Back to Essential Cuba

Day 1

  • Arrival into Jose Martí International Airport and transfer to Havana.
  • Also, you have an optional arrival at Varadero airport - be sure to check your international flights here also as they are often less expensive.
  • Meet our guide, nobody knows the country better!
  • Transfer to Havana in a 1950s classic car (30 mins or 2 hours if you fly into Varadero) and arrival at your authentic Cuban casa particular homestay to relax or catch some sleep after your flight.
  • Opportunity to take a stroll around the neighbourhood and soak up the atmosphere!
  • Food and plenty of rum in the evening you would like it!

Day 2

  • Breakfast at homestay
  • Walking tour of Old Havana, encompassing the Plaza de las Armas, complete with a statue of Manuel de Cespedes, one of the leaders of the independence movement.
  • Visit the Bacardi Building, former home of the eponymous brand of rum. Spectacular view across the rooftops from the top. The Bacardi family fell out with the Castros after the revolution and left Cuba.
  • Visit to El Floridita, birthplace of the Daiquiri and Ernest Hemingway's favourite spot for drinking them; he famously drank 13 doubles there in one afternoon!
  • We pass the spot where the city of Havana was founded almost 500 years ago.
  • We visit the famous Museo de la Revolución to learn more about the revolution and its history.
  • Accommodation: Havana casa particular

Day 3

  • Breakfast at homestay
  • 8.30 am departure to Cienfuegos by private bus/car (5 hours) via Bay of Pigs
  • On the way to Cienfuegos we firstly travel along the flat central plain of Cuba where there are lots of citrus plantations. We turn off the main highway and shortly after this the scenery changes to a densely vegetated swamp where the natural fauna includes boa snakes and crocodiles. We have the opportunity to visit a crocodile farm here at Guama.
  • Once reaching the Caribbean coast we travel along the picturesque Bay of Pigs past the site where the landing of counter-revolutionary exile militia occurred in 1961.
  • Today we visit the museum here that recounts the events of this conflict which resulted in the first defeat of a US-backed takeover in Latin America. There are some beautiful places to stop for a swim along the way including a sink hole which resembles a huge natural tropical fish tank, so make sure to pack your swim wear. SCUBA diving and snorkelling are optional activities here.
  • Cubans are known to be very proud people, and the citizens of Cienfuegos call their town La Perla del Sur (the pearl of the south). Founded by the French, Cienfuegos' appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial hub, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades, and there is an ambiance to inspire Cuba’s most celebrated Son singer to write the words “Cienfuegos is the city I like bestâ€. The historic centre of Cienfuegos was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005.
  • After checking-in with your host family, you will have time to walk around the city and take in the atmosphere.
  • Optional: Swimming (free), Snorkelling ($5), SCUBA diving with qualified instructor in the Bay of Pigs ($35)
  • Visit to museum in Playa Girón about the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961
  • Lunch in Playa Girón paladar
  • Visit to Palacio de Valle in Cienfuegos, one of the most eccentric buildings in Cuba, to watch the sunset, cocktails on the roof
  • Dinner in a local paladar private home restaurant
  • Night out drinking on the Malecón of Cienfuegos or in the bars - go with the guide or explore on your own.
  • Accommodation: Cienfuegos casa particular

Day 4

  • Breakfast at homestay
  • Walking tour of Cienfuegos, including its pedestrianised shopping Boulevard and handicraft market selling locally-made artisanal souvenirs
  • Visit to beautifully decorated historic theatre Teatro Terry Tomas
  • Brief visit to Tomás Acea cemetery
  • Depart Cienfuegos for Trinidad - (2 hours)
  • Lunch in roadside Paladar on the outskirts of Trinidad
  • The beautiful colonial city of Trinidad is home to numerous churches and many beautiful colonial buildings. It is another UNESCO World Heritage site, but its narrow winding streets, deliberately laid out to confuse marauding pirates, provide a huge contrast with the orderly wide boulevards of Cienfuegos.
  • La Villa de la Santisima Trinidad was founded by Velazsquez in 1514 and the defender of indigenous rights in the Americas, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, attended over the settlement’s first mass. The future conqueror of Mexico, Hernan Cortés, recruited sailors here for his future expedition into that land. It is a charming, small town with the green mountains in the background, and the turquoise waters and pure white sand beaches of the Caribbean Sea just a short distance away. The town was fairly inactive until the 1800s, when French refugees fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti landed here en masse and brought with them sugar cane cultivation. The new residents settled and farmed in the Valle de Los Ingenios, just northeast of the town. Vast wealth flowed into the local economy from sugar cane cultivation and the area produced one third of the country’s sugar at one point. The sugar boom was terminated by the two wars of independence, but the wealth generated by the industry remains visible in the town’s once grand mansions, colourful public buildings, wrought iron grillwork and cobble-stoned streets. The town and area also saw a lot of action during and following the triumph of the Revolution, as gangs of counter revolutionaries hid out and struck from the safety of the mountains.
  • The nightlife in Trinidad is probably the most accessible and intense in all of Cuba, with numerous live music venues and many dance performances every day of the week, all amongst the enchanting setting of old colonial buildings and cobblestone streets.
  • Short walking tour of the historic centre
  • Visit to The Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos (Museum of the Fight Against the Bandits) for a breathtaking view of the city and surrounding countryside from the top of its tower
  • Visit to a Santeria temple to learn about Cuba's fastest-growing religion, a blend of Catholicism and traditional African religions.
  • Group dinner in a local Cuban home, obviously accompanied by rum.
  • Visit to Trinidad's unique Disco Ayala night club ($5), situated in a huge underground cavern
  • Accommodation: Trinidad casa particular

Day 5

  • Breakfast at homestay
  • Free day. Optional activities include swimming in waterfalls, horse riding ($25), diving ($35), salsa dancing class ($15), and a visit to Playa Ancon, where you can enjoy long stretches of unspoiled, white sand beaches. Another option is a steam train ride ($10) to the beautiful and historically important Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar mills) where you can see how the sugar which brought so much wealth to Cuba was processed in the days of slavery.
  • If time allows, visit to the beach to watch the sunset
  • Accommodation: Trinidad casa particular

Day 6

  • Breakfast at homestay
  • Journey by private bus/car to Santa Clara (3 hours)
  • Today we travel to the city of Santa Clara, which was a key city in the triumph of the Revolution.
  • Depending on road conditions we can take a number of different routes around or through the Sierra del Escambray perhaps making a few stops along the way.
  • Options include a stop at a very beautiful and secluded waterfall on the way, with al fresco swimming followed by rustic local lunch at a farmer's house.
  • Upon entering Santa Clara there is a huge statue of Ernesto Che Guevara, beneath which is the mausoleum where he is buried. We visit the museum here that is dedicated to his life.
  • We take a walking tour of Santa Clara where we come across significant sites such as the armoured train derailed by Che and his troops.
  • Visit to Che Guevara monument, mausoleum and museum
  • Visit to the site of the final battle of the Cuban Revolution
  • Accommodation: Santa Clara casa particular
  • Evening - option to visit el Mejunje, famous cultural centre and nightclub with live music, favourite of young locals.

Day 7

  • Breakfast at homestay
  • Journey by private bus/car to Havana (4 hours)
  • (optional) - Visit to Che Guevara's house overlooking Havana, where he was based after the Revolution.
  • Visit to open-air museum showing featuring Soviet nuclear missiles (thankfully now inert!) of the period in 1962 when the world came closer than ever to the brink of nuclear war
  • Visit to the Havana Club Museum of Rum. Free samples!
  • Meet up for dinner and evening out, Cuban-style on the Malecón or in one of Havana's new elite private night clubs
  • Accommodation: Havana casa particular

Day 8

  • Breakfast at homestay
  • End of tour! It is completely fine to leave your things at the homestay whilst you either wait for your flight, or go exploring the city further. We can arrange a private taxi to the airport for you if you wish.
  • Departure Havana / Varadero Airport