CUBA: Balancing Yin & Yang, Restorative Retreat 2023

aerial photography of mountains and near trees during daytime

CUBA: Balancing Yin & Yang, Restorative Retreat

January 29 - February 6, 2023
Havana, Viñales Valley & Boca Ciega
9 days, 8 nights


CUBA: Balancing YIN and YANG is a Restorative Retreat of a different kind!
This intercultural learning experience and “all-levels-welcome” journey features a delicious mix of gentle yoga and a deep immersion into the heart of the Cuban culture. We will begin each day with a gentle yoga class taught by Kristy Tonti, to open our hearts, minds and bodies for the cultural experiences of the day. Our cultural immersion is guided by our man in Havana, Jesus Noguera.

We will wander the streets of Havana and Viñales, meet with Cubans in their kitchens over a strong, sweet cup of Cuban coffee, where we will learn about the recent political and cultural changes to the Cuban economy. We will get an insider's understanding of the ups and downs of how a 60 year US-embargo as well as the Castro-regime have impacted their lives in direct and indirect ways.

We will travel to the less frequented lush Western part of Cuba, where tobacco and pineapple farms compete with stunning green hills in the dreamy landscape of Viñales Valley; to the eco-community of Las Terrazas, and finally to the Northern white beaches of Boca Ciega.

CUBA: Balancing YIN and YANG, Restorative Retreat  is run through the United States government OFAC general travel category Support for the Cuban People.

AVAILABLE PACKAGES:
STANDARD DOUBLE: $ 2,795/pp

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT: $650

DEPOSIT: $500 

Journey Highlights:

  • Participate in private tours in Havana and Viñales presented by well-known city architects and historians whose colorful presentations lay context for understanding five centuries in the development of Cuba’s most prominent cities
  • Enjoy daily yin yoga classes lead by yoga teacher Kristy Tonti (yoga is optional)
  • Meet with a variety of local historians, architects, business owners, revolutionary photographers, musicians, chefs, and local artisans in their galleries, homes, co-ops and street markets to view and discuss their professions
  • Share deeply about the day's experiences with other's in the group about your day in evening "heart circles" (sharing is optional)
  • Gather for conversations with local musicians and international dance troupes, sharing and enjoying their music and performances at private studios, open venues and lively clubs
  • Dine in local paladars, family-run restaurants licensed to provide meals in private homes and sample some of the best and most authentic food in Cuba 
  • Enjoy private tours of the Museo de la Revolución housed in the former presidential palace, and a private guided tour of Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes - the Museum of Fine Arts, home of one of the most exquisite collections in Latin America
  • Enjoy free time to discover the places and spaces most dear to the Cuban people with evenings open to visit cafes, nightly jazz clubs and other nighttime events
Cuba yoga

Cross Cultural Journeys in Cuba
Since 1998, Cross Cultural Journeys has offered in depth cultural and people-to-people experiences in Cuba. During this time we have built meaningful relationships with local organizations, NGOs, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, doctors, architects and everyday citizens. We draw upon these relationships to make each trip unique.

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"Our man in Havana". Jesus Noguera.

With a degree in International Relations, a seasoned tour guide and one of the best in Cuba, Jesus Noguera has been in the tourism industry for two decades, with a worldwide audience. An avid traveler himself, Jesus has visited thirty countries, and he is fluent in English, French, and Spanish. Jesus lives in Havana with his wife Daniela and two daughters.

 

cilla_WS

Trip Manager
Cilla Utne

Cilla joined Cross Cultural Journeys as CEO in January of 2015. Since the late 90's, she has worked in the field of intercultural consciousness, facilitated cross-cultural training programs for executives living and working across cultures. A native of Sweden and a world traveler, she has lived for extended periods in Spain, the UK, Chile, Guatemala and the US. She is the mother of Mateo, 15, and loves contemplating life’s purpose, yoga, cooking and good food, and long walks with her French Bulldog puppy Lola always by her side. This will be her 17th journey to Cuba.

Kristy beach
Kristy Tonti
Kristy has a generous spirit and an open heart. Having worked in service most of her life she is experienced in helping people feel easy and comfortable. Kristy has been teaching yoga, meditation and art for more than 20 years. She integrates seamlessly various modalities from Yin yoga, Vinyasa yoga, and pilates mat exercises, and draws her strength as a meditation teacher from Buddhist philosophy, world traditions and extensive time in the wilderness.
An accomplished teacher and a lifelong student, her curious spirit and pursuit of knowledge has taken her from Seattle to California, and India.  Kristy trekked the Buddhist Himalayas, studied yoga in southern India and sought inspiration at the source of the Ganges.

"She is the best yoga teacher I have ever had, combining a depth of calm with humor and good sense. "

“Kristy’s voice, practice and touch are healing. She is extraordinary in her field.”

 

HAVANA | Situated only 90 miles off the shores of the Florida Keys, Havana is one of the most romantic and bustling cities of the Caribbean islands. The Malecón (waterfront) is washed day and night by the Atlantic Ocean's deep blue crushing waves. Next to the crumbling pastel facades, the sidewalks fill with young musicians and artists, and local Cubans on their way to and from work. All over town, you will find amazing small family run restaurants, and despite the country's limited resources, they are able to provide visitors with some of the most exquisite and creative cuisine of the region. Enjoy music and dance at local bars and clubs along the cobblestones streets in Old Town or at the Jazz and Blues clubs in Havana's Vedado district and Miramar neighborhoods. Meet with a Havana architect, amazing contemporary young painters and sculptors, visit art galleries and museums you will never forget. Don't miss trying the local specialties; Mojitos and frozen daiquiris made with the local Havana Club or Santiago rum! Finally, if you have time and the weather is nice, check out a true Havana treasure, only 45 minutes away, the white sand beach of Santa Maria.

Daily Itinerary

Day 1 | Havana 
Your Cuban guide Jesus Noguera will meet you at the airport. On the way into town, you will visit the historical memorial to José Martí at Plaza de la Revolución, Revolution Square, and give you a short driving tour to see the amazing architectural treasures in the Miramar neighborhood. Continue to the famous Malecón, Havana's famous waterfront. First evening Evening welcome circle/gathering and a brief orientation by Jesus, Kristy and Cilla.
Celebrate the evening with a welcome dinner at Al Carbon Restaurant and then an outing to the Fabrica de Arte Cubano.
Sleep: Havana (D)

Day 2 | Havana 
We wake up and begin our day with a 60 min yin yoga class, followed by breakfast. After breakfast, we will get a short presentation of a local architect about Havana's fascinating architectural history, followed by a walking tour of the city's fascinating past. We venture out into the streets and see the four plaza that make up Habana Vieja (Old Havana). Continue the walking tour to visit Ambos Mundos, the former residence of Ernest Hemingway and La Floridita, to taste the best daiquiris in Havana (non-alcoholic options available!). Enjoy lunch on your own in the Old Town. In the afternoon, visit Museo de Bellas Artes - Museum of Fine Arts - and/or The Revolution Museum. Dinner at famous restaurant San Cristobal (where President Obama and his family had dinner in 2015!), with evening sharing circle. Stroll down Calle Obispo and partake in the various nightlife activities Cuba has to offer.
Sleep: Havana (B/D)

Day 3 | Havana 
We wake up and begin our day with a 60 min yin yoga class, followed by breakfast.
After breakfast, we drive to meet with the world-renowned photographer Roberto Salas in his Miramar home. Salas's photographs of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara are lgendary. Together with his Cuban-born father, Osvaldo, he met Castro in 1955 and in 1959, following Castro's rise to power, they were invited by Castro himself to work for the government newspaper Revolución. Enjoy this in-home visit and hear about Havana through his eyes. Lunch on your own. After lunch visit the Muraleando Project and meet the students and teachers working in contemporary art. Dinner at La Guarida with evening sharing circle.
Sleep: Havana (B/D)

Day 4 | Havana We wake up and begin our day with a 60 min yin yoga class, followed by breakfast. Drive to Cafe Ajiaco for a Cuban cooking experience (lunch included here!). Free afternoon/evening to explore Havana on your own. Dinner on your own.
Sleep: Havana (B/L)

VINALES VALLEY | Well known for its many world-famous Cuban tobacco plantations, this valley in the Sierra de Los Organos has a lush karst landscape surrounded by green rolling hills and mountains. The so called mogotes (limestone), tower around the valley, are one of the features that make the landscape of Viñales unique. Sprinkled with farms on fertile red soil it is suitable for all kinds of agriculture, where traditional methods and techniques are still used. The Valley is as UNESCO World Heritage Site and also a National Park.

Day 5 | Havana >> Viñales
No yoga this morning. After breakfast, we drive to Pinar del Rio and Viñales Valley. We will stop to visit some crystal caves on the way there. We continue to Viñales to check in to our accommodation. Lunch on your own. Afternoon outdoor yoga class with a Cuban guest teacher, and a bike tour of Viñales Valley. Dinner included at Paladar el Olivo with evening sharing circle. Evening free to explore Viñales town.
Sleep: Viñales Valley (B/D)

Day 6 | Viñales 
We wake up and begin our day with a 60 min yin yoga class, followed by breakfast. After breakfast, we continue our tour of Viñales National Park, a green, dreamlike landscape, where you will stroll among giant limestone rocks unique to this area of Cuba. This day will include a light packed lunch (i.e. sandwiches or the like). Sunset sharing circle in nature. Dinner on your own. Night time outing at Casa de la Musica.
Sleep: Viñales Valley (B/L)

LAS TERRAZAS | is considered the first Eco-Museum of Cuba. It also holds the Conservation Prize awarded by UNESCO and currently has the category of Cultural Landscape. The inhabitants have facilities that unquestionably lead to an increase in their quality of life, constituting one of the fundamental premises of the Sustainable Rural Development model.

Day 7 | Viñales >> Las Terrazas >> Boca Ciega 
We wake up early today and begin our day with a 60 min yoga class, followed by breakfast. After breakfast, we steer towards Playa Boca Ciega. We stop in Las Terrazas for a brief tour and lunch at el Romero, one of Cuba's only vegetarian restaurants (pending if it is open on this day). Visit to Lester Campa's world famous art studio. Arrive at Playa Boca Ciega. Dinner on your own (evening sharing circle TBD).
Sleep: Playa Boca Ciega (B/L)

Day 8 | Boca Ciega
We wake up and begin our day with a 60 min yoga class led together by Kristy Tonti and our Cuban host teacher, followed by breakfast. Following breakfast, we spend a full day on the beach, swim, relax and restore. Lunch and dinner on your own. Final closing circle.
Sleep: Boca Ciega (B)

Day 9 | Havana >> Home
Today we depart for Havana's José Martí Airport and begin our journey back home (please book return flights no earlier than a 1 pm departure). (B)

JOURNEY details:

NOTE: This itinerary might be subject to change to take advantage of the serendipity of the moment when in Cuba; to meet someone special, to engage in an activity that might occur unexpectedly, or to accommodate circumstances beyond our control. Restaurants or accommodations may change at the last minute in similar category.

FLIGHTS TO CUBA: Note that your flight to Cuba from the United States is not included in the tour cost. Please book your flight to arrive at Havana's José Martí International Airport on January 29th, 2023. We ask that you please hold off on booking your flight to Cuba until three months before departure, as Cuba flights tend to change frequently.

Several larger American carriers have service directly into Cuba from the United States. American Airlines, Jet Blue and United are the most frequent ones. You can book your air travel just as you book any other ticket online or use a regular travel agent to help you find a good deal. If you need assistance booking your air travel to Cuba, please contact our office and we will direct you to our partner travel agent.

ACCESSIBILITY and ACTIVITY LEVEL:  Moderate. This journey involves long days outdoors in the natural elements; city strolls on cobble stones streets and other uneven surfaces, and/or nature walks on uneven and sometimes steep surfaces. Travelers should feel comfortable walking for 1-3 hours per day, in a sunny and tropical/hot climate. Elevators may not be available in all locations, so participants should be able to climb several sets of stairs, sometimes without handrails. Concessions will be made to try and assist those who need more time. Some sites and locations are only accessible by foot.

See CCJ’s Cuba Destination Guide for more information regarding how to plan for your journey; food, drink, local weather, what to pack, etc.

INCLUDED: CCJ pre-departure itinerary/trip planning, Cuba Destination Guide (PDF document sent via email after final payment is received); registration and coordination; pre-departure meetings (one orientation meeting in person and one via Zoom two - three weeks prior to departure); in country transportation per itinerary; best available accommodation in boutique hotels or private homes in Havana (double or multiple occupancy); best available accommodation in boutique hotels or private homes outside Havana (double or multiple occupancy); daily breakfasts; lunches and dinners per itinerary (see “B/L/D”); Cuban English speaking local guide; CCJ trip manager; guest speakers; all entrance fees on itinerary; preparation materials; potable water on the bus/car (please bring a refillable water bottle to avoid single plastic use).

NOT INCLUDED: International airfare to/from Cuba; Cuban Visa/Entry Card (info will be sent upon registration); meals not on itinerary; alcoholic drinks; excursions not on the itinerary; tips for bellman and hotel staff (optional, yet customary); tips for local guide and driver (optional, yet customary); travel cancellation and evacuation insurance (strongly recommended (info below). 

Travel Protection and Medical Insurance
Cross Cultural Journeys is not responsible for cancellation expenses that you might incur before or during our trip. Cuba requires you to have a supplemental medical insurance plan apart from the basic plan that you will have attached to your Cuba bound flight. You may want to check first to see if your current insurance policy covers travel abroad, but we have found that most do not.

We strongly encourage considering taking out travel interruption and evacuation insurance to cover any emergencies abroad such as evacuation, or reimbursement for cancellation due to your own illness or an illness in your family. Some plans require you to take out this insurance within 21 days of your deposit to cover pre-existing conditions. CCJ has partnered with TravelSafe. You can visit our online portal to explore different plans. We encourage you to choose a plan covers travel interruption before you depart, as well as during the trip. CCJ is not responsible for events beyond our control in this regard.

Please visit the Cross Cultural Journeys - TravelSafe online portato find a plan that works for you. You can also call TravelSafe directly at 1-800-523-8020. Make sure you mention that Cross Cultural Journeys is your tour operator to receive our special rates.

Journeys in Support of the Cuban People
As one of the very first US-based tour operators to offer trips to Cuba - since 1997 - Cross Cultural Journeys (CCJ) has offered legal travel experiences for US Americans in Cuba. During this time, we have built meaningful relationships with local organizations, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, doctors, architects and everyday citizens. We draw upon these relationships to enhance the interpersonal and intercultural connections with the Cuban people, NOT their government.

CCJ - like many other US-based Cuba tour operators - follows the guidelines of The U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), under direction from the President. OFAC regulates travel to Cuba pursuant to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations as part of the U.S. Embargo Against Cuba. All of CCJ’s itineraries follow one of the general travel categories put forth by OFAC: Support for the Cuban People.

Support for the Cuban People allows US-Americans legal travel to Cuba, provided they engage in a full-time schedule of compliant activities.  CCJ’s travel-related transactions in Cuba are pursuant to this authorization and all have the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities.

For any questions about CCJ’s Cuba travel, entry visas to visit Cuba or for any questions about OFAC’s regulations, please contact our office: 1-800-353-2276.

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