Cuba Encompassed

Days 1-3: Havana

Day 1: The adventure begins in Havana, the largest city in the Caribbean and the political and cultural centre of the country. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel, after which the rest of the day is free.

Day 2: First thing this morning you will meet with your guide to go over the itinerary, an ideal opportunity to gain some insight into places of interest, excursions and restaurants that you may wish to try. After this you will head out on a private tour of Old Havana, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site, whose four main squares are filled with the grand reminders of Cuba's colonial past. This afternoon you will then take the 'Hemingway Tour' in a classic American car, visiting the author's old home and the small fishing community where he wrote some of his most famous novels. (B)

Day 3: The day starts with an architecture tour of the city in the company of a local guide, spanning the city's development from Baroque through to Fifties American Modernism. After lunch, you then have the chance to experience the city's famous Latin rhythm with a salsa lesson, an essential part of any visit to this pulsating city. Later this evening you will then pay a visit to the renowned Buena Vista Social Club, to enjoy an inspired performance that will transport you back to the golden age of Cuban Son Music. (B)

Day 4: Havana - Viñales

Day 4: Leaving the city in the company of a private driver-guide, the next few days offer you the luxury of convenience and flexibility as you head out into the Cuban countryside. The journey begins in Viñales, where you will visit Fina Robaina tobacco farm. Next, go on a 2 hour walk into the Valley of Penance, a landscape dotted with mogotes and the largest cave in Cuba. Visit a tobacco stripping house and learn how local women strip the leaves to be used for all parts of the tobacco. This evening enjoy dinner at a tapas restaurant. (B)

Day 5: Viñales - Las Terrazas

Day 5: Driving to Las Terrazas today, you will visit Cuba's first biosphere reserve - Sierra de Rosario. An innovative community project, originally designed to help with reforestation, the reserve is scattered with lakes and rivers that provide an ideal habitat for a rich range of flora and fauna. Learn more about the history of the reserve on a coffee plantation tour before discovering the eco-community of Las Terrazas. The community has around 1000 people living in it who follow a model of sustainable development through tourism. UNESCO have given Las Terrazas a Conservation Award for its efforts. Enjoy a free afternoon to explore this beautiful nature reserve on the network of trails and footpaths. (B)

Day 6: Las Terrazas - Cienfuegos

Day 6: From Las Terrazas the journey takes you next onto the colonial gem of Cienfuegos, a charming coastal town nestling beside the tranquil waters of Bahía de Cienfuegos. A wander through the city's streets with your guide offers a chance to take in expansive boulevards and bustling local markets renowned for their fresh seafood and delicious ice-cream. There will also be the opportunity to visit the pleasant botanical gardens on the outskirts of town, a 90-hectare site filled with some 2000 species of plants, tropical trees and bamboos. (B)

Days 7-9: Cienfuegos - Trinidad

Day 7: Along the coast from Cienfuegos lies the lovely old town of Trinidad, one of Cuba's colonial gems. Once a haven for pirates, this World Heritage Site is a living reminder of a time when the country lay at the heart of Spain's expanding American empire. After stopping off to enjoy lunch along the way, on arrival you will take a walking tour of the town with your guide, passing along cobbled streets infused with history and filled with beautifully ornate architecture. Be sure to check out one of Trinidad's fabulous music houses one evening too, you won't be disappointed. (B)

Day 8: On the outskirts of Trinidad lie the ruined remains of Cuba's once powerful sugar barons. Dotted amongst the Valle de los Ingenios are dozens of 19th century mills, mansions and slaves quarters that are a lasting reminder of a time when sugar was the country's most profitable export. A tour of the area provides a fascinating insight into the history of the plantations, their slaves and their continuing production. San Isidro de los Destiladores, still has ruins of the distillery, the slave barracks and also the mill and the mansion of the plantation owner, currently being refurbished. The afternoon then provides a chance to enjoy the Caribbean, with snorkelling opportunities, boat trips and sunbathing on the golden sands of Playa Ancon. (B,L)

Day 9: A visit to the Topes de Collantes Natural Park today provides a chance to hike amongst an area of truly outstanding natural beauty and scientific value. A protected area that is home to a number of endemic species, the park is a haven for giant ferns, lichens, mosses and plantations of Arabica coffee. The end of the day also offers an opportunity for a refreshing bathe in one of the park's three large waterfalls before returning to the hotel. (B)

Day 10: Trinidad - Camaguey

Day 10: Cuba's third largest city, Camaguey is a charming fusion of whitewashed colonial buildings, labyrinthine alleyways and hidden gardens. Founded in the 16th century, the city was deliberately laid out to be as confusing as possible to potential attackers, although that did little to deter the English pirate, Henry Morgan from ransacking the town in 1668. It does however make it an interesting city to explore by foot. (B)

Day 11: Camaguey - Bayamo

Day 11: The drive this morning will take around 3 hours and will take you to Bayamo. Upon arrival, you will meet with your guide and explore the city. (B)

Days 12-13: Bayamo - Santiago de Cuba

Day 12: A gentle hike this morning takes you through the Sierra Maestra Mountains and up to Fidel Castro's old mountain hideout, from where the Cuban Revolution was planned and directed. The Comandancia de la Plata still houses the original field hospital and command post, along with a small museum and Fidel's old revolutionary residence, Radio Rebelde. Part of the Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra, the views and the fresh air alone are worth the hike up here. Then transfer to Santiago de Cuba. The country's second largest city, this vibrant mix of African, Spanish, Haitian and European cultures has produced a city whose music, literature and politics rival that of the capital. This region had long been a focal point for independence, against both the Spanish and the American-backed Batista government and it was in Santiago de Cuba that Castro first announced the success of the revolution, on January 1, 1959. (B)

Day 13: A guided tour of the city today will reveal a little something of its important social and political heritage. You'll visit the cemetery where great Cuban revolutionaries such as Frank País and José Marti are buried, as well as the site of San Juan Hill, where Cuban, Spanish and American troops faced each other on July 1, 1898. A tour of the charming upper-class suburb of Vista Alegre is then followed by an evening visit to El Morro fortress, the perfect spot to take in the sunset. Your guide will also be able to recommend a local music venue for the evening's entertainment. (B)

Days 14-16: Santiago de Cuba - Baracoa

Day 14: The lovely old colonial town of Baracoa lies between the waters of two bays at the southeastern tip of the country. Blanketed in highland forest, the landscapes look out across the Atlantic Ocean and, driving there today, you will have the afternoon at leisure to relax on the long stretch of white sand beach close to your lodge. This is a great spot for snorkeling, with a coral reef lying just off the coast. (B)

Day 15: This morning you'll take a jeep safari out into the scenic Yumuri Valley, one of the most beautiful spots on the island. Fed by the Yumuri River, the valley is surrounded by a high mountain ridge and you'll stop at a couple of scenic viewpoints during the drive today. Baracoa is actually the home of chocolate production in Cuba and later today you will take a tour of a local cocoa farm, learning about the chocolate making process and trying your hand at making (and of course eating) the finished product (B)

Day 16: You will be picked up from your hotel today and transferred to the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site which can boast one of the most varied ecosystems anywhere in the Caribbean. Home to a rich diversity of endemic species, it has been declared one of the most biologically diverse tropical island sites on earth. Today you will have a chance to take a half day hike through this remarkable landscape and enjoy a swim in the river. (B)

Days 17-18: Baracoa - Havana

Day 17: Your driver will collect you today and transfer to you to the airport for your domestic flight back to Havana. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel for your final evening in the Cuban capital. (B)

Day 18: A final free day in Havana provides a chance to explore a little more of the Cuban capital, with excursions available to the artisans craft market and the city's Rum and Revolution Museums. There is also an option to take a Mafia tour of the city, visiting the former haunts of Havana's old crime bosses. Later, a private transfer to the airport in time to catch your return flight home signals the end to your Cuban adventure. (B)

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