Central Holidays

Welcome to Cuba! Upon arrival to the Havana international airport, your bilingual local guide will meet you, and from here, begin your Cuba journey! The excitement commences right away with a panoramic tour of Havana were you will discover the colonial Spanish architecture and beautiful homes once owned by some of the wealthiest Cuban families. In the Vedado neighborhood, see the University of Havana and meet with some professors and students to learn about the world of higher education in Cuba. Then drive along the world-famous Malecón seawall overlooking the Atlantic, take pictures in Revolution square where many political rallies have been held, and take in the impressive capitol building – modeled after the U.S. capitol in Washington, D.C. Lunch at a Paladar. Next, you’ll visit the Angeles del Futuro children’s project that teaches young kids acrobatics to prepare them for the Cuban circus. Continue to your hotel for check-in. Tonight you will be taken to dinner at an acclaimed Paladar, a privately-owned restaurant, for a fusion-style meal to inaugurate your first night in Havana. (L,D)

After breakfast at your hotel, set out on an enlightening walking tour of Old Havana. Your local guide and driver will take you deep into Old Havana which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. Here you will enjoy an insightful walking tour showcasing the restoration and preservation process of its most elaborate buildings, along with old ties and new hopes around every corner as you explore Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas, Plaza de San Francisco, and Plaza de la Catedral. Next, visit Callejon de Hamel and see artistic manifestations of Santeria which have been created by community youth and neighbors in a creative and expressive way. Go for lunch at a nearby paladar, then drive off to Finca Vigia, also known as the old Ernest Hemingway house. Here is where the famed author of “A Farewell to Arms” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” spent 20 years when living in Havana beginning in mid-1939. At this living museum you can peer in to see items just as Hemingway left them, including more than 8,000 books, personal relics, and collections; his precious boat Pilar and the legendary swimming pool where he hosted some of the biggest cultural icons of the times. Return to the hotel and visit Muraleando, a community project in the open air where local artists have decorated their neighborhood with colorful murals and installations that reuse discarded materials. Hundreds of children also come here on a regular basis to gain an education in painting, sculpting, moviemaking, acting, dancing, and other musical skills from the professional instructors. Dinner is at leisure. (B,L,D)

We depart Havana today for Cienfuegos, Cuba’s “Pearl of the South.” On our way we will visit Zapata National Park, a special natural area in the central areas of the island with diverse wildlife who call it home, such as crocodiles, turtles, bird, and more. A naturalist will meet and introduce the area’s riches to you, and explain how Cuba manages this diverse ecosystems for future generations. After lunch at a paladar, go to the Korimakao project which is located in the middle of a swampland. Here, a very popular former Cuban television actor from the 70s and 80s started a foundation which teaches children in theater and the arts. Next we visit the Bay of Pigs, the site of USA-Cuban conflict in 1961. The Bay of Pigs Museum is full of photographs and relics to learn about the situation whose ramifications continue to influence the state of Cuba today. Upon arrival in Cienfuegos, explore its historical center on a comprehensive city tour with your guide. Here you will walk along the main “bulevar” and learn about shopping practices in Cuba and the difference between ration stores and regular markets, as well as daily challenges people face. Visit the Thomas Terry Theater, a late 19th century eclectic jewel, where important legends such as Sarah Bernhard and Enrico Caruso once performed. Check in to the hotel and then partake in dinner at a local paladar. (B,L,D)

After breakfast at your hotel depart for Santa Clara, a large working town and famed for being the site of Che Guevarra’s most decisive battle against the Fulgencio Batista government during the Cuban Revolution. Che’s remains were brought from Bolivia to Santa Clara and you will have the chance to go to his mausoleum to learn about his life and death. Next, visit the Abuelos de Fiesta community. Formed by a social group of senior Cuban citizens seeking to preserve centuriesold dances and music while also having a bit of innocent flirty fun, participants will present antiquated “fan dances” and play tunes on instruments rarely seen elsewhere. Depart for Remedios and enjoy lunch at paladar once you arrive. Remedios and the surrounding areas once counted on their riches streaming in from the sugar factories. Visit one of the former sugar factories to see the facilities and trains that once ran across the island transporting the precious cargo, and perhaps have a chance to ride one of these antique pullers! Back in the city, join a local baseball team for a game. Baseball is one of the most popular pastimes in Cuba, with many professionals well-known internationally. Journey by bicitaxi along the winding streets of Remedios, a beautiful colonial town and home of the Cuban parrandas. Learn all about this tradition which takes place annually around the third week of December. A visit to the secret warehouses where fans prepare throughout the year may also be possible. Stop in the different plazas and take in what life is like in a small center in Cuba. Return to Cienfuegos and enjoy dinner at a paladar. (B,L,D)

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before departing for the charming town of Trinidad. Trinidad is set at the base of the Escambray Mountains and just out of reach of the sea on the southern coast. Much of Trinidad remains untouched in aesthetic which presents itself for a most wonderful walk in history. Walk through the narrow streets of Trinidad and interact with the locals, visit art galleries, or pop into artisan shops along the colorful corridors. In the heart of town, visit the gallery of artist Lazaro Nieblas who creates realistic portraits of senior Cuban citizens using reclaimed wood panels from Trinidad’s classic shutters and doors. Share in a typical lunch together at a local “paladar”, a privately-owned restaurant. Have some free time to explore the city before we depart for Camaguey. Arrive in Camaguey and check in at the hotel followed by dinner at a local paladar. (B,L,D)

Have a nice breakfast at the hotel, then set out on the town. Your first activity will be to see Camagüey the way that many locals do: by bicitaxi. Your driver will manually cycle you to some of the best highlights of the city such as the main plazas (Plaza del Gallo, Plaza de los Trabajadores, Plaza Ignacio Agramonte, and Plaza San Juan de Dios) and unique streets. Then, artist Martha Jimenez will welcome you into her workshop and art gallery where you will find many examples of her fine sculptures, ceramics, and paintings. Listen to her explain the meanings and significances behind her work as you admire her pieces. Next, watch as students at the Vicentina de la Torre Art School learn to perfect their skills and prepare for auditions. You will also see students practicing other talents and preparing for different exhibitions. Art, drawing, painting, design, and sculpture are all expanded on at Vicentina de la Torre. Enjoy lunch at a paladar before heading to the Casanova Pottery Studio to see up close how they create their trademark “tinajones,” earthenware pots made of clay and other materials that line the streets of Camagüey, designed to collect rainwater. Return to hotel and enjoy dinner at a paladar. (B,L,D)

After breakfast depart Camagüey and head to Santiago de Cuba. On the way, stop in Bayamo and visit the museum Casa Natal de Cespedes. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes is considered the father of Cuba as he drafted the declaration of Cuban independence in 1868 and started the Ten Years’ War. Visit his birth home which is where he spent the first 12 years of his life. There is a nice collection of relics and memorabilia, and the architecture is also notable from those early years. After lunch at a local paladar, depart for Santiago de Cuba. Stop at the little village of El Cobre, the home of the Virgen de la Caridad, or Virgin of Charity, the protectress of Cuba. The faithful come from all corners of the island to come pay their respects. And, located at the base of the Sierra Maestra, the natural panoramas are simply spectacular. Check in at the hotel followed by dinner at a local paladar. (B,L,D)

Start with breakfast at your hotel then head out for a full day of discovery in Santiago de Cuba. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest urban center on the island after Havana, which means it serves as the capital of the East. About half a million people call this city home and during the Cuban Revolution, some of the most important battles were fought here including an armed attack on the Moncada Barracks by Fidel Castro. Also, it was in this city that the end of the Revolution was declared. Today, the city is a modern oasis resting just beyond the mountains, and your guide will explain its deep cultural heritage and history with you. Then head to the University of Santiago de Cuba. The University of Santiago is the main school this side of the island and focuses on the humanities and the sciences. Meet with different professors and students to gain their perspectives on education in Cuba. Depart for El Morro and visit the San Pedro de la Roca Castle. El Morro is found at the Santiago port and was once the safeguard built by the Spanish to keep out enemies. Visit the fortress and also enjoy fantastic views of the bay and mountains behind you. After lunch at a local paladar visit Santa Ifigenia Cemetery. This is a peaceful resting place for some notable Cuban figures which your guide will explain, including the ashes of Fidel Castro and writer José Martí. There is also a regular Changing of the Guard which you should be able to witness! Stop for a picture at the Revolution Square before returning to the hotel for dinner at a paladar. (B,L,D)

After breakfast depart Santiago de Cuba and head to Holguin. On the way, stop in Biran birthplace of Fidel Castro. See the original house where he grew up and learn about the historical figure’s earliest years. Once you arrive in Holguin, visit the art gallery of local artist Yuri Urquiza. He works in various mediums, making this visit an interesting interaction with a skilled creative on the island. See his gallery and workspace and hear about his challenges and successes of working in Cuba. After lunch at a paladar, enjoy a performance and interact with the artists at the Neon Theater. Exchange with both children and adults at this theater company known for its puppetry. The students enact very creative use of black lights to put on elaborate puppet shows. See how they make their characters, hear their stories, and revel in their dreams and achievements! Arrive to the hotel and check in. Tonight enjoy a farwell dinner at a local paladar. (B,L,D)

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel this morning before heading to the airport for your return flight home from your amazing Cuba adventure. (B)

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