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Cuba: Natural History & Cultural Adventure (12 days)

CubaSurrounded by incomparable beauty, explore the culture and natural splendour of Western Cuba.

As the doors of Cuba open wider, more visitor are discovering its dynamic charm, high biodiversity and well-preserved ecosystems. This journey combines vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, guided natural history excursions, and gorgeous beaches.


2017 Departure Dates & Cost

February 24 - March 7, 2017

Group size 4 - 8 persons
Early bookings essential
Customized departures are also available based on groups of four or more persons

Adjustments can be made to increase the time to make this a 14 day trip, or shortened to become an 7 day trip in order to fit in with charter flights now offered from major Canadian cities on Sunwing and Air Canada Vacations.

Tour cost from Havana $ 2,825 USD / $ 3600 CAD per person
Single Supplement $ 500 USD / $ 650 CAD
Or 14 day tour from Havana: $3,250 USD / 4,160 CAD per person see Overland Explorer for more details
Airfare from Toronto: Cuban Airlines approx. $650 / Air Canada Vacations from $750 CAD or 600 USD

Airfare from Vancouver: Sunwing $1,290 CAD (for 7 day and 14-day departures only) or $ 1075 USD
Airfare from Miami; $ 600 USD
Air also available from Calgary, Cancun and Nassau and other cities - please ask for details

EARLY BOOKINGS ESSENTIAL - Deposit $ 500 per person required


Itinerary

Day 1 ARRIVE HAVANA
On arrival in Havana you will be met and transfered to your hotel.

Day 2 HAVANA (B,L,D)
Walk through the resplendent Spanish Colonial and “tropical ba
roque” architecture of the La Habana Vieja (Old Town), designated as a Unesco Cultural Heritage Site. The Plaza de Armas (Square of Arms) houses El Templete (the Little Temple), which memorializes the birthplace of the city in 1519. The Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (Palace of the Captains General) was the largest colonial building of its time, and for 176 years was the seat of colonial government. The Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum) gives an historical overview of Havana. Surrounded by a moat, Castillo de la Real Fuerza, is the second oldest fortress built by the Spaniards in the West Indies, erected in 1577 to defend the city from constant pirate attacks. We will see the Bas’lica de San Francisco de Ases, a striking example of Cuban baroque architecture. Also visit the Plaza de la Catedral, one of the most authentic and best-preserved squares in Havana, with the cathedral and surrounding buildings nearly all restored to their original splendor.

Lunch at a local restaurant or paladar.Dinner in Old Havana. Welcome Dinner at La Divina Pastora located behind a battery of big cannons below the Fortaleza la Cabana, near the water and overlooking Habana Vieja. Enjoy the “Canonazo” with the firing of the canon ceremony.

DAY 3 HAVANA (B,L)
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning to continue with the exploration of the key culture and historic sites in Old Havana and Vedado areas. Lunch and afternoon at leisure.

DAY 4  HAVANA  - SIERRA DEL ROSARIO – LAS TERRAZAS (B,L,D)
After breakfast drive to Sierra Del Rosario, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, for a morning walk. Our day in this region will also include a visit to the Orchid Garden in Soroa and a visit to the eco-community of Las Terrazas where organic farmers and local artists abound. We will stay at Mirador de San Diego which is adjacent to La Guira National Park for 3 nights.

DAY 5 VINALES VALLEY (B,L,D)
Today, we take an excursion west through the fields and the dramatic beauty of the Vinales Valley where limestone pinnacles cling over tobacco, mango and guava fields and where farmers plough with ox-drawn carts. We will have time to stop at a Cigar Factory. Lunch and continue through the Valle de Yumuri, a place Humbolt described as “the loveliest valley in the world”. This 8 kilometer wide stretch of land is cut between high limestone cliffs, many embedded with caves. We will look for birds and local fauna with a stop at the Indian’s Cave which is filled with stalagmites and stalactites.

DAY 6 PARQUE NATIONAL LA GUIRA (B,L,D)
Early morning visit to La Guira National Park for bird watching and photography. The park protects 54,000 acres of sylvan wilderness and is a treasure house for bird watchers and nature lovers. We will walk the trails of the park and return to the hotel for lunch. Afternoon at leisure. Options for the afternoon can be discussed locally with your guide. Dinner at the hotel.

DAY 7 ZAPATA PENINSULA (B,L,D)
Today we drive east again, to the Zapata Peninsula – Cuba’s largest wetland and one of the country’s most important biosphere preserves. The National Park protects many of the country’s endemic plants, birds, reptiles and mammals. Enroute we will take a boat excursion along the canals leading to Laguna del Tesoro (Treasure Lagoon). We will eat lunch at a restaurant overlooking the lagoon and visit a replica Taino village. In the afternoon we arrive at Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) coastline. Accommodation at either Playa Larga or Casa Ki Ki with dinner included (2 nights).

DAY 8 ZAPATA PENINSULA (B,L,D)
Morning exploration at the Bermejas natural areas and spend the morning driving east along the coast road. The route is lined with cenotes, limestone sinkholes. We will have lunch at The Fish Cave, a restaurant located inside one of the largest cenotes on the peninsula. Time for swimming or snorkelling. Fish-life is abundant. Continue to Soplillar to observe the afternoon birds.

DAY 9 CIENFUEGOS - TRINIDAD (B,L,D)
Overland trip to Cienfuegos, the city known as the pearl of the south with its classical buildings and wide boulevards, with a short city tour. Cienfuegos’ architectural pride is the Palacio del Valle at the tip of Punta Gorda. Lunch in Cienfuegos. Continue the drive to Trinidad. 2 nights Guest House.

DAY 10 TRINIDAD (B,L,D)
After breakfast, morning tour of Trinidad. Trinidad is the crown jewel of Cuba’s colonial cities. Fourth of the seven cities founded by Diego de Velasquea in 1514, Trinidad is maintained as a living museum, just as the Spaniards left it in its period of greatest opulence. Narrow cobblestone streets are lined with terracotta tile roofed houses in soft pastel colors and fancy “rejas” (grills) of wrought iron. Buildings are fronted by mahogany balustrades and massive wooden doors. By day, mule-drawn carts and “vaqueros” on horseback clip-clop through the cobbled streets and the elderly rock beneath shady verandas, serenaded by twittering show birds in bamboo cages - a Trinidad tradition. With its winding cobbled streets and hardly any signs of modernization beyond the electrification of the town’s old lampposts, Trinidad is perfect for exploration by foot. Everywhere there are doorways leading to leafy courtyards, which house everything from restaurants and museums to accommodation and knickknack shops. Often you will hear talented Cuban bands playing traditional music. Afternoon to explore this fascinating city at your leisure. Lunch and dinner at the guest house.

DAY 11 TRINIDAD – SANTA CLARA - HAVANA (B,L)
Breakfast. Overland to the historic town of Santa Clara. Visit the Che Guevara memorial. Lunch at La Granjita and then continue to Havana. Dinner on own. There is a restaurant at the Hotel.

DAY 12 HAVANA DEPARTURE (B)
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your return flight home.


Additional Information

TRANSPORT AND TRAVEL CONDITIONS
Road transport by private air-conditioned micro-bus. Though this is not a strenuous tour per se, we do have numerous walking tours of towns / hikes in the forest. One must be prepared to be on one’s feet, walking at a leisurely pace, for up to 3 hours at a time. Traffic and road conditions may make some journeys seem longer than they should. Comfortable footwear is essential.

ACCOMODATION
Hotels are quite modern, and you are staying in comfortable three star properties or guest houses with ensuite toilet and bath throughout (often shower only). Please bear in mind that hotel standards are not as high as in other Caribbean destinations that have a higher standard of economy. Because this tour ventures well beyond the built-up coastal tourist areas, one can expect the locally owned, managed, and operated hotels and guest houses to be somewhat less “slick” than the larger, foreign-owned and managed resort-style properties. Hotels are carefully selected in terms of their ability to offer a safe and clean environment; that said, there may be some rough edges here and there and service that is not at the same level of efficiency which we expect elsewhere in the West.

For double booking, you should get a queen-size bed. For twin bookings, you should receive two large twin sized beds. Some single rooms are available. Here are often (but not always) coffee makers, hair dryers, or facecloths in the rooms. Bath supplies are common, however you may wish to pack a small shampoo and conditioner in case they are not supplied. Hotel check-in time is 4pm and check out is 12pm. Early check-in or late check-out can be requested but not guaranteed. Some hotels require a refundable beach towel deposit. Please keep your receipt or it makes it difficult to be reimbursed. Safety boxes are located in hotel rooms and instructions on their use are found on the boxes. Porter service is sometimes available though you should be independent with your luggage, especially at airports. At hotels where porter service is available, instruction on using hotel safety boxes is provided.

Note about hotels: Due to the extremely high demand for Cuban holidays with the partial lifting of the US embargo many hotels are booked well in advance. Occasionally hotel bumping occurs. We will do our best to deliver what is promised.

GROUP SIZE
4 - 8 escorted by local nature & cultural guide.