Discover the world’s smallest bee hummingbird at the Zapata Peninsula

Visit three Unesco World Heritage Sites – Havana, Cienfuegos and Trinidad

Hike through the Escambray Mountains and Topes de Collantes Park

Experience the vibrant energy of Havana city

Day by Day

Day 1 ➤ Arrival in Havana

A Cubania representative will be waiting for you on arrival at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana.  Once you’ve collected your luggage you’ll be transferred to your accommodation in the old town with time to relax after your long flight.  If you’re hungry you can get bite to eat in the old town. (dinner not included)
Casa particular, Havana

Day 2 ➤ Spend the day at Ciénaga de Zapata natural park and visit Playa Girón

Today we transfer to Zapata Peninsula in the Ciénaga de Zapata natural park. This area is a protected nature reserve and one of the most important site bird-watching sites in Cuba.   It’s the natural habitat of the smallest bird in the world, the bee hummingbird, and there’s a good chance you’ll see one of these as well as Cuba’s national bird, the Cuban Trogon or Tocororo. The swamp is also one of the few remaining habitats of the sea cow – otherwise known as the manatee – a gentle relative of the dolphin which inhabits the shallow waters of the Zapata swamp. The Cuban Crocodile – cocodrilus rhombifer – is now a protected species and we’ll be visiting a breeding programme which has been set up in the area. Here you’ll be able to see literally 1000’s of crocodiles! We then take a gentle warm-up walk to observe local flora and fauna, particularly birds such as the Tocororo and flamingoes. Continuing by bus we make a stop to visit a primary school in Playa Girón before we reach Caleta Buena for lunch and a swim in the beautiful natural sea pools. We transfer to Cienfuegos after lunch for a brief orientation tour and overnight. Tonight dinner isn’t included so you’ll be able to try out a local paladar or privately owned restaurant.
Casa particular, Cienfuegos (B, L)

Day 3 ➤ Trek the La Atalahaya trail along Lake Hanabanilla and through the Escambray Mountains

An early transfer from Cienfuegos takes us to the Escambray Mountains, Cuba’s central mountain range which dominates the landscape. We leave our bags at the Hotel Hanabanilla and pick up a packed lunch (sandwich, juice, fresh fruit, and bottled water) and head for the La Atalahaya trail. This takes us along the banks of Lake Hanabanilla through the Escambray Mountains with a steep climb to the top of La Atalahaya hill where you’ll have amazing views of the surrounding countryside. The trail ends on the banks of Lake Hanabanilla, where a boat will pick us up and take us for refreshments at the Rio Negro Café. At Rio Negro there’s an opportunity to climb to another mirador (lookout point) for those who still have the energy! We return to Hotel Hanabanilla for overnight. You can have dinner at the hotel or eat out locally. (dinner not included)
Hotel Hanabanilla, Hanabilla (B, L)

Day 4 ➤ Trek from Lake Hanabanilla to the El Rocio Waterfall at Topes de Collantes

Today we leave the hotel by boat and cross Lake Hanabanilla to the Cortina de Jibacoa. From here we trek for an easy 13kms on jeep tracks along a finger of the lake and upstream above the Rio Guanayara, stopping halfway at Tito’s Farm for a water break. The route today is of low to medium intensity on a good surface. It’s also very pretty, skirting between forested hillsides and the water. We arrive at Casa de la Gallega and stop for lunch. After lunch we continue upstream again on a 3kms trek to the beautiful El Rocio Waterfall with a natural swimming pool nearby to take a refreshing dip. Enjoy the views and continue across a coffee plantation to reach the Russian army truck which takes us to our hotel for the night. Dinner tonight isn’t included so you can decide whether to eat at a local paladar or at a hotel.
Los Helechos, Topes de Collantes (B, L)

Day 5 ➤ Trek the Codina trail in Topes de Collantes natural park

Today’s trek is approximately 10kms and of medium intensity. We set off from our hotel on foot heading first for la Casa del Café where we enjoy a cup of local coffee (included) and hear about the history of coffee and its production in Cuba. We continue on through the Topes Arboretum, a wooded area which was planted in the 1930’s and contains over 300 varieties of trees. We then head on towards La Batata, where the river pushes dramatically through a crack in the limestone. There’s time for a swim and then we move on to Codina for a traditional Cuban lunch of roast pork. After lunch we take the Alfombra Magica trail which rises to 1100m and lasts approximately 1 hour. You’ll visit orchid plantations and explore a cave with natural flora and fauna including bats and owls. We conclude the day with a transfer to Trinidad where we check into “casas particulares” for night. You can dine out locally in town or eat at your casa. (dinner not included)
Casa particular, Trinidad (B, L)

Day 6 ➤ Set off from Mangos Pelones to trek the El Cubano Trail and visit the colonial town of Trinidad

Our trek today is an easy 13kms. After breakfast we are transferred in a Russian truck to the Codina Park where we begin our final trail of the trip. After a 6 kms descent we have another opportunity for a refreshing swim in a natural pool before trekking the last 2 kms to El Cubano.

We return to Trinidad after the trek and set off 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. There’s also time to explore the local handicrafts market and pick up some souvenirs to take back home.

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 catchy Cuban salsa rhythms. Dinner will be at one of the local paladars in town.
Casa particular, Trinidad (B, L, D)

Day 7 ➤ Return to Havana, visiting Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara on the way

This morning we depart for Havana with a stop in Santa Clara to visit the impressive Che Guevara Memorial. We then continue our journey, stopping for lunch (not included) before reaching the capital. This evening your are free to explore on your own and dine out locally. (dinner not included)
Casa particular, Havana (B)

Day 8 ➤ Guided tour of old Havana and departure day

This morning we have some time in the morning to explore old Havana with our guide. Cuba’s capital is the largest city in the Caribbean with a bustling, energetic vibe and is home to some of the finest surviving Spanish colonial architecture in the Americas. This is thanks to a combination of minimal war damage, post Revolution restoration work and the millions of dollars that have been invested since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. We’ll also take time to have a mojito and lunch (included) at one of Hemingway’s favourite haunts, La Bodeguita del Medio. We transfer out to the airport in the afternoon.
(B, L)

Trek Route

Activity Level

Trekking Profile

*all distances shown are approximate

Day 1
arrival in Havana

Day 2
visit to the Zapata Peninsula

Day 3
12km

Day 4
16km

Day 5
10km

Day 6
13km

Day 7
visit the Che Guevara memorial

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!
See trip notes for more info

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.
See trip notes for more info

What to Bring

Walking boots, water bottle or CamelBak and Leki sticks, if required. Light trousers/shorts, a hat or cap and High Protection Sunscreen (SPF 50+) and a small day rucksack. You should bring light cotton and linen clothing suitable for tropical climates and 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.
See trip notes for a more detailed packing list

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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!
See trip notes for more info

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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