the safest destinations to travel to and it’s highly unlikely you will feel threatened during your stay. However, common sense dictates that you take the usual precautions and avoid backstreets and uninhabited areas. Dress down and keep jewellery to a minimum.

During your stay you’ll almost certainly have an encounter with a friendly local trying to sell you cheap cigars, or take you to a local restaurant/casa particular and possibly even try to set you up with one of his family members! Known locally as “jineteros” these Cuban hustlers earn their living from commissions made from steering tourists towards the services they offer. A polite refusal is usually all you need to get rid of them!
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