Summary : Discover inspiring Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos on an immersive, people-to-people program, featuring authentic firsthand encounters with locals from all walks of life, accompanied by an expert Cuban guide and a dedicated Program Director. Immerse yourself in Cuban culture, exploring its architecture, agriculture, arts and dining during intimate, unscripted experiences with locals. Ride in a gloriously restored “Yank Tank” en route to a local paladar (family-run Cuban restaurant). Discover the historic Habana Vieja neighborhood — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — learning about restoration efforts alongside a resident architect. Visit the fishing village and home of Nobel-Prizewinning author Ernest Hemingway, where he wrote several timeless works. Join a local historian for an educational walk through colonial Trinidad, one of the oldest European settlements in Cuba. Learn firsthand how tobacco leaves are fermented and selected during a visit to a local tobacco farm. Witness intimate, live musical performances in Cienfuegos and Trinidad, followed by one-on-one encounters with the artists.
Activities : Culture
$5,995 to $6,795
Arrive at José Martí International Airport, where you complete immigration and customs formalities and transfer to your hotel. Meet your Program Director and fellow guests during a special welcome reception and dinner at a local paladar (family-run restaurant).
After breakfast at your hotel, visit the 18th-century Morro Castle, a hilltop fortress guarding the entrance to Havana Bay. Explore the fascinating Habana Vieja (Old Havana) neighborhood — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — strolling its narrow streets alongside a local architect. Visit the city’s four significant squares; learn of the buildings’ pasts; and discuss the challenges and successes of present-day restoration projects. Next, visit the San Jose Craft Market, interacting with residents as you peruse its wares. After lunch, visit Ernest Hemingway’s former home — Finca La Vigia (“lookout house”) — situated in Havana’s San Francisco de Paula neighborhood. As a specialist shares immersive insight, picture the author’s life during the more than 20 years he lived there. Continue with a panoramic tour of Havana, seeing the Vedado business district, home to the University of Havana, the oldest in Cuba. Then, drive along the malecón (seawall promenade). Stop at Revolution Square to take pictures and learn the history of this political epicenter. Tour historic Hotel Nacional with a local guide, who brings this timepiece of Cuban history to life. Return to your hotel. Tonight, enjoy an authentic dinner at a paladar.
Travel through the Cuban countryside to Viñales in Pinar del Rio, pausing en route at Los Jazmines Hotel for panoramic vistas of the Viñales Valley. Upon arriving at Benito Camejo’s tobacco farm, its farmer shares firsthand knowledge of the production and drying process. Afterward, farmers reveal how tobacco leaves are fermented and selected, a stage completed only by local women. Proceed to organic farm El Paraiso, where you sit down to a country lunch overlooking the Viñales Valle del Silencio. As you sample home-cooked Cuban cuisine, gain insight into daily life and organic farming practices from its owners and farmers. Return to Havana, where you have dinner at leisure.
Begin today in the Jaimanitas district and visit a neighborhood known as Fusterlandia, where artist Jose Fuster has transformed entire city blocks with his colorful sculptures and mosaics. Pay a guided visit to Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana, where a local expert guides you through its renowned Cuban art collection. Then, a local baseball expert joins you for lunch at a paladar to share how this historic pastime — and sports as a whole — plays a key role in Cuban society.
Continue to the picturesque fishing village of Cojimar, where Hemingway docked his boat, ‘El Pilar.’ Not only was the town his fishing base, it’s where he penned The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Return to your hotel for some time at leisure. This evening, gather with fellow guests and travel by “Yank tank” (vintage car) to attend a private concert by the Cuban Institute of Music at the Fine Arts Museum followed by an authentic Cuban dinner at a local paladar.
Travel to Cienfuegos, the aptly named “Pearl of the South.” Upon arrival, take an informative, guided walking tour of the scenic town, perhaps seeing a Cuban CUC store and pharmacy en route.
Following lunch at a paladar, continue to Trinidad, where you check in to your hotel and sip a refreshing welcome drink. Take some time to unwind before gathering for a canchánchara cocktail-making demonstration — a classic libation born in colonial Trinidad. Then, sit down to dinner with fellow guests.
Take a guided walking tour of historic Trinidad, a 19th-century colonial gem and UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s almost seems frozen in time. Stroll the cobblestone streets, seeing the soaring cathedral and elegant Plaza Mayor. Next, meet a local artist at her workshop and gallery, learning about the enriching community projects she's involved in. Then, discover the local marketplace at leisure, seeing intricate, hand-sewn table cloths, colorful papier-mâché models and local handicrafts. Next, attend an enriching Afro-Cuban performance at the Palenque de los Congos Reales, meeting afterward with its musicians and dancers.
Drive to the “valley of the sugar mills,” pausing at Mirador del Valle de los Ingenios for panoramas of the valley. Then, visit the small village of Manaca and see the Iznaga tower, once a sentry post to keep watch over slaves working in the sugar plantation and mill. Return to your hotel and have dinner at leisure.
Depart Trinidad and return to Cienfuegos, where you meet with teachers and students at the Benny Moré Art School, named in honor of the famous Cuban musician. Then, attend a Cuban choir performance, getting to know the musicians and singers afterward. At Cienfuegos Graphic Workshop, meet young experts who are skilled in the arts of serigraphy and screen-printing before continuing to lunch at a local paladar. Continue to your hotel for check in. After some time to unwind, enjoy a cocktail reception followed by a performance by the chamber orchestra. Later this evening, reflect on your journey with fellow guests at a farewell dinner.
After breakfast at your hotel, transfer to Santa Clara Airport where you board your homebound flight.
Specific itinerary inclusions (visits, meetings with individuals and organizations, home visits) are dependent on outside factors and host availability; therefore, it may sometimes be necessary to substitute with alternatives of equal relevance and interest. Things work differently in Cuba, and activities that had been scheduled far in advance may sometimes become unavailable for a number of reasons. Therefore, flexibility is key and it is very important to go into this experience with an open mind. Your local guide will be adept at swapping activities for others when and if needed, but do not be disappointed if something in your program changes - it is likely to happen. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit a country that has been inaccessible to Americans for a long time, so you are encouraged to make the most of it and enjoy every moment.
As part of your obligations as an authorized traveler under the general license, you are obligated to comply with certain requirements, including maintaining a record of your activities and expenses for five years. We encourage you to keep a travel journal. In addition, there are limits on what you can bring to Cuba, what you can spend and what you can bring back from Cuba that are explained in more detail in your Destination Information.
Medical insurance is required for all travelers from the U.S. to Cuba in case of emergency and is included in the cost of your air ticket. Should you encounter any medical emergency during the course of the program, local representatives will be on hand to assist; however, you will need to show your return air ticket and passport in order to receive treatment.
Airport transfers to/from the hotel; accommodations and meals as per the itinerary; soft drinks at included meals; local wine and beer at welcome and farewell dinners; local bottled water during sightseeing; porterage of two (2) pieces of baggage; Internet access at hotels (where available); gratuities (except to the Program Director); required medical insurance to visit Cuba. Subject to change without notice. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; accommodations and meals not mentioned as included on your itinerary; beverages other than those listed in the inclusions; excess baggage charges; travel insurance; passport and visa fees; gratuities for the Program Director; personal expenses such as communication charges and laundry; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos: © A&K Image Library, © Justin Weiler