Old cars and pedestrians show the quiet lifestyle of Havana, CubaCuba, long off limits to legal travel by Americans, is now opening its doors and Small Footprint Travels brings you to this enchanting island on the cusp of change. The beautiful landscapes and the warm friendly Cubans makes this island unique. With endless photogenic possibilities, we will delve into the arts, the culture,  and befriend the Cubans we will meet. Cuba is a country that leaves you wanting more.

The tour begins in Cienfuegos, founded in 1819. Known as the ‘Pearl of the South’, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the only city in Cuba that was founded by French settlers. We will take a day trip to Trinidad, which is the jewel of Cuba’s colonial heritage and then make our way to Havana, the lively colorful capital of Cuba. We walk through beautifully restored Old Havana, attend a private dance concert, enjoy a curated tour of the Museum of Bellas Artes, take an optional salsa class, and even visit a farm participating in the Farm to Table organic food movement in Cuba.

We will experience rural life  and hard working farmers 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 a feeling of how Cubans live and work in the countryside. On our final morning 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 on American Airlines in Charlotte, NC and fly to Miami and change aircraft for our ongoing flight to Santa Clara, Cuba. We will be met by our guide and driver with private and go to the Che Guevara Mausoleum before dining at a well regarded paladar (privately own restaurant).  Following dinner, we will drive (2 hrs) to Cienfuegos, known as the Pearl of the South  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 enjoy a walking tour of the center of the city of Cienfuegos. The urban planning and colonial architecture of Cienfuegos reflect 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 the afternoon, we will stroll on the Malecon along the bay and then have free time. In the evening we will attend a local dance performance.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner


Day Three. Trinidad

Santeria belief is strong in Cuba.

Cuban street scene © Dan Callan

After breakfast, we will 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. Today, it is the best preserved example of colonial architecture on the island. We will walk the cobblestone streets visiting artist studios and photographing 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 in at our casas 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, Fabricio, to stroll along La Rampa, a main thoroughfare of Vedado to visit Coppelia ice cream parlor and see the Havana Libre Hotel and the Havana University campus

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 put on your walking shoos as we will begin with a walking tour through Havana Vieja–Old Havana–the beautifully restored historical center of Havana. Our guide is a prominent Cuban architect who knows this neighborhood well as he has been involved in numerous architectural restorations in Havana Vieja. In the afternoon we will take a ride through memory lane in classic 1950’s American automobiles for a driving orientation tour of Havana. In the evening, we will be treated to a private performance of the History of Cuban Music, in which a noted musicologist sings and explains the development of music styles and trends throughout Cuba.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner


Day Six.  Havana

Murals dedicated to the revolution are plentiful throughout Cuba.

Student & mural. © Lou Stewart

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

In the afternoon we will visit Cuba Libro, a bookstore opened by American journalist Connor Gorry. A resident of Havana for 14 years, she will share her thoughts about life in Cuba, the reality of what is happening now as changes sweep across the island. She will also invite 2-3 English speaking Cubans to share their perspectives with us. In the evening we will visit the Fabrica del Arte which is the most current collaborative arts project 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 we will visit  two fincas (farms) outside of Havana to see where how the organic products are grown. 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 should you want to explore on your own. In the afternoon we will visit the Museo de Bellas Artes for a guided tour of their Contemporary and Modern Art Collections. Following this we will walk to the Museo de la Revolucion to view the exhibits about the Cuban Revolution.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner


Day Nine.  Havana

Today we will focus on dance and music in Havana. In the morning we will attend a workshop/demonstration at the dance studio of Havana Compas Dance Company. This modern dance troupe recently toured to Florida and their lively performances are filled with a mixture of traditional, Afro-Cuban and modern, and Spanish styles. Later in the day, we will have the option of taking a salsa class at Casa del Son, one of the best dance studios in Havana. We will be partnered with experienced dancers who will guide us through our dance lesson.  On our last evening we will attend a jazz concert at a venue close to our casa particular.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner


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.

It is adios to Havana and hello to the beautiful countryside of Viñales today. Our 3 hour bus ride passes through the most beautiful landscapes of Cuba with our destination being Viñales, the prime tobacco growing region of Cuba. The 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, Yaniel, for our hikes into the surrounding countryside. There are opportunities for walking to local farms to see the  tobacco fields and cigar rolling techniques. Others can take a more active hike up  along the mountain vistas. By mid-day we will meet up for a delicious lunch in a setting overlooking the beautiful valley.

Lodging: Casa Particular

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.


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

After breakfast we will be transferred (3 hr. drive) to the Havana Airport where we will board our direct flight back to Charlotte, NC.

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 People to 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 eight 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