Beautiful Cuba Trip Notes

At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.

  • Trip code : IQUKA
  • Trip length : 8 Days
  • Trip starts in : Havana, Cuba
  • Trip ends in : Havana, Cuba
  • Maximum group size : 12
  • Ages : Min 15
  • Meals : 7 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners
  • Accommodation : Homestay (4 nts), Hotel (3 nts)
  • Transport: Minibus
  • Transfer: Free airport arrival transfer

daily-itinerary1

Day
1

Havana

Bienvenido! Welcome to Cuba.An arrival transfer from the airport to your hotel is included in your tour.

Complimentary transfers are only applicable if on day 1 of your  trip or if going to pre tour accommodation booked through us (please advise flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to departure if you wish to have this transfer provided).

You can arrive at any time on day 1 as there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting tonight. Your leader will leave a note at reception telling you where and when this important meeting will take place. Please ask a member of reception for this information. After the group meeting there is the option of joining the group for dinner.

Havana grew from an obscure port to a bustling hub when gold and silver that was being pillaged by the Spanish from the New World was taken to Spain. While the ships gathered in growing numbers, the pirates were not far behind and the treasures resting in Cuba's ports were attacked again and again by Dutch, English and French pirates. The Spanish built fort after fort for protection but the English eventually captured the territory. An economic boom followed due to the English lifting the Spanish trade restrictions. Spain eventually exchanged the Florida territory for the island, but these years left an indelible mark on the city and the country, and Havana is slowly restoring its beautiful colonial buildings.

The best place to start any Havana experience is in the Old City. Havana's Old City is one of the best preserved and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th century fortresses and countless churches. Make sure you visit La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, described by the novelist Alejo Carpentier as 'music set in stone'. Also worth seeing is the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras (now a restaurant) and the Plaza de Armas, complete with a statue of Manuel de Cespedes, one of the leaders of the independence movement. There are plenty of good museums to check out including Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

While in Havana you must try a Coppelia ice cream. You can join the hundreds of locals who line up to eat the delicious ice cream that is heavily subsidised by the government to keep the populace happy. There is a Coppelia in every major town in Cuba. Sometimes there is just one flavour available, a whole bowl of which could set you back about 10 cents. You can however pay up to $3 if you want to skip the queue and go the section where the prices are in Convertible Pesos (CUC) rather than the local pesos (CUP).

Ice cream in hand, why not head to a local baseball game. This is a great experience as the local atmosphere is very colourful and unique and can get quite rowdy at times. Baseball is by far the number one sport in Cuba so the locals can get very passionate about it. It is also interesting to note that the only advertising is government community announcements such as: sport is good for your health! The season runs from October to May.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)

Day
2-3

Soroa/Vinales

On the morning day 2 in Havana, your leader will take you on an walking tour of the Old Havana. This tour includes a visit to the cathedral, Plaza de Armas, San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja and Central Park amongst other cites. Entry fee to the Camara Oscura lookout at Plaza Vieja is included.

Later we head west from Havana and toward the dramatic limestone pin-cushion hills of the Pinar del Rio province and the rural town of Vinales.

It's about a 3 hour drive in our private minibus, and we break the journey at Soroa, which is a tiny mountain resort town in the heavily forested Sierra del Rosario. We have lunch here and there is time to take a tour of the impressive orchid garden which boasts 700 different species.

Vinales is a small and charming rural village. Its probably the easiest place to mix with locals in Cuba who are very sociable and love nothing better than to drink rum and dance the night away. There are only 3 bars in this town so it is difficult to get lost.

The scenery around Vinales is some of the most picturesque in Cuba. There are many outdoor optional activities available including exploring the area by bicycle or hiking through the tobacco fields and to caves in the mountains.

Tonight we stay in a homestay. Room facilities include air-conditioning or ceiling fan.

Accommodation: Homestay (2 nts)

Day
4-5

Trinidad

Travel back to Havana before continuing east to Trinidad, another beautiful colonial city and World Heritage Site (approx. 9 hours).

For most visitors to Cuba, Trinidad is their stand-out favourite destination (well, for the ones that make it this far anyway). No other colonial city in Cuba is so well preserved, and the local residents are extremely friendly and festive. Trinidad is steeped in religion, none the least of which is Santeria, which is one of the Afro-Cuban religions (related to Voodoo) that is practised in Cuba.

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 Cortes recruited sailors here for his future expedition into that land. The town was fairly inactive until the 1800s, when French refugees fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti landed here en mass 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 grill-work 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 Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos and the Casa de los Mártires de Trinidad, chronicles the struggles of this period in the town's history.

There are some great Spanish-style churches to explore here and nearby is the Valle de los Ingenios, where sugar plantations stretch out as far as the eye can see. For some beach side fun head down to Playa Ancon for some long stretches of white sand. This is a good place to pull on the snorkel and have a peak and Cuba's underwater world. For more land based activities go horse or bike riding, but be warned, Cuba's bicycles, just like its cars, are vintage. There are also some great treks to be made in the nearby Sierra del Escambray mountains.

While in Trinidad, you can visit a folklore dance and music show at an open-air venue. Cuba has a hugely rich and varied dance and music tradition that draws its roots from as far a field as Africa and France. Many musical styles that have greatly influenced music worldwide originated in Cuba, such as Mambo, Cha-cha-cha, son, and rumba.

Trinidad has a strong Afro-Cuban community and some of the Afro-Cuban religions are also represented in these shows. By now hopefully you have learnt a few steps of salsa and can join in with the locals.

Tonight we stay in a homestay. Room facilities include air-conditioning or ceiling fan.

Accommodation: Homestay (2 nts)

Day
6

Cienfuegos

It's a short drive from Trinidad to our next destination of Cienfuegos (approx. 1 hours).

Cubans are known to be very proud people, and the citizens of Cuba's third largest port city call their town La Perla del Sur (The Pearl of the South).

Cienfuegos' appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial centre, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades. There is ambience enough here to have inspired Cuba's most celebrated 'son' singer to write the words 'Cienfuegos is the city I like best'. He was born nearby, which may have helped.

While here we take a visit to the Palacio del Valle. Once a modest home for a local trader, this palace is now Cienfuegos' architectural pride and joy. The entire edifice drips with ornate carvings in Venetian alabaster.

Again, there is plenty of nightlife all within a very short walk of our centrally located hotel.

Tonight we stay in a hotel located in the very centre of Cienfuegos, which has a distinct colonial character. Hotel facilities include air-conditioning, en suite bathrooms, a restaurant, bar and swimming pool.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)

Day
7-8

Havana

On the way back to Havana, we pass by Santa Clara to visit the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial. Che's remains were brought to rest here after they were found in a remote corner of Bolivia in 1997, where he was assassinated by the CIA-backed Bolivian army. There is an impressive bronze statue of Che bearing his rifle. Inside the museum, you can learn about his amazing life and see photos and exhibits such as his famous black beret.

On reaching Havana we return to our hotel and it's time for a final night of salsa. Hit the streets and celebrate a fantastic adventure.

There are no activities planned for day 8 and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is at 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)

included1

  • Havana - Walking tour of Old Havana
  • Informal Salsa lesson
  • Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
  • Soroa - Orchid Garden tour
  • Trinidad - Afro-Cuban folklore show
  • Valley walking tour
  • Visit to the Palacio del Valle

optional-extras

  • Havana - Buena Vista Social Club - USD75
  • Havana - Tropicana Show - USD80
  • Havana - Cigar factory tour - USD12
  • Havana - Morro-Cabana Fortress - USD6
  • Havana - La Cabana Fortress canon blast ceremony - USD10
  • Havana - Baseball game (Oct - Apr) - USD3
  • Havana - Tourist bus day pass - USD5
  • Havana - Tourist bus to the beach (return) - USD5
  • Havana - Ernest Hemingway tour - USD30
  • Soroa - Hike to waterfall - USD3
  • Vinales - Bicycle hire (per hour) - USD2
  • Vinales - Beach excursion - USD30
  • Vinales - Botanical Gardens - USD1
  • Vinales - Salsa lesson (per hour) - USD8
  • Vinales - Cueva del Indio - USD5
  • Vinales - Cooking class - USD30
  • Vinales - Palenque Cave - USD1
  • Vinales - Live music venues - USD1
  • Vinales - Santo Tomas cave visit & return taxi - USD35
  • Trinidad - Snorkelling trip - USD15
  • Trinidad - Ancon beach (transport) - USD4
  • Trinidad - Trek to waterfall (taxi and entrance fee) - USD27
  • Trinidad - Steam train ride - USD10
  • Trinidad - Bicycle rental (full day) - USD5
  • Trinidad - Live music venues - USD5
  • Trinidad - Massage - USD25
  • Trinidad - Salsa dance lesson - USD5
  • Trinidad - Musical instrument lesson (guitar, double bass, tres, percussion - per hour) - USD10

not-included1International flights, departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.

tripgrade1

Plus

Our Plus tours allow you to immerse yourself within a destination or culture whilst travelling and sleeping in comfort. They are packed with highlights to ensure you get the most out of your valuable time away yet are also slower paced allowing you time to savour the culture, traditions and sights of your destination – the perfect balance.

On some trips we’ll push you out of your comfort zone to ensure an authentic experience, on other trips you will stay in amazing places where there is no ‘roughing it’ involved. There is plenty of choice so you can select a trip with as much activity or as little as you wish. Our small groups ensure a more intimate experience and that the impact on the local environment and community is kept to a minimum. Extra Comfort tours offer rich and rewarding adventures and are stress-free, safe and, most importantly, fun!

Style Facts

  • Innovative itineraries offering authentic travel encounters
  • A mix of active adventure, culture, wildlife, sightseeing and relaxation
  • Well appointed, quality hotels in central locations
  • Arrival transfers, transport (mostly private) and accommodation included
  • Many meals and adventure activities also included
  • Fully trained and experienced local leaders

Discovery

Discovery tours are all about exploring & experiencing the world with like-minded people, dipping your toe beneath the usual tourist surface & discovering the real essence of a region. They are genuinely innovative, exciting & imaginative tours that offer that little bit more to travellers.

Style Facts

  • Enjoy a destination in depth and comfort
  • Tourist class hotels and family homestays
  • Both private and local transport
  • A number of included activities and meals throughout
  • Fully trained and experienced leader.

This tour is operated by our partners Intrepid.

visa1

A necessary bugbear of adventure travel, visas can appear complicated, costly and confusing to apply for. Imaginative Traveller recommend applying for visas with a professional visa service who can guide you though the process and take care of lodging and collecting your passport with multiple embassies, so we have teamed up with The Visa Machine.

The Visa Machine ‘live and breathe’ visas and have the expertise to provide current and accurate information and arrange the correct visas for your trip, quickly and at a good price.

Please click here for more information.

medical-preparation1

We strongly recommend you visit your doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. They will advise you regarding the appropriate inoculations. In some places anti-malaria medication may also be required. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure so allow yourself plenty of time. Obtain a certificate of vaccination and carry this with you on this trip. A dental check up is also highly recommended.

 Money1

Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
 
You will need to take cash to cover all additional expenses not included in your tour cost. These include food, drinks, optional sightseeing, tips, laundry, souvenirs and possible delays. If in doubt, bring more than you think you will need. It is always useful to carry an additional amount for emergencies. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the time; providing your claim falls within the scope of your policy, your insurance company will make reimbursement later

travel-insuranceYou must have extensive travel insurance as a condition of booking with us, and without evidence of a valid policy you won’t be allowed to start your trip. Please click here for more information.

responsible-travel1

Responsible tourism is at the heart of Imaginative Traveller. For 20 years we have taken customers to places around the world in social and environmentally responsible manner, ensuring everyone involved respects and maintains the natural and often delicate balance of the destination.

As travellers ourselves we are well aware of the impact that tourism can have and whilst economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, it should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment. It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit. We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.

We believe giving something back is essential. We therefore work with our customers and the people we visit to ensure the benefits go directly to contribute to local cultures and environmental conservation. This is not only good the communities we visit but it also gives our travellers more enriched adventures.

For further information about responsible travel please click here.

other-important-information

TRAVEL INSURANCE:
The Cuban government has declared that from 1 May 2010, travel insurance (which covers at least medical expenses) to be compulsory for all travellers to Cuba. Proof of travel insurance will be requested at Havana airport by immigration officials. Travellers failing to produce a valid document will be required to purchase a new policy at the airport, before being granted access to Cuba.

MINIMUM AGE:
The minimum age for this trip is 15 at the time of travel. Any travellers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a legal guardian, or in lieu of a legal guardian, by an escort over the age of 18, appointed by their legal guardian. The legal guardian or their designee will be responsible for the traveller under the age of 18 day to day’s care. If a legal guardian elects to designate an escort in their lieu, they will be required to complete and sign a relevant document, to delegate their authority.

WEATHER CONTINGENCIES:
Please note that Hurricane season is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors these situations as they may arise, so that itineraries or activities can be amended as necessary.

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