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A superb introduction to this fascinating island nation. Explore the twisting alleyways of Trinidad, visit the resting place of Che Guevara, watch classic cars pass by Havana's stunning colonial buildings and dance the night away to live salsa bands.
Explore Tour Leader
7 nights comfortable casas particulares
2 nights premium hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Havana. Built around a deep natural harbour, Havana is one of the most impressive cities in the Americas. It's also one of the most exciting: the modern city is a fascinating mix of old and new, with crumbling tenement blocks and 1950s American Cadillacs rubbing shoulders with grand colonial buildings and monuments to the revolution.
Due to the number of evening flights into Havana, our local Leader plans to do the welcome briefing in the morning of day two, and will leave a message for us with details on timings and everything else that we'll need for the day. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Havana at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (airport code HAV) which is 23km, around 45 minutes from the airport. A representative from our local partners in Cuba will meet you at Havana Airport and assist you with the transfer formalities.
During this trip, we stay in 'casas particulares', or local guesthouses, a style of accommodation unique to Cuba. The industry began in the early '90s when entrepreneurial homeowners rented out rooms in their houses for a little extra cash, a side hustle that was initially illegal in a country that did not allow for private enterprise. In 1997 the Cuban government legalised the business, and while you can now find some large casas that are run more as a typical bed and breakfast, the majority, particularly in Havana, are still a couple of rooms in the owner's house. The beauty of the casas is that each one is very different. You will have ensuite bathrooms, hot water, a delicious breakfast and air conditioning across the board, but that is where the similarities end. Décor and aesthetics vary dramatically not just between cities but also between streets. Some are still the primary residence for the owners, which is a great opportunity to interact with local people, or practice your Spanish. In other cases, the owner may live elsewhere. In Trinidad, you may have some outdoor space, whether it is a terrace, balcony or courtyard, while in Havana many are located in Communist-style apartments. So while everyone's experience will be different, we like to use them as an alternative to staying in standard hotels, one that offers a new perspective on Cuban life.
Our airport transfer will take us to a 'reception' casa in Havana (details of which will be in your final Joining Instructions), where you will be met by the host and shown to your room in one of the other casas located nearby. For each group we use around 3-6 different casas in the Vedado area of Havana. There are several restaurants and bars within walking distance, or a short taxi ride away in Old Havana.
Casa Particulares - Havana (or similar)
Comfortable Casas Particulares
Today, we explore modern-day Havana, with its mixture of restored and crumbling architectural marvels. Walking through the Vieja (old) district, we will discover the baroque cathedral, beautiful neoclassical buildings and the Plaza de Armas (main square). On our travels, we'll notice the lack of advertising - in it's place there are many hyperbolic political slogans and references to the revolution. Passing by the famous Capitolio building, modelled on the White House, we'll notice the lines of amazing brightly-painted vintage cars - the result of legislation enforced until 2011 ruling that only cars built before the 1959 revolution could be sold.
During your free hours this afternoon, you may choose to visit the fascinating Museum of the Revolution, housed in the impressive former Presidential Palace. The Museum of Artes Decorativas is also worth a visit, a stunning collection of furniture, porcelain and art pieces from the 16th to 20th centuries, housed in one of Vedado's grandest mansions. In the late afternoon, once the freshening cool breeze blows in from the Caribbean, you may be tempted to enjoy a lively sunset stroll along the Malecon. Alternatively, you may prefer to visit one of the famous cigar factories.
Later this afternoon, we will get into Cuba's quintessential culture with a rum and tobacco pairing. We follow this with a salsa class, where you can learn some steps to Cuba's classic dance.
This evening, we have the option to sample some of the capital's famous nightlife, where you might like to try those newly learnt salsa moves! The Hotel Ambos Mundos is a Hemingway landmark where the 1954 Nobel Prize winner and author of 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' lived for several years. Its roof terrace serves up exceptional mojitos - the traditional Cuban cocktail. Likewise, there are a number of excellent bars in both Old Havana and Vedado where live music is played and the cocktails flow freely.
After travelling a couple of hours west, we reach what is arguably the most picturesque part of Cuba - the Vinales region. Here, surreal mountains jut out of the landscape, formed by the erosion of limestone over millions of years. These 'mogotes' translate as 'haystacks' - a good word for them considering their steep sides and rounded, jungly tops. Around them, the iron-rich, red soil creates a patchwork of fields growing some of the best tobacco in the world - the raw material for Cuba's celebrated cigars.
Before our return to Havana for the night, we have a two-hour walk through the valleys of this remarkable landscape to the village of El Palmarito. Mogotes tower above us as we pass through tobacco fields and past drying barns, and during our walk we'll learn a lot more about Cuba's prolific cigar-making industry, which really stems from the plants growing in this region.
Today, we head east across Cuba, driving through giant citrus and sugar plantations and out on to the Zapata Peninsula. Our journey is broken up with a wonderful swimming opportunity in a 'cenote' (pool) where the ceiling of an underground river has collapsed. We plan to arrive in Playa Giron by mid-afternoon. Here we will visit the museum dedicated to the infamous 'Bay of Pigs' invasion - a US-supported attack by Cuban exiles which failed to overthrow the Communist regime in 1961.
Our journey continues, past the wooded Escambray Mountains and hugging the coastline, with views over the sparkling turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. By early evening, we will arrive at our hotel just outside the beautiful Spanish colonial town of Trinidad - our base for the next three nights, where we will enjoy local hospitality staying in casas particulares once again.
Casa Particulares - Trinidad (or similar)
This morning, we wander through the cobbled streets of the old centre of Trinidad, discovering its fine palaces, churches and cafes. A paradise for photographers, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a perfectly preserved colonial settlement unlike any other. In the early 19th century, French settlers fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti, landed here and started to grow sugar cane in the Valle de Los Ingenios. This crop generated considerable wealth and consequently the town had to be regularly defended from pirates.
Subject to opening hours, we will visit a local museum before some free time where you may wish to wander for longer through Trinidad's streets to soak up more of the unique atmosphere. It's worth climbing the stairs of the bell tower at the small Museo de la Lucha contra Bandidos, purely for the views across the roofs of Trinidad out to the Caribbean at one side and the Escambray mountains at the other. In the evening, you may wish to head to the open-air Casa de la Musica, just off the main square, where live bands and salsa dancing locals do their thing until late.
Today is free for you to enjoy more of Cuba's beautiful landscapes and fascinating culture at your own pace. You may wish to take the short journey out to the Sugar Mills Valley to Manaca Iznaga where you will have the opportunity to visit the old plantation home of the Family Iznaga, one of the richest in Trinidad during colonial times, climbing their bell tower for views across the valley. Another option is to head into the Escambray Mountains to the Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve Park. With its acres of unspoilt forest, this area is famous for its many endemic species of flora and fauna, particularly birdlife. There are several different options involving short walks through the coffee growing area and rainforest. Most trips will drive up to some incredible viewpoints and several of the options offer an opportunity of a refreshing swim in one of its waterfalls finished off with a traditional creole lunch in one of the local haciendas. Your leader will run through these different options with you.
Alternatively, you may wish to visit the deserted island of Cayo Blanco. Here you can eat fresh paella, relax on the beach and snorkel in the coral wilderness. Snorkelling equipment is not always available, so keen snorkelers might prefer to bring their own.
Today we bid farewell to Trinidad and make our way back to Havana, via Santa Clara. This pleasant university town was originally a prosperous agricultural area, well-placed on the island's trading route. Now, it is most famous as the site of the last battle of the Revolution, in which Che Guevara's troops took the city, causing the Cuban dictator, Batista, to flee into exile.
After visiting the Tren Blindado Memorial commemorating this historic event, we move on to Che's Mausoleum. Guevara was buried here with full military honours in 1997 after his exhumed remains were discovered in Bolivia and returned to Cuba. A flame lit by Fidel Castro burns eternally to honour a national hero who played a key role in Cuba's revolution and whose image is routinely displayed throughout the country. We will also visit the museum dedicated to Guevara's life, containing many interesting letters and artefacts.
This evening, we return to Havana to enjoy a final dinner and probably a dance.
Today we say good bye to those that are not extending their stay, before travelling to Playa Jibacoa for our stay on the beach. We'll be leaving in the afternoon in time for our afternoon check-in, and around an hour's drive brings us to our beach hotel, the 4* Memories Jibacoa, where we will be spending the next two nights relaxing. Whether you would like to lie in the sun, soaking up some warmth, or take a dip in the beautiful ocean; your time at Jibacoa can be as active or as relaxing as you feel. If you fancy stretching your legs the town is backed by a limestone ridge, with excellent cliff top views and some easy paths for you to enjoy.
Please note that whilst this beach extension has been designed to complement the trip, we wish to point out that it may not be a group experience and you may not be travelling with other customers.
Memories Jibacoa (or similar)
Today we have the full day at leisure on the beach. Our hotel here is an all-inclusive, which means that you are at your leisure to enjoy everything that the beach and hotel have to offer. The area is blessed with a coral reef located just a few metres from shore, and the hotel provides snorkelling gear and kayaks for you to explore the turquoise waters and reef. Nestled between the leafy mountains and golden sands, the hotel is beautifully situated with a tempting pool and lush green hills with easy-to-follow trails for keen hikers, offering spectacular views over the ocean.
Your trip ends in Playa Jibacoa this morning after breakfast.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If you would like to receive an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (airport code: HAV) which is around 1.5 hours from the hotel. Depending on your flight time, you may need to check-out of the hotel before your airport transfer but you will still be able to make use of the hotel's services until your departure, and there is baggage storage available for you.
The dry season is from November to April. Average temperatures are 22-26C. Though the sky is often cloudless during the dry season, cold wet snaps do come in from North America especially in Dec and Jan, when the temperatures can drop to as low as 5C at night. From May to October there are normally fine mornings and clear evenings, afternoon rains tend to be short & heavy. Temperatures are hot and humid.
2 Pin Flat and 2 Pin Round
Havana - Museo de la Revolucion and Arte Colonial CUP 200, Rum museum CUP 240; American Car excursion 40 EURO or 40 US$ per hour Trinidad - Cayo Las Iguanas boat excursion US$ 50 plus 10 EURO per taxi (upt to 4); Salsa classes US$ 10 per hour; Half day visit to Playa Ancon - 10 EURO per taxi each way; Topes de Collantes - Trinitopes (3km moderate trail) inc. only on Tuesday and Friday (30.00 USD); Half day Jeep safari Trip to Hacienda La Gallega inc. lunch 47.00 USD (min 2 pers.) Please note - most museums in Cuba charge for use of cameras and camcorders, this can be up to CUP 125 per usage.
Include light cotton clothing plus a warmer layer for the evenings when it can get cool. A light fleece and waterproof would be useful except December-January when a heavier fleece and waterproof are recommended. An umbrella is useful in the rainy season.
Comfortable trail boots, plus trainersandals for the evening. Water sandals may be useful.
One main piece of luggage and a small rucksack for day use. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage - don't over load yourself.
Water bottle, towel, torch, sunblock, insect repellent, sunglasses, sun hat and swimwear. You may wish to bring your own snorkelling equipment (see days 6 and 7) (usually available locally to rent).
Throughout this trip you will be staying in casas particulares - this is a Spanish term meaning private accommodation or homestay in Cuba. Staying in a casa offers the visitor a unique opportunity to experience Cuban hospitality in local accommodation adapted for tourism. The number of rooms, quality, facilities and access to other areas of the house such as the living room varies massively but as a general rule the majority of Casas are clean, basic, centrally located and can host only a handful of guests. Some Casas are run by the owner and the members of the family that live there, while others are run more as 'B&Bs', where the owners are not on the premises. Your Explore Leader will coordinate accommodation arrangements on tour.
Food supplies to Cuba are sometimes in short supply as a result of their economic situation as well as the restrictions due to the US embargo. It's not uncommon for restaurants and hotels to run short of ingredients, or to have a lack of variety in breakfast buffets. You usually won't have your pick of the menu as supplies can change on a daily basis. You certainly won't go hungry, but lowering your expectations and having a bit of flexibility is necessary. All that said, what is served in private establishments is usually fresh and often organic, and the food at the haciendas is particularly good.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Cuba: Visas or Tourist cards are required by all nationalities travelling to Cuba. Explore can only supply the Cuban Tourist Cards to citizens of the EU, Canada, Australia and New Zealand who are resident in the UK. This currently costs £15. Please contact Explore or your Travel Agent to arrange this service and we will send your tourist card with your final documentation. Alternatively they can be obtained directly through Cuban embassies and consulates. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. You are required to complete a health declaration for in order to enter Cuba - This form can be found here - https://www.dviajeros.mitrans.gob.cu/inicio Due to US Treasury Department Regulations we are unable to accept bookings from US passport holders. These Regulations set out different categories under which it is possible for US citizens to travel to Cuba; our trips do not fall under any of the permissible categories. As a tour operator we have an obligation to follow legal procedures, and as such we are unable to sell our trips to US passport holders. Travelling for tourism reasons directly from the USA to Cuba isn't allowed under US law. The law applies to US nationals and all foreign nationals who are either resident in the USA, or travelling through the USA en route to Cuba. Those travelling on direct flights between the UK and Cuba, or via other countries excluding the USA, are unaffected by this US legislation. Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, TB, infectious hepatitis and polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.