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Premium Small-Group Coach Touring

SICILY and the AEOLIAN ISLANDS

CUBA 2018 DAY-BY-DAY ITINERARY

Day 1 - Wednesday 27 June
Arrival Havana (3 nights)
You're met on arrival at Havana's International Airport and taken by private transfer to our hotel located in the heart of the old city. Standing on Cuba's north coast, 90 miles from Florida, Havana is the political, industrial and cultural heart of the nation and home to 20% of its population. The city was founded in 1519 when Spanish settlers moved here from an ill-fated earlier site on the south coast. As the New World started to yield its riches, Havana grew to prominence as the assembly point for the annual treasure convoy to Spain. In 1553 the Spanish Governor moved from Santiago de Cuba, at the other end of the island, to Havana, and this vibrant city has been Cuba's capital ever since. This evening our introduction to Cuba is rather special. After meeting our Cuban Tour Director we'll be collected from our hotel by a fleet of Havana's old American cars and taken on a panoramic tour of the city before enjoying a welcome dinner back at our hotel. Buen provecho! (D)
Day 2 - Thursday 28 June
Havana - Sightseeing & Salsa Dancing
Today, during our private orientation tour, we'll get a feel for how Havana developed over the ages. The old city inside the original fortified walls - La Habana Vieja - houses the finest collection of antique colonial buildings in the Americas. The Plaza de Armas is dominated by the former residence of the Spanish governors, now the City Museum, a treasure trove which provides an excellent insight into their grand lifestyle. A few blocks away, an 18th century baroque cathedral and a clutch of imposing mansions grace the cobbled Plaza de la Catedral. Nearby, Calle del Obispo - the main shopping street - and the Paseo del Prado also contain impressive buildings from the colonial era. After enjoying lunch in the Old Town we'll meet our dance teacher Moraima. She's a professional folklore dancer and instructor and she and her students will teach us the basic steps to one of Cuba's most famous dances...the Salsa Cubana (or Casino as it's known locally)! This afternoon's introductory lesson will give us an opportunity to meet Cuban youth and share their passion for music and dance. This evening you'll be able to find a local restaurant of your choice before perhaps testing your new-found dancing dexterity at Havana's version of the Buenavista Social Club... a very entertaining and fun-filled optional evening! (BL)
Day 3 - Friday 29 June
Havana - Sightseeing
This morning, we'll head out to visit the Museo del Ron, where we'll learn all about the art of making one of Cuba's most famous products. We'll visit one of Earnest Hemingway's favourite bars and then the rest of the day is yours to further enjoy Havana at your own pace. Perhaps shop in the markets in the Old Town, take time to visit the Art Galleries and Museums or just relax in any way you choose. This evening we're dining 'Cuban style' at the paladar 'Moneda Cubana'. (BD)
Day 4 - Saturday 30 June
Havana - Viñales (2 nights)
After breakfast, we'll set out on the 200km (approximately 3hrs) drive westward to Pinar del Rio province, crossing typical landscapes of cane fields, tobacco plantations and tall palm trees along our route. On arrival in Viñales we'll drop into town which is the perfect place to people-watch and capture candid images of the locals going about their business. Viñales is famous for growing some of the best tobacco in the world and the straw-hatted guajiro peasants tend their tobacco in neat farms close to the city centre. After time for lunch in the centre we'll first check into our hotel and then, later in the afternoon, we'll set off on a walk into the countryside to explore the tobacco growing process. We'll visit a farm, see where tobacco is dried and be shown how it is rolled into some of the finest cigars in the world. Cigars, along with rum are Cuba's principal exports. The scenery in Viñales is a photographer's paradise! Dramatic 'karst' mountains rise up sheer from the valley floor and the rich tropical vegetation gives the Viñales valley another-worldly quality. After a visit to a coffee plantation our walk finishes around sunset at Wilfredo´s organic farm set high on the hill above the Valle del Silencio and with spectacular views across the valley. After dinner we'll return to our hotel for a good night's rest before an early start tomorrow! (BD)
Day 5 - Sunday 01 July
Viñales - Sightseeing
This morning we're up early to capture the spectacle of Viñales at dawn. After a short drive we set off on foot towards Los Acuaticos - a small community which believes in the healing powers of water. The community has almost died out but the real reason we're visiting is to enjoy the impressive views as the sun rises over Viñales and the community begins to awaken. We'll see farmers heading out to their fields with oxen and plough, with a mist hovering over the valley and the stunning 'mogotes' (dome-like steep-sided hills) as a backdrop. On our return to our hotel we'll have earned our late breakfast before we visit the 'Cueva del Indio' on our underground boat trip. We have the rest of the day to do with what we wish. Relax by the pool? Perhaps return to Viñales village for further exploration and a local restaurant for dinner? The choice is yours. (B)
Day 6 - Monday 02 July
Viñales - Bay of Pigs - Cienfuegos (1 night)
We have another reasonably early start this morning as today is a relatively long travelling day (approximately 5-6hrs). We retrace our steps towards Havana before bearing south into Matanzas province. Our route takes us to the Zapata Peninsula and to the Playa Larga standing at the head of the famous Bay of Pigs, where in 1961 a force of CIA-trained Cuban exiles landed to stir up a counter-revolution. We'll stop somewhere along the Bay of Pigs to take a dip in the Caribbean (only if you wish to do so...and if you do so wish...don't forget to pack your bathers in your carry-on bag) and enjoy lunch at the restaurant 'Pio Cua' before continuing on to Cienfuegos for our overnight stop. Dinner tonight is in our hotel. (BLD)



Day 7 - Tuesday 03 July
Cienfuegos - Trinidad (2 nights)
Cienfuegos, known as the 'Pearl of the South', is a pleasant city with a European feel - largely due to the influence of French settlers who arrived here in the early 19th century. A sheltered deep-water harbour ensured its prosperity and, as the fortunes of nearby Trinidad waned, wealthy merchants and plantation owners indulged in a building bonanza. Our morning sightseeing tour includes the 'boulevard' which is always bustling with shoppers and is another great place for candid people shots, as is the fruit and vegetable market close by which is also worth a visit. We'll have time for lunch in Cienfuegos before setting off for Trinidad, about an hour away. After checking into our casa particulares we'll head for the centre of town for a sunset drink and live music on the steps next to the Cathedral followed by dinner in one of our favourite restaurants. (BD)
Day 8 - Wednesday 04 July
Trinidad - Sightseeing
Trinidad is one of the seven cities founded by Diego de Velázquez in 1514, and is now a national monument and a World Heritage Site. Nestling on a plain in the lee of the mountains and within sight of the Caribbean it's Cuba's best-preserved colonial town with its narrow, cobbled streets paved with stones that once served as ballast for ships on the empty, outward journey from Europe. The town grew rich from trade through the nearby port of Casilda, until it silted up and was eclipsed by Cienfuegos. Despite its well-to-do air, Trinidad has no grand palaces and still retains the intimate feel of a small town. This morning we'll explore the old area around the Plaza Mayor on our guided walking tour. We'll visit a museum to give us an idea of the opulent lifestyles of the wealthy families who lived here and as the area is virtually car-free, wandering around it is rather pleasant. At night there's often something of interest happening such as a music or dance performance so this evening we'll return here to find a restaurant for dinner. (B)
Day 9 - Thursday 05 July
Trinidad - Sancti Spiritus - Camaguey (1 night)
Our first stop this morning is in Sancti Spiritus, one of the original 'Villas' founded by the Spanish Conquistadors. We'll take lunch on the road as we continue on to Camaguey, Cuba´s most recently awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cycling is a very popular form of transport in Cuba, and in the flatter cities, bicycle taxis are very common. It's a pleasant way to get around, especially in Camaguey with its narrow and confusing streets, so after arriving in the early afternoon we take a tour of the city by bicycle taxi. We'll visit a local market, parks and plazas, and an art gallery. Each taxi carries two passengers and the tour is led by an English-speaking local guide. Our resident leader may suggest visiting a local farmers' market. This is where farmers are allowed to sell their food produce after they have met the quota they have to sell to the state. The market in Camaguey is very busy and colourful with separate areas for produce sold by the state and produce sold by farmers to the public. Locals come here to buy food once their monthly government provided food ration runs out. This evening we'll find a local restaurant for dinner. (B)
Day 10 - Friday 06 July
Camaguey - Bayamo - Santiago de Cuba (2 nights)
Today we head for the 'City of Heroes' and the cradle of Cuba´s Revolution, and now its most exotic city - Santiago de Cuba. However, on route we stop in Bayamo where the first steps were made to Cuba´s independence from Spain. Later we carry on to Santiago de Cuba which is also famous for being the birthplace of Cuban contemporary music and is home to most of the Buenavista Social Club members, who first played in Santiago´s Casa de la Trova where live music can still be enjoyed on a daily basis. Arrival in Santiago we stop for photos at the imposing Antonio Maceo Revolution Square. This evening dinner is in our hotel and afterwards we'll head into the area around the Parque Céspedes and discover how Santiago comes alive after sundown! (BLD)
Day 11 - Saturday 07 July
Santiago de Cuba - Sightseeing
This morning our escorted walking tour of central Santiago will take us through the picturesque pedestrian malls and past the Emilio Bacardí Moreau Museum to the Parque Cespedes, where Castro gave his first speech as the new leader of Cuba in 1959. Here we'll see the Asuncion Cathedral and the Casa de Diego Velazquez - one of the first houses built in the New World. It's now a museum and in the corner of the courtyard is a crucible which was used to smelt the first gold from the Americas, before it was shipped to Spain. There'll be a short time here to explore before we join our coach to drive to the Moncada Barracks - where the opening shots of the revolution were fired on the 26th of July 1953, when Castro and his men attacked the barracks and seized the weapons that were used to topple the corrupt Batista regime. Although the assault was almost a total disaster, this event irrevocably changed the course of Cuban history. A local guide will give us a tour of the Museum now housed in the barracks before we visit the Santa Ifigenia cemetery and view the ceremonial 'Changing of the Guard' along with some of its spectacular tombs. This afternoon is yours to use as you wish. This evening we'll take a short drive to the legendary El Morro Castle on the headland of Santiago de Cuba Bay and after time for exploration we'll enjoy dinner at one of the local restaurants. (BD)
Day 12 - Sunday 08 July
Santiago de Cuba - Flight to Havana (1 night)
After breakfast we'll leave our hotel and drive to Santiago de Cuba airport to join our flight to Havana. Today's a travelling day and how it actually unfolds depends on the flight timings, which will be subject to change. On arrival we'll transfer to our hotel in Havana with time to relax before we head for the paladar 'La Guarida' for our gala Farewell Dinner….and following dinner, we'll get our dancing shoes back on and enjoy our last night when we attend the Tropicana Show! Built in 1939, the Tropicana Cabaret is located in a vibrant forest with performances taking place right under the stars of Havana's night sky. Colour galore, performers, dancers and rum....a fabulous fun end to our Cuban experience! Salud! (BD)
Day 13 - Monday 09 July
Depart Havana
This morning our touring holiday ends after breakfast with a transfer to Havana's International Airport for onward journeys. (B) (B)




Note: The above itinerary is subject to change necessitated by any change in Community regulations as well as changes by Government and/or natural circumstances beyond our control.