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Day 1: Arrive in Havana
Upon arrival in Havana, you are transferred to Havana's famous Vedado where you can settle in and wander the lively and wide streets of one of the first aristocratic neighborhoods in the capital. Havana is bustling with museums, plazas, art galleries and prominent buildings dating from the 18th to the 20th century.
Day 2: Havana Sites & Afro Cuban Religion
This morning, we begin our Cuban adventure with a visit to a local farmer's market as an introduction to Cuba's dynamic culture. We then 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 walk by the old Palaces of Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (former office and home to Spanish governors) the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, the Castillo de la Real Fuerza and the monument to Havana's foundation, where you will learn about their historic significance and have plenty of time to take photographs.
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. This will be an amazing opportunity to learn about Cuba's education system and interact with the staff at the local school. From here we visit a state-run supply store to learn about the supply and distribution of goods in Cuba.
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. You will notice this impressive landscape as we make our way to Pinar del Rio city, the largest urban community in the western most part of the island. This is also the capital for the best tobacco in the world. We visit the Francisco Donatien cigar factory which produces a range of fine Cuban cigars. Here we gain insight as to the process of making a cigar.
Day 5: To Cienfuegos via the Marshlands
Today we have a very busy day which starts with a four hour drive along the main highway as we make our way to the east side of the island. We stop for lunch enroute before visiting the museum devoted to the Bay of Pigs. From here, we enjoy a guided walk through Zapata National Park, a Biosphere Reserve. 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 local guide will explain the environmental and educational community program being implemented by the local authorities in additional to providing information about the local flora and fauna.
Day 6: Cienfuegos Sites, Sunset Cruise
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 start our day by meeting a local historian and enjoy the city's highlights, including a walking tour passing by the Plaza Marti, the Cathedral and the Tomas Terry theater. We drive to lunch before visiting the Palacio de Valle - an architectural jewel which was originally a private residence of a wealthy sugar baron.
Day 7: Social Cuba, Colonial Trinidad (UNESCO)
After breakfast we visit Casa de Abuelos, a seniors center, one of the many government run institutions where members organize around cultural activities, eco-excursions and are provided with medical attention and nutritious meals. We then make our way to the Graphic Society of Cienfuegos. They will host our group by opening their doors to our questions and their artwork. This community of artists carries out important community work by complimenting the training of art school students. They also work with children with disabilities to improve their quality of life.
Day 8: Cuban Percussion, Beach Time
Today, we have an opportunity to learn Cuban percussion led by David Lopez Garabito who has toured with the group Hecho en Cuba (Made in Cuba). After working up an appetite, we enjoy our lunch in town.
Day 9: Escambray Mountains, to 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'.
Day 10: Santa Clara - Revolution Sites
Today we explore the many highlights of the lively university town of Santa Clara. We first visit the local headquarters of the Cuban Communist Party where we visit Ernesto Che Guevara's monument and statue to learn more about his life. We continue by foot to the armoured train park museum and learn how this was one of the biggest turning points of the revolution.
Day 11: Hemingway's Home, Classic American Cars & Tropicana Cabaret
Today we make our way back to Havana. Enroute, we visit the quiet seaside town of Cojimar, the little town that inspired Hemingway or "Papa" to write "The Old Man and the Sea". This is the same location where the writer kept his boat "Pilar" docked during his years in Cuba. We enjoy a daiquiri (one of Hemingway's preferred cocktails) at Las Terrazas de Cojimar Bar, followed by lunch in a private seafood restaurant.
Day 12: Havana - Entrepreneurship, Buena Vista Social Club
This morning, we have an opportunity to meet with a true Cuban entrepreneur, whose passion is the driving force behind not only keeping vintage cars on the road, but restoring them to their former glory. A passion inherited from his father (a GM auto mechanic), meet the son who has appeared on CNN and the BBC, has met John Kerry and whose wife went to the White House to receive an entrepreneurial recognition from President Obama. Our visit however is much more than just restoration of these classic 1950's Chevy's, BelAirs and Oldsmobiles, our visit will give a tremendous insight into the present day revolution happening in Cuba in terms of private ownership, entrepreneurship, the social impact and a glimpse into what the future holds for Cuba and its citizens. Just a reminder, despite his recent fame and recognition, he does not work in an ivory tower but a real working auto garage. What comes out however, is rather impressive.
Day 13: Depart Havana
Our Cuban adventure concludes with a transfer to Havana Airport.
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