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Cuba

Old cars and pedestrians show the quiet lifestyle of Havana, CubaCuba, long the “forbidden fruit” to American travelers, is now open for legal travel with Small Footprint Travels tours.

Experience this enchanting island which enters a new period in post-Castro history.  Above all,  the warm friendly Cubans and the beautiful landscapes  makes this island a unique destination.  We will show you the  island’s rich cultural heritage through the arts, the food,  and daily encounters with Cubans.

Your tour begins in the city of Cienfuegos, founded in 1819 by French settlers.  Known as the ‘Pearl of the South’, Cienfuegos is a  UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will make a day trip to Trinidad, the jewel of Cuba’s colonial heritage. Subsequently,  we will visit a lovely botanical garden founded with support from Harvard University.

Above all,  Havana is the lively and colorful heart of Cuba. We walk through beautifully restored Old Havana, attend a private dance demonstration and enjoy a curated tour of the Museum of Bellas Artes.  After that, you can take an optional salsa class, and visit an organic farm participating in the Farm to Table organic food movement in Cuba.

In conclusion, we will experience rural life when we visit the beautiful valley of Viñales,  famed for its limestone  mountains, called Mogotes, that rise majestically from the valley floor. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Viñales gives us the experience of how Cubans live and work in the countryside. After that,  we will be transported directly to the Havana Airport for the return flight home.

 

Detailed Itinerary

Day One.  Charlotte – Cienfuegos

Lovely architecture in Cienfuegos Cuba

Palacio de Valle in Cienfuegos

We board our flight in Charlotte, NC and fly to Miami and where we change aircraft for our ongoing flight to Santa Clara, Cuba. Our English speaking Cuban guide and driver with private comfortable bus will meet us at the airport.  After that, the first stop will be at the Che Guevara Museum and Mausoleum in Santa Clara.  We will continue after dinner to Cienfuegos (1 hr. drive) where we will check into our casa particulares (privately owned B&Bs).

Lodging: Casa Particular.

Meal Included: Dinner

 

Day Two.  Cienfuegos

The historic Teatro Terry © Lou Stewart

The historic Teatro Terry © Lou Stewart

Following breakfast, we will have a walking tour through the downtown center  of Cienfuegos. The urban planning and colonial architecture of the city reflect the influence of the early settlers who were from the Bordeaux region of France. Our guide will take us into the beautiful and famous Teatro Terry, in which such luminaries as Enrico Caruso and Sarah Bernhardt performed.

In addition,  we will travel along the Malecon to the enchanting Palacio de Valle where we will enjoy a refreshment on the rooftop.  We will then board a boat to cross the bay to a small fishing village for lunch of fresh seafood. In conclusion, we will visit  Castillo de Jagua, built in 1742 to protect the country from British pirates.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Day Three. Trinidad

Santeria belief is strong in Cuba.

Cuban street scene © Dan Callan

Today, we drive (1.5 hrs) to Trinidad, the colonial gem of Cuba. Founded in the early 16th century, it was from the port of Trinidad that Hernan Cortez began his expedition in 1518 to conquer Mexico. Moreover, today it is the best preserved example of colonial architecture on the entire island. We will walk the cobblestone streets to visit artist studios and photograph daily life. At the end of the day, we return to Cienfuegos to enjoy dinner at our casa particulares.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast,

 

Day Four. Cienfuegos to Havana

Capital Building and Opera House in Havana, Cuba

El Capitolio (L) and the newly renovated Opera House © Seth Arlow

We board our comfortable air-conditioned bus for the pleasant (4 hr) ride to Havana. Upon arrival we will  check into our casa located in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana. Vedado is a pleasing blend of homes, apartments and businesses, in a convenient location of Havana. Later in the day, we will meet our guide and enjoy a 1.5 hr tour of Havana in classic 1950s American convertibles.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Day Five. Havana

Music and history come together in Havana Vieja.

Musicians perform in Havana Vieja © Dan Callan

Today, we put on our walking shoes to enjoy a walking tour through Havana Vieja–Old Havana–the beautifully restored historical center of Havana. Our guide is a prominent Cuban architect who is expert in the history and architectural restoration of Havana Vieja. In the afternoon we will visit the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) for a private guided tour of the Contemporary and Modern Art Collections.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Day Six.  Havana

Murals dedicated to the revolution are plentiful throughout Cuba.

Student & mural. © Lou Stewart

Next, we will learn about Santeria, an Afro-Cuban religion based on Yorumba beliefs and traditions. In addition, there are Roman Catholic elements added. It grew during the slave trade in the Caribbean and is still practiced in Cuba. Our guide is a Cuban scholar of Santeria. He will explain the role of African religion and culture in Cuba and the importance of Santeria in everyday Cuban life. In addition, he will take us to the home of a Yoruba priestess to learn about  the religious deities and elaborate altars in her home.

In the afternoon, we will visit Cuba Libro, an English language bookstore opened by American journalist Conner Gorry.  A resident of Havana for 15 years, she will share her thoughts about life in Cuba. Her view of what is happening in Cuba is fascinating. In conclusion, she will also introduce 2-3 English speaking Cubans to share their perspectives with us. Lastly, we will visit the Fabrica del Arte which is the most current collaborative arts venue in Havana.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast

 

Day Seven.  Havana

Tractors are rare in Cuba and this sight of a farmer with oxen is very common.

A farmer with oxen is a common sight. © Dan Callan

The Farm to Table food movement is taking hold in Cuba and today we will visit  Vista Hermosa, an organic farm outside of Havana. We will to see what organic products are grown and what animals they raise. Morevover, you can go for a horse ride, should you like. We will return to the city to enjoy lunch at the Mediterraneo-Havana restaurant, which is an acknowledged leader in the use of organic foods in their restaurant.

Following lunch, we will visit the whimsical fishing village of Jaimanitas and the home of artist, Jose Fuster, considered by many to be the Cuban Gaudi meets Picasso.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

 

Day Eight.  Havana

Modern dance as expressed by the Habana Compas Dance Company

A performance by Habana Compas Dance Company.

Today you will have the morning free and we will give you interesting options for you to explore on your own. In the afternoon we will visit the Rafael Boxing Gym. Above all, Cubans are very proud of their achievements in sports. Therefore, we will see how Cubans train in the sport of boxing.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast

 

Day Nine.  Havana

Experience the dance and music of Havana! First, we will attend a workshop/demonstration at the dance studio of Havana Compas Dance Company. This modern dance troupe recently performed in Florida.  Their lively performances are filled with a mixture of traditional Spanish, Afro-Cuban and modern dance styles. Later in the day, we will have the opportunity to take a salsa class at Baila Habana. During the hour long class, you will have your own instructor to help you learn the basics or even more of salsa dancing!  On our last evening we will attend a jazz concert at a venue close to our casa particular.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast

 

Day Ten.  Havana to Viñales

Green and verdant, the land in Viñales is among the best in Cuba.

Beautiful Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Adios Havana and Hola to the beautiful countryside of Viñales today. The 3 hour bus ride passes through the most beautiful landscapes of Cuba with our destination being Viñales, the prime tobacco growing region of Cuba. Tall limestone mountains, called Mogotes, are a UNESCO World Heritage site. We will relax in the small town of Viñales and listen to live music that evening in the central plaza.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

 

Day Eleven.  Viñales

Cigars are an important part of Cuban life

Farmers in the tobacco growing region of Viñales roll their own cigars.

After breakfast we will meet our guide who will lead us on our hike into the surrounding countryside. There are opportunities for walking to local farms to see the  tobacco fields. In addition, the farmers will demonstrate cigar rolling techniques. And you might  prefer a more active hike up  along the mountain vistas. By mid-day we will meet up for a delicious traditional Cuban barbecue lunch in a setting overlooking the beautiful landscape.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

 

Day Twelve.  Viñales – Havana – Miami. End of Tour

In the morning, we will be transferred directly (3 hr. drive) to the Havana Airport where we will board our  flight back to Miami and other points in the U.S.

Meals Included: Breakfast

What’s Included

  • Round Trip Airfare from Charlotte, NC to Santa Clara, Cuba & Havana to Charlotte, NC on a US carrier.
  • Cuban Tourist Visa and Cuban health insurance.
  • Compliance with US Treasury Department for Support the Cuban People  Visa.
  • Cuban Airport Departure Tax
  • Eleven nights in locally owned B&B’s (called Casa Particulares), for two people sharing
  • Transfers to and from airports in Cienfuegos and Havana
  • All local ground transportation with driver and English-speaking guides.
  • Admission to venues as described in itinerary.
  • Breakfast everyday, two lunches and six dinners.
  • Full time Spanish speaking American Tour Leader, local English speaking guides.
  • A personalized packet of information including market buying tips, restaurant recommendations and information on places you will visit.

What’s Not Included

  • Airfare to/from your home to Charlotte, NC
  • Hotel Lodging in Charlotte
  • Airline baggage fees depending on the airline.
  • Single Room Supplement for rooming alone.
  • Some meals as per itinerary
  • Beverages
  • Tips at Meals
  • Gratuities for Guides and Drivers.
  • Taxis or other ground transport not included in the itinerary
  • International airport taxes

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“Benjamin and Myo were the perfect guides. What a wonderful introduction and immersion into fascinating Cuba.”
– Tom, Asheville, NC