Central Holidays

Your “City and the Sea” people-to-people experience begins with arrival in Havana airport where you will be met by your local, English speaking tour director and depart to Matanzas. Along the picturesque drive, we will stop at the highest bridge in Cuba – Puente de Bacunayagua – where you will have the opportunity to take photos of the breathtaking scenery. Your first taste of authentic Cuban cuisine awaits you today with lunch at Hotel Velasco. After lunch, embark on a panoramic city tour of Matanzas known as the “City of Bridges” named for the seventeen bridges found here. Tour the wellpreserved El Museo Farmaceútico, an old French Colonial pharmacy formerly known as Botica La Francesa that was originally founded in 1882. During an illuminating tour you will discover the museum’s interesting exhibits and collections including, a prizewinning dispensary table (winner of a bronze medal in the Paris Exposition of 1900), together with tools used for the production of medicines. Next visit the Ediciones Vigia to see how a book was made in years past and then our journey continues to your hotel in Varadero. Enjoy a welcome dinner at your hotel this evening. (L,D)

A full agenda of exciting activities are planned for you in coastal Varadero today beginning with a cultural exchange at the Casa de la Cultura and the Danzón Club where you can learn some Cuban dance moves. Continue to the Escuela de Artes Plásticas to tour this art school with its director and have a chance to speak with students and professors about the projects they are working on while seeing them up close. Lunch this afternoon is hosted at the Xanadu mansion (Casa Dupont) including a welcome drink at the rooftop bar of the mansion with spectacular views over Varadero and the sea. A quick 10-minute drive lands us in the town of Cardenas where your cultural Cuban experience continues including a visit to a rationing store, historic tour and meeting with students at the Galería de Jóvenes Aficionados de Cardenas. This evening your dinner is included at the hotel with plenty of time to don your dancing shoes and salsa the night away in one of the many area nightclubs and bars. (B,L,D)

Explore Matanzas further, stopping first at the music Conservatory and enjoying a live performance by students. Next, visit La Finca Coincidencia – Coincidencia farm, where you will see the array of native fruit varieties that the farmer and agriculturist with the help and work of his family have taken great care in preserving. Founded by Hector Correa in 1987, this is also the site of the area's first ceramics workshop in Matanzas, blending art with nature. Here you will savor a fresh farm-to-table lunch and engage in an interactive discussion with the farmer and his crew. The day’s active adventures continue with an enriching visit to a community project and dinner at your hotel in Varadero this evening. (B,L,D)

After breakfast at your hotel we depart Varadero this morning and head to the capital, Havana. In this colorful and storied city you will have the opportunity to discover old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and to explore its four main plazas. Here you will learn about the challenges of renovating the city’s exquisite historic buildings, and see some of the area’s elegant restorations as you stroll the charming cobblestone streets. Enjoy a visit to a local church and delve into a community project at Convento de Belén. Take time to explore the area with plenty of choices for lunch on your own. Next, head out to the ornate Vedado neighborhood and tour the Colón Cemetery showcasing many elaborately sculpted memorials, including some 500 chapels, mausoleums and family vaults. You will discover the cemetery’s captivating history and folklore, and hear stories about the many prominent people laid to rest here, including musicians, filmmakers, writers, politicians, and major League baseball players. Visit the tomb of La Milagrosa – the “miraculous one” visited by Cubans as a pilgrimage site believed by many to have healing influences. Tonight, savor the tantalizing Cuban cuisine at Paladar La Moneda Cubana and then visit the Morro Castle for the nightly Cannon Ceremony. Later you have the exclusive opportunity to join in an optional evening of entertainment at La Zorra y el Cuervo one of the best known venues for jazz in Havana that hosted such well-known jazz icons as Chucho Valdés and George Benson. (B,D)

Start your day with an enlightening tour of a Cuban cigar factory where many of the world’s most revered cigars are made. Visit the Parraga Day Care Center and have a personal exchange with directors and staff. A trendy, bohemian-chic ambiance welcomes you at Paladar Café Laurent for lunch in this privately owned restaurant. After lunch, you will visit el Museo National de Bellas Artes -- the museum of fine Arts, comprised of two buildings exhibiting inspired collections from the colonial times up to contemporary works. The landmark Hotel Nacional welcomes you for drinks in the “Bar de la Fama,” frequented over its time-honored history by world-famous celebrities from Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra to John Wayne and countless others. Moments to cherish continue with free time to enjoy the magic and mystique of Cuba on your own this afternoon and evening. An ultraenriching optional excursion tonight offers you the exclusive opportunity to discover Havana’s Fabrica de Arte Cubano, an independent project and meeting place where the island’s avant-garde arts can be enjoyed, with all kinds of arts – music, painting, dance, and more – featured under one roof and offered at prices that make it accessible to the majority of Cubans. (B,L)

Power up with breakfast at your hotel then depart for Pinar del Rio. Today's journey takes you to the eco-village of Las Terrazas, a UNESCO Biosphere reserve and site of the earliest surviving coffee plantations in Cuba. Tour this picturesque white-washed village that overlooks a lake and features a community filled with art studios and workshops, then visit a local clinic for a people-to-people interchange. Enjoy lunch at Cafetal Buena Vista before heading back to Havana. The capital city of this fascinating island nation beckons with the afternoon and evening at leisure for you to explore and discover Havana at your own pace. See the amazing sights, get to know the locals, sample flavorful Cuban dishes at one of the many family owned paladar restaurant, then venture along to check out the lively nightlife at one of the many acclaimed music and dance performances such as inspirations from The Buena Vista Social Club or a Cuban cabaret show at the world-famous Tropicana. (B,L)

This morning, your adventure starts with a visit to the coastal village of Cojimar where you will take part in a lively exchange with local fisherman. Then it’s on too Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemmingway's winter home from 1939 to 1960. It was built in 1886 and now serves as a museum where visitors can see his 9,000 volume library, living quarters, his yacht “Pilar,”as well as the actual typewriter on which he wrote some of his greatest works. Next, you will visit Finca Yoandra in Havana to learn about their sustainable agriculture outreach project. Sip on a Cuban cocktail while you tour the medicinal gardens and interact with the representatives from community projects for children and the elderly. Then, enjoy lunch at the finca’s privately owned restaurant, or “paladar”, Il Divino. As the day continues, prepare to be awed by the extraordinary, innovative percussion sounds during a special dance performance by Habana Compas dance troop. Return to the hotel and get ready for this evening's farewell celebration. Tonight we will head out to Old Havana for dinner at Paladar La California, a privately owned restaurant set in a beautiful Cuban home. (B,L,D)

After breakfast this morning, you will be transferred to the airport in Havana for your short return flight to the USA with amazing memories from your City and the Sea people-topeople experience in Cuba. (B)

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