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Day 1: Arrive in Havana
Upon arrival in Havana, you are transferred to our hotel. Havana is bustling with museums, plazas, art galleries and prominent buildings dating from the 18th to the 20th century. Overnight in Havana.
Day 2: Havana city sites
This morning, we enjoy a walking tour of Habana Vieja (Old Havana). We will visit the open-air plazas of San Francisco, Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja and Plaza de la Cathedral. We will also walk by the old Palaces of Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the Palacio del Segundo Cabo and Castillo de la Real Fuerza.
Day 3: Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve
We head off this morning for Western Cuba to visit the first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the country, known as Sierra del Rosario. A bird watching paradise, this area is famed for the diversity of its natural beauty, lush woods, waterfalls, rare orchids and ferns. We will learn about the environmental experiences and the role of the community with a hike through this fascinating reserve, rich in local flora and fauna. We also visit the ruins of the Buena Vista coffee plantation where hundreds of slaves worked for French landlords. Later we will stop at Las Terrazas, a self sustained community initiated in 1967 and where 5000 hectares of terraced trees were planted in a major reforestation project.
Day 4: Vinales Valley, Indian's Cave
The Valley of Vinales is a picturesque, peaceful, lush area of Cuba, known for its fine tobacco fields and for its mogotes, the boulder-like hills that cover the valley floor.
Day 5: To Cienfuegos via the Marshlands
This morning we will travel east four hours to visit another Biosphere Reserve, Zapata National Park. This is the largest and best preserved wetlands in the Caribbean. Located in the peninsula of the same name, the Zapata Park covers an area of over 1,930 square miles. The area is outstanding for the great diversity of its ecosystems, in which more than 1,000 species of plants and 37 species of reptiles. The diversity of bird life is also outstanding: a full 170 species of the 354 bird species reported in Cuba can be found here. The park is considered one of the premier bird watching destinations in the world. Our guide will explain the environmental and educational community program being implemented by the local authorities, as well as give us information about the local flora and fauna.
Day 6: Cienfuegos and Social Cuba
Cienfuegos is one of Cuba's youngest cities, founded in 1819. It has a vibrant youthful population and diverse architecture of neo-classical buildings. We will see the city's highlights, including Plaza Marti, the Cathedral, the Tomas Terry theatre and the Palacio de Valle - an architectural jewel which was originally a private residence of a wealthy sugar baron. After lunch, we will have a chance to visit a Casa de Abuelos (seniors center) where members organize around cultural activities, eco-excursions, and are provided with medical attention and nutritious meals.
Day 7: Colonial Trinidad (UNESCO)
This morning, enroute to the small town of Trinidad, we will visit the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden which dates back to 1899. We continue on to the charming town of Trinidad, Cuba's best-preserved colonial architecture and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the early 19th century, French settlers fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti arrived and cultivated sugar cane, bringing wealth to the region. The town has changed very little over the last 150 years and UNESCO has restored many of its French colonial buildings. Trinidad is a small, relaxed place where you can see Cuban cowboys riding their horses in the streets.
Day 8: Afro Cuban Religion and Arts
This morning we visit the house of Santero in Trinidad where we shall learn more about the Santeria religion. We then have an opportunity to learn Cuban Percussion led by David Lopez Garabito who has toured with the group Hecho en Cuba (Made in Cuba).
Day 9: Escambay Mountains, Santa Clara
Today we leave for Santa Clara city located right in the center of Cuba. The city was founded in 1689 and was the battlefield for one of the most important victories of Fidel Castro's guerrilla war against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1958. Commander 'Che' Guevara was the undisputed leader and hero of the so-called 'Batalla de Santa Clara'. We will make our way through the Escambray Mountians, Cuba's second highest mountain range, reaching 3,700 ft. The mountains are home to small mountain villages and are a delight for birders and walkers alike. Slopes are swathed in Caribbean pines, ancient tree-ferns, bamboo and eucalyptus. We will take a 40 minute mountain truck ride into the forest to La Codina, an old Spanish Hacienda, once part of a large Spanish coffee plantation. We begin our hike with a talk on various plants and their medicinal uses, originally used to treat the plantation's slaves. We finish up back at the Hacienda where a traditional Cuban lunch awaits us. We continue on to Santa Clara city, where we will stay for the next two nights. Overnight in Santa Clara.
Day 10: Santa Clara, Che's Monument & the Revolution
Today, we explore the lively university town of Santa Clara, where the main square (Parque Vidal) is bursting with local spirit, and ranks as one of Santa Clara's highlights. We will see Santa Clara's many other highlights including the Ernesto Che Guevara monument commemorating the man and the vital part he played in the armed struggle against General Batista's dictatorship. Visit the armored train park museum and learn how this was one of the biggest turning points of the revolution.Santa. After lunch we visit a Cuban Cigar Factory where we will see first hand the care and knowledge that goes into producing arguably the best cigars in the world. Overnight in Santa Clara.
Day 11: Havana & the 50's, Classic American Cars & Tropicana Cabaret
Today we drive back to Havana through picturesque countryside. Enroute we visit the Tano Village along the Hanabana River, which empties into Laguna del Tesoro, one of the largest lakes in the country. Here is where we shall find the restored Taino Indian village. The Tainos were one of the three groups of Indians who lived in Cuba prior to the Spanish conquest. Our guide will provide us with more information about the local flora and fauna before we enjoy our boat journey to the Taino Indian village. Upon our return, we shall enjoy lunch at La Boca Restaurant before making our way back to Havana.
Day 12: Havana - a last glimpse, Hemingway's home
There is so much to see and do in this marvelous city... and our busy day includes as much as possible. In the morning we will visit a rum museum and learn about the process of making rum.
Day 13: Depart Havana
Our Cuban adventure concludes with a transfer to Havana Airport to board your international flights homeward.
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