Cuba | Private Journey

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Day 1 | Miami / Havana Upon arrival in Havana, your Cuban guide will meet you to drive half an hour to your conveniently located accommodation. After a short orientation, walk to dinner and absorb your first impressions of the tropical air, rhythm and color wafting out of the doorways as you pass -- laughter and conversation bouncing among neighbors easily -- as you meet local people along the way. We dine at a local restaurant featuring traditional Cuban food and live music. Music will follow us throughout our journey and is a window into the heart of the Cuban people. Havana Accommodation (D)


Day 2 |  Havana After breakfast we begin our day with a talk on the history of the city’s fascinating past as told to us by an expert architect and City Planner showing how this history relates to the present day Havana. Your knowledgeable Cuban guide will then take you on a walking tour of Havana Vieja (Old Havana), pointing our places of interest and historic architectural highlights as you walk the byways. This will provide you with the opportunity to orient yourself in Old Havana and later you may choose to return to these streets exploring on your own. Lunch will be in a restored colonial home overlooking the Plaza de Armas. Vibrant street music everywhere celebrates the African and Spanish heritage of the people here. This afternoon visit a printmaking co-op started forty-six years ago by Che Guevera. Talk with the engravers there about their art and the life of artists in Cuba. Time to relax or explore. Dinner is on your own at a local restaurant or paladar. Your guide will provide a list of paladares and restaurants for you to try. A paladar is a small family-run restaurant licensed to provide meals in a private home. Here, you will taste some of the best food in Cuba as well as experience being in the intimate, warm spaces of local people. Your guide will discuss options and help with reservations. Havana Accommodation  (B,L)


Day 3 | Havana Today, you start the day with a visit to the Partagas cigar factory to observe the process of making Cuban cigars, for which the island is famous. Then visit a farmers market where farmers are working in community. Cuba has fostered individual ingenuity through support systems with families and neighbors binding closely together to find local solutions to the scarcity challenges of food and water.  Lunch is at a paladar. Return to Havana with time to relax or explore the streets on your own, meeting local people along the way. Dinner is on your own at a local restaurant or paladar. Havana Accommodation (B/L)


Day 4 | Havana / Cienfuegos After breakfast, we leave for Cienfuegos traveling through the rural countryside to meet the people living outside Havana. We lunch at the yacht club in French colonial Cienfuegos, the beloved city of Cuba called “The Pearl of the South” for its spacious, sea-misted streets and plazas. It is a relaxed city and the only city in Cuba colonized by the French. Long ago ships used the bay on which it is situated as a refuge during storms in the Caribbean. Following lunch we will enjoy a private performance by a local choir and meet the performers.  Dinner is at the hotel. Cienfuegos Accommodation (B/L/D)


Day 5 |  Trinidad After breakfast, you depart for one of the best-preserved colonial towns in the Caribbean and a World Heritage site. Trinidad dates back to the 1500’s when the sugar trade was the main industry in the region. On the way, we visit the Valley of the Sugar Mills where plantations once sat and are now fallow swaths of countryside once productive with sugar cane. The valley has many idle historic sugar plantations that are a reminder of the importance of sugar to the Cuban economy over the centuries. You explore deserted buildings and the La Torre Manacas Iznaga, a 148-foot high tower, built by Alejo Iznaga Borrell in 1816, erected as a watchtower to oversee the slaves working in the fields. Slaves from Africa were essential in the operation of sugar plantations, as well as servants in the palatial homes of the owners. Today, due to the lack of investment in the industry, Cuba imports 60% of the sugar it consumes. You may want to visit with the women making lace who live in the former slave quarters. Continue to Trinidad where you can wander the historic streets and imagine what life was like here during the colonial period. Lunch on your own at one of the many paladars or cafes located around the main square. This afternoon you have time to explore on your own enjoying music at the Casa de Musica and informally talk with the musicians, or to visit with the women at an entrepreneurial women’s crochet co-op, or shop and chat with artisans at the outdoor market -- well known for their woodcarvings and fine handmade lace and crochet, as well as ceramics, masks, and musical instruments. Dinner is on your own. Cienfuegos Accommodation (B)


Day 6 | Topes de Collante Drive to Topes de Collantes along one of Cuba’s most scenic roads, first along the coast toward Trinidad, then north into the Escambray mountains. Visit Topes de Collante, a nature preserve in the mountains near Trinidad. Visit with the local people in a mountain village; take a boat ride on a local lake with a naturalist from the area and an optional swim in a waterfall. Learn about the sustainability projects in the area. Topes de Collante Hotel (B/L)


Day 7 | Topes de Collante Take a morning (or full day) guided hike to explore the vibrant flora and fauna of the Escambrary mountians and what the Topes de Collante has to offer. Enjoy a picnic lunch and spend a leisuriely afternoon exploring trails, pools and waterfalls. Farewell dinner at hotel.  Topes de Collante Hotel (B/L/D)


Day 8 | Santa Clara / Miami Following breakfast, we bid Cuba farewell as we transfer to the airport for our flight to Miami, then onward flights home. (B)


Optional activities can be added in Havana . i.e. a baseball game, the Havana Ballet, the Buena Vista Social Club, The Tropicana Cabaret show, your guide will apprise you of activities currently available when you are in Havana.


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