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Explore the scenic beauty and cultural highlights of Cuba on two wheels. Cycle on quiet roads along the Caribbean coast to historic Trinidad, past striking limestone landscapes in Vinales and through tropical forests in Topes de Collantes.
Explore Tour Leader
9 nights simple casas particulares
5 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Our tour begins in Havana. Built around a deep natural harbour, Havana is one of the most impressive colonial cities surviving in the Americas today. Crumbling tenement buildings and 50s style American Cadillacs rub shoulders with white marble grandeur and the still audible echoes of the Cuban Revolution. The largest city in the Caribbean and Cuba's political and cultural heart, it is the perfect place to start our journey. In Havana we stay in 'casas particulares' - family-run guesthouses.
On arrival to the main joining point casa in the Vedado district of Havana (Mara's House: Calle 29 # 210 e/ B y C, Vedado, La Habana) you will be met by your host and shown to your room in one of the local guesthouses in the surrounding area. Each casa can only accommodate a handful of guests, giving you a great opportunity to interact with your hosts. At night the city's legendary music and cocktails bars come into their own, in both Vedado, where your casa particular is, as well as Old Havana, a short taxi ride away.
Due to the number of evening flights into Havana, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two at 8am after breakfast.
There are no 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 Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), which is a 30 minute drive away.
Casa Particulares - Havana Vedado (or similar)
Simple Casas Particulares
Havana boasts a sheer abundance of great buildings that reflect its importance centuries ago when all the Spanish galleons passed through with their freight of gold and silver, brought in from colonies in the Americas. We meet after breakfast at 8am for the welcome briefing and later this morning, during a relaxed walk through the old town we will take in the most important sites and buildings. After lunch we head off by bus to Soroa, nestling in the forested hills about an hour west of Havana. After checking in there may be time to strectch our legs on a walk, perhaps up to the top of a hill with views over the surrounding mountains and towards the sea.
Villa Soroa (or similar)
Today we take our first bike ride with an excursion into the surrounding hills. The cycling is very rewarding - through almost tropical forests with plenty of flowers and interesting plants along the way - eventually leading us to the enchanting settlement of Las Terrazas, perched on the edge of a lake and the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Sierra de Rosario. This is an internationally acclaimed reforestation project and model '70s communist settlement, set in the mountains at altitudes of around 500m/1640ft where pine forests alternate with old coffee plantations. There is the chance for a swim in a natural pool in the San Juan river before we have lunch. You have the chance to try Cuba's most original, community-run vegetarian restaurant. Afterwards we head back to our hotel in Soroa by bus. Keen cyclists can do a few more miles if they wish. The support bus can only accompany short sections at the beginning and end of today's cycle route due to road conditions.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 21 kilometres/13 miles (300m/985ft ascent)
Early this morning there is a chance to visit the splendid Soroa orchid garden. We start cycling downhill out of the Sierra, using smaller roads and a quieter section of Cuba's Carretera Central. We will cycle through picturesque countryside with rolling hills, palm trees and farmhouses in small hamlets, eventually arriving in the Cuban spa town of San Diego de los Baños. The surrounding virgin countryside and forests are fabulous.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 58 kilometres/36 miles (100m/328ft ascent)
Mirador Hotel (or similar)
We continue cycling along Cuba's dramatic western mountain range, passing banana and coffee plantations and tobacco fields in one of the most remote rural areas of this trip. We will stop at the Cueva de los Portales - a famous site in the jungle where Che Guevara set up headquarters during the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962. Soon we will see the first views of the Viñales Valley - one of Cuba's natural highlights and an area of outstanding beauty. The area is home to some of the most spectacular and colourful scenery in Cuba. Millions of years ago underground rivers cut tunnels through the limestone hills and when the roofs collapsed, strange hills or 'Mogotes' were left sticking up from the otherwise flat valley floor. In between the jungle-clad saw tooth karst mountains the rich, red soil has been worked into a patchwork of fields growing some of the best tobacco in the world - the raw material for the famous Havana cigars. The cycle distance today is 43 killometre/26.6 miles if starting from Cueva de lo Portales and there is the option to extend this to 58 killometre/36 miles by starting the ride from the hotel and paying a national park entrance fee directly (approx 5 CUC).
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 43 to 58 kilometres/26.6 to 36 miles (100 to 400m/328 to 1312ft ascent)
Casa Particulares - Vinales (or similar)
We spend two entire days in this strikingly beautiful area. Today we will start the day with an orientation tour of the Vinales Valley by bike, exploring the valley in depth as well as taking some time to stroll through Vinales itself - a small laid back town with a charming main street built in neo classical style, leaving the afternoon free to explore the area further. Those interested can visit the limestone cave 'Cueva del Indio' and the Botanical Gardens in Vinales. The support bus does not accompany the ride today but is on call in case needed.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 25 kilometres/15.5 miles.
Today is left free for taking it easy or perhaps by booking an excursion to Cayo Levisa, an island near Vinales just off the north coast with lovely beaches. Alternatively you may wish to take the bikes for some further exploration of the area.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 20 to 45 kilometres/12.4 to 28 miles (optional)
Today is a full day of travel to make our way to Cienfuegos. We commence the day with a bus ride (approx. 5-6 hrs) across western Cuba to the Bay of Pigs - infamous for the ill-fated invasion attempt by Cuban exiles who landed here in April 1961 with the help of the US government. The result is well known and successful Cuban resistance, together with the missile crisis a year later, led the Americans to conclude that only a total trade embargo against the island could hope to discredit and ultimately oust Castro. Castro's Cuba keeps on resisting, however. We will visit Cueva de Los Peces for a quick swim in this sinkhole or cenote that is connected to the warm Caribbean waters and has resident tropical fish. We continue by bus (1-2 hrs) to the elegant town of Cienfuegos which was founded in 1819 by French farmers who had abandoned their plantations in Haiti after a slave rebellion led to formal independence there. The French brought their classical construction style of houses and quite an entrepreneurial spirit, thus triggering the sugar boom in the area. Depending on our arrival time into Cienfuegos we will either visit the town today or tomorrow morning. We continue by bus for 15 minutes to our hotel on the outskirts of town in Cienfuegos playa.
No cycling today.
Rancha Luna (or similar)
We start our day with a quick exploration of Cienfuegos (if not visited yesterday) before driving for about 1 hour to Guajimico where we commence today's cycling with the backdrop of the Sierra Escambray Mountains getting ever more impressive as we get closer to Trinidad. We will have a chance to stop en route for a swim in the Caribbean at Yaguanabo beach before continuing by bike to Trinidad. The town became incredibly wealthy in the 18th and 19th century and almost all the palaces and stately homes of the rich families remain, their grandeur undiminished by time and the cobbled stone streets add extra charm to this colonial gem. In the evening we should go out in town to sample the great live music to be found everywhere in Trinidad. One of the best spots is the Casa de la Trova where they play 'Trova' (Cuban Folk Music) and 'Son', the essence of Salsa. Those with some basic knowledge in Latin dancing or at least the willingness to try it will be most welcomed. On arrival we will have a short orientation walk in town exploring the central square and surroundings. In Trinidad we enjoy local hospitality for three nights as we stay in Casas Particulares - Private houses.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 41 kilometres/25.4 miles (250m/820ft ascent)
Casa Particulares - Trinidad (or similar)
We have two full days to explore this wonderful town and its surroundings. Today we take a ride into the very scenic Valle de Ingenios (sugar cane valley) towards Santi Spiritus where we can see the old sugar mills. The support bus will accompany the ride and help take people back to Trinidad. There is the option to ride back unaccompanied. This afternoon we will visit the colonial heart of Trinidad on foot and hopefully have the opportunity to hear some live music.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 37 kilometres/23 miles (230m/755ft ascent)
Today is left free to take a very rewarding optional Catamaran trip to the small island of Cayo Blanco - where you can snorkel on the reef and enjoy a seafood lunch on the island. Alternatively you can relax on the beaches south of Trinidad.
Just a few miles behind Trinidad looms the Sierra Escambray, one of the three main mountain systems in Cuba. It has peaks up to 1100m/3600ft, an incredible abundance of tropical and semi-tropical vegetation on its slopes, and some of the best Cuban coffee is also produced here. Climbing up into the Sierra on the road from Trinidad is an experience, with slopes as steep as 20% (don't worry, we do this by bus!). Those wishing to do the toughest cycling challenge to be found in Cuba may want to try by leaving at the early hours of the day and being picked up by the group later. We start cycling after about 1.5 hour drive, on the highest sections of the road, near Topes de Collantes, a village and mountain retreat built in the early 1950s. From here it is one of the most scenic downhills through the jungle to be found anywhere in Cuba. Before leaving the mountains we can stop at a local coffee farmer's home to enjoying a meal and see the process of coffee tasting and of course we will try it as well! Then heading north, passing through the village of Jibacoa we finally reach the provincial town Manicaragua where we finish the cycling for today. Finally we drive (approx. 2 hrs) to the hotel in Santa Clara. This town played a role in the Cuban revolution, as it was here that Che Guevara won the decisive battle in December 1958 which led to the fall of Havana a few days later.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 35 kilometres/21.7 feet (350m/1150ft ascent)
Los Caneyes Hotel (or similar)
Santa Clara is a busy Cuban provincial town and home to the Che Guevara monument and mausoleum which we will visit together with a museum dedicated to his life. We continue by bus (2-3 hours) to Matanzas where we get back onto the bikes for an afternoon ride into the Yumuri Valley, surprisingly still unknown to most western visitors. Abundant vegetation, palm trees, crops and plenty of birds are to be enjoyed while cycling through our last stretch of rural Cuba. Once on the coastal road we continue to the stunning Bacunayagua canyon with a great viewpoint and allegedly the best Pina Colada served anywhere in Cuba. The support bus can only accompany short sections at the beginning and end of today's cycle route due to road conditions. Later we continue by bus for about an hour on to Havana.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 17 kilometres/10.5 miles (150m/500ft ascent)
Today is left free to explore Havana however you may wish to take an optional cycle to explore the capital. In spite of growing traffic this is still a wonderful way of getting to know different parts of town.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 23 kilometres/14.2 miles (100m/328ft ascent) (optional)
The trip ends after breakfast at our Casa Particular in Havana.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Havana at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), which is a 30 minute drive away.
Total distance : 360 kilometres
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 - Entrance to the Tobacco factory $10 cash; Museo de la Ciudad CUP10 cash; Colonial art museum CUP10 cash; Museo del Ron CUP350 cash; Bay of Pigs invasion Museum CUP200pp cash Soroa - Entrance fee to Orchids garden CUP400 cash; Viñales - Excursion to Cayo Levisa $65USD card (with transport) Trinidad - Catamaran trip to nearby islands: CUC 50 card Please note - most museums in Cuba charge for use of Camera's and Camcorders, this can be up to CUC 7 per usage.
Pack for warm and hot conditions. Bring cycling gear such as padded shorts, cycle gloves and quick drying cycle shirts. Remember weather is changeable in the mountains and it can be cool and wet in the high altitude of the Sierra Escambray or even on some evenings in Havana, so bring some warmer clothing too. Wet weather gear is essential at all times in case of rain. Don't forget your swimming costume.
If you are not bringing cycle shoes then try to bring stiff-soled shoes as these are better for cycling - transmitting your energy into the pedals more efficiently. This becomes more relevant and recommended the more demanding the grade and distances to cover. SPD cycle shoes are not well suited to tours that combine sightseeing with cycling. Comfortable shoes, trainers, sandals or flip flops are useful when not on the bike.
We recommend you bring a daypack and one main piece of luggage (total allowance: 44lb/20kg) which will be transported between hotels while you cycle. Check the bike details section to see if a pannier or handlebar bag is provided on the bike.
On all Explore cycle holidays we strongly recommend you bring along and wear your cycle helmet. In case of an accident resulting in personal injury, certain insurance policies are invalidated in cases where a helmet was not being worn. Cycle glasses to protect against dust, pollen and the sun, padded cycle gloves and a water bottle or water delivery system (e.g. camelback or platypus) are also useful. You may choose to bring your own gel seat cover for added comfort. If a handle bar bag or pannier is not provided (check bike details) then you may like to bring a small rucksack to wear while cycling. Other items to consider bringing are a sunhat and sun cream, torch, earplugs and insect repellent. Please carry some or all of your cycling equipment e.g. helmet as part of your hand luggage. It's also worth noting that it's almost impossible to find any isotonic or sports drinks in Cuba, so if this is something that you like while riding then we'd recommend you bring your own tablets along with you.
Accommodation and service levels in Cuba have improved in recent years but there is an ongoing trade embargo and lack of investment in infrastructure. Accommodation can be basic, particularly in some rural areas, occasionally with unreliable water and electricity supply. Service levels in government hotels, shops and restaurants are generally poor as this is not a service-oriented western culture. Of course, this is all part of seeing the 'real Cuba' and while we think you'll be pleasantly surprised by most of the hotels we use, you should be prepared for simply furnished rooms, some out-dated furniture and varying levels of service. Most of the hotels do have air conditioning and en-suite facilities. 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. Casas are generally run by the owner and members of the family that live there and the standard of English spoken will vary from zero to fluent, which is a good opportunity for you to practice your Spanish. Virtually all of the rooms have private facilities but on rare occasions it may be necessary to share. 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. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure. 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.