Special Events in Cuba
Here is a list of events in Cuba throughout the year.
- • Check the links for tours that include participation in SPECIAL EVENTS.
- • Look for the little Red dog'stips and/or recommendations from our staff.
Festival de la Trova Longina
6 to 10 Jan, 2016
This music festival gets its name from a much loved trova song written in 1918 by the composer and troubador Manuel Corona. Its held in the city of Santa Clara which is the capital of the province of Villa Clara where Corona was born and lived. One of the traditional events of the Longina festival is the walk to Corona's hometown of Caibarién. Trova is a style of music that was very popular in Cuba, and still is, especially among the older generation. Despite the successes of his compositions Corona's life was not all smooth sailing. He was attacked with a knife by the pimp of his girlfriend prostitute and a the resulting injuries to his hand meant that he was no longer able to play guitar. From that moment onward he earned his living from his compositions alone, and lived the last years of his life in poverty.
12 to 19 Feb, 2016
Havana's International Book Fair is a very popular event drawing attendees not just from within Cuba but from all over the globe, and especially from Spanish speaking countries. Despite its name being linked to that of the capital city, the event usually travels across the length of country, stopping at provincial capitals along the way. In Havana the fair is usually held at the Cabana fortress across the bay from Old Havana. Apart from the swarms of bibliophiles the event is attended by publishers, writers and celebrities. Authors hold lectures to discuss their works, and the event also invovles theatre, cinema, and dance performances. Of course, you can buy books here as well.
Festival del Habano
29 Feb - 4 March, 2016
Cuba's premier cigar festival is held in late February and brings cigar aficionados from all over the world. The tendency over the last few years is for the festival to get bigger and better each year, and 2016 is expected to continue that trend. All of Cuba's famous brands are on show including Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagas, Romeo y Julieta, H Upman, and even Robaina. There is an official program that includes visits to cigar factories, a trade fair, seminars, cigar rolling demonstrations, tastings, and even visits to tobacco plantations. Offical festival website.
Esteban Salas Early
Thats right, yet another music festival in Cuba! This time its a celebration of the the life and works of 18th Century Cuban composer Esteban Salas. This annual festival has been celebrated since 2003 — the 200th anniversary of Salas' death. Musical styles include Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque and venues include some of Havana's most impressive churches, chapels, theatres, and cultural centres.
Memorial Guillermo Barreto
1 to 6 March, 2016
This percussion festival honours the life of one of Cuba's most great percussionists - Guillermo Barreto. During the 1950's he was a featured artist at Havana's Tropicana Club. Percussion in Cuba is a revered art and taken very seriously. It is even a sacred act in many Afro-Cuban religious ceremonies, where the beating of drums communicates with the gods. The festival features performances, competitions, concerts, lectures and speeches.
Memorial Santiago Álvarez International
6 to 11 March, 2016
This event comprises a documentary competition, and demonstrates Cuba's support for a film-making genre that depicts contemporary realities and gives a voice to independent journalists, artists and individuals to communicate what they see as interesting and important issues in the world today, and which is an alternative to main stream media that is often sponsored by wealthly individuals or organisations with motives that can be corrupted by business interests. The host city is Cuba's second largest - Santiago de Cuba. Santiago Alvarez was a Cuban filmaker who died in 1998 and who's work included montage techniques that many believe were the original inspiration for the modern video clip style. He was a founding memeber of ICAIC - The Cuban Film Institute. See the official festival website for more details.
International Pepe Sanchez
19 to 24 March Annual
Santiago de Cuba is the host city for this festival which celebrates the Trova musical genre. Musicians from different trends within this genre participate, including exponents of more traditional Cuban Trova (the troubador genre of voice, song and poetry that is usually accompanied by a guitar), filin (an evolution of bolero and trova), and of nueva trova (the very Cuban genre of personal commentary influenced by British, US and Brazilian popular music). The festival began in 1962 in homage to local Santiago de Cuba composer Jose ('Pepe') Sanchez (1856-1918), considered the father of Cuban Trova. The closing of the festival on Troubador Day, March 19th, commemorates the anniversary of the birth of Pepe Sanchez.
Caribbean Dance Biennial
Dancers, choreographers, teachers and students from the Caribbean and other parts of the world meet during this event as a way of promoting dance in a historically, ethnically and linguistically diverse region. The event will be an excellent opportunity to enjoy performances important soloists and companies from other countries of the region.
Trinidad Cross Procession25 March, 2016
The Way of the Cross Procession is a religious tradition that passes through the spectacular colonial streets of Trinidad, on Cuba's south coast every year on Good Friday. As part of the Easter celebrations, the procession was apparently designed originally to trick looting pirates, and it follows a route marked by crosses.
de Nuevos Realizadores
5 to 10 April, 2016
An event for the promotion of new video/filmmakers which serves to get into contact with daring and inquisitive works usually produced outside official production. The event includes the screening of films by young filmmakers, as well as international contemporary cinema, theoretical meetings, discussions and seminars, as well as a competition of unpublished scripts workshops with the participation of important film directors, and an exhibition/competition of posters.
Gibara Low Budget
20 to 24 April, 2016
El festival del Cine Pobre for one week a year is the small coastal city of Gibara, turns into Cuba's cultural hub as it hosts this film festival that celebrates low-budget, independent, and alternative cinema. Some call it the "Sundance" of Cuba, but without the actors, directors, producers, distributors, promoters and sponsors looking to get rich off the movie business. The festival involves music concerts, theatre, photographic, painting and sculpture exhibitions.
Highly recommended and a favourite festival- tour leader Tony.
Old Havana: City in Movement
1 to 2 April, 2016
National and international dancers and dance companies perform in the squares, parks and musuems of Old Havana colonial . The UNESCO World Heritage listed colonial sector of Havana makes a spectacular setting for the artists who perform both tranditional and contemporary dance. Workshops, exhibitions and conferences run alongside the dance performances.
May Day Celebrations
1st May - Annual
May Day is massively celebrated in Cuba with workers in every town marching with their colleagues to the Revolution Square. Cultural and musical events are held as well as speeches from leading figures. The largest gathering in Cuba is in Havana, where every year more than a million workers, gather at the Plaza de la Revolucion at the foot of the giant statue of Cuba's godfather of the Revolution - Jose Marti.
In 2016 we have tours that include participation in this event where, in Havana, you will join in the march to the Plaza de Revoluction:
- 8 day Original Cuba Tour - April 24 to May 01, 2016. The parade is on the last day (the departure day) of the tour. To take part in the event, participants' departure flight will need to be after midday on May 1st.
- 8 day Original Cuba Tour - April 30 to May 07, 2016
MAY DAY MARCH - see more information and photos of past groups participation!
Highly recommended by all our staff.
Romerias de Mayo
2 - 8 May - Annual
This event in the city of Holguin involves a pilgramage to a nearby hilltop and the coming together musicians, actors, researchers, artists, writers and dancers, to share their artistic endeavours during a week long celebration throughout the city. The festival dates back to 1790 where a group of young artists decided to organise a pilgramage with the arrival of spring, and is presided over by a Taino Axe and a Wooden Cross - which are symbolic of Cuba's mixed heritage.
14 - 22 May 2016
The annual Cubadisco is an excuse to show off Cuba's musical flair. Local musicians perform in different theatres and venues throughout Havana, prizes are awarded to notable figures in the industry, and the hottest new records are unveiled. Every year there is a different theme, often a specific musical genre, and a country of honour.
The 2016 Festival will honour the music of Angola.
May - Annual
A meeting ground for poets from every continent, the International Poetry Festival includes a number of activities, such as seminars, readings and exhibitions. The World Meeting of Poets in Defence of Humanity is also celebrated during the festival.
20 to 28 May, 2016
Organized by composer Juan Blanco (a pioneer of electroacoustic music in Cuba) the Varadero Spring Festival, as it was first called, gathered important figures which included Jon Appelton, Max Matthew, Leo Kupper, Ahmed Malek, Nicola Sani, Lejaren Hiller, Manuel Enríquez, Ricardo Dal Farra and Andrew Schloss. In 1998, the event moved its venue to Havana's Historical Centre and became the International Electroacoustic Music Festival.
May - June 2017
Contemporary art from over 200 international artists is displayed in galleries, museums and cultural spaces across the Cuban capital at this well-established biennial. Considered one of Latin America's pivotal art events, the biennial presents a variety of media, from sculpture to refreshing performance art. Founded in 1984 and initially conceived as a competition, this event was reformulated to focus on key issues concerning contemporary art, embracing artists from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, with the gradual incorporation of European, US and Japanese artists. Every two years, Havana swarms with activity with the attendance not only of artists, but critics, curators, dealers, collectors, and art lovers in general. A wide-ranging presentation takes over all the city´s principal galleries and spills out into numerous public arenas. Havana, which during the Biennial is transformed into the largest gallery in the world, becomes a place for debate and reflection on essential problems of our contemporary world.
Highly recommended - Operations manager Clarita .
International Ernest Hemingway
13 June, 2016
Hundreds of sport fishing enthusiasts head to Havana's Marina Hemingway for this annual event that was started by Hemingway himself in 1950. Hosted by the Hemingway International Nautical Club, it is one of the most important fishing events of the year. The long coral reefs off the Cuban coast create rich feeding grounds and virtually untouched habitats, a bounty that attracts migrating populations of marlin, tuna and wahoo.
Boleros de Oro
June - Annual
Venue: Mella and America theatres and UNEAC - HAVANA.
Bolero, a musical genre which emerged in Cuba in the second half of the 19th century is what the International Golden Boleros Festival is all about. This genre has had a marked influence in other countries of the area, including places as far away as Spain and Japan, and its first festival, held in Havana in 1987, is considered the oldest of its kind in Latin America. A Havana celebration in its beginnings, other provinces would become venues in later years given that Bolero is one of the most loved and performed genres in the Island.
(Fiestas San Juaneras)
June 24 - 27 Annual
“Fiestas San Juaneras” is marked by June 24 the Day of San Juan. Between 24 - 27 June a type of Carnival takes place. There is A Ceremony of coronation of "the Queen and the Ladies" ,brilliant local parades of floats and Creole traditions, contests, games, costumes and more. The local 'vacqueros'cowboys show-case their riding ability and their horses.
Read more about the Fiestas San Juaneras.
(San Juan Camagüeyano)
June 24 - 29, Annual
“San Juan Camagüeyano" in Camaguey is marked by June 24 the Day of San Juan. One of the oldest festivals in the country, between 24 - 29 June a type of Carnival takes place.The San Juan Camagüeyano celebration dates from the eighteenth century - the legacy of Western culture that prevailed on the island in colonial times.
Today, San Juan takes place in Camagüey in an atmosphere of total cultural exhilaration expressed through the assumption of all art forms. The groups, congas and floats that adorn the city in entertaining tours reflecting traditions in all aspects such as the costuming, and of course the burning of an effigy on behalf of St. Peter, to conclude the celebration - similar to the festival del fuego in Santiago.
Highly recommended - Tour Leader Roger.
27 June to 2 July, 2016
Through song, this festival seeks to foster international friendship and solidarity. Both Cuban and international choirs participate and there are also choral workshops to attend. perform concerts throughout Havana City. Choirs perform in major venues such as the Basilica de la Habana and the Teatro Amadeo Roldan as well as in local neighborhood venues and in schools.
Festival del Caribe
(Festival of Fire)
3-9 July, Annual
Santiago de Cuba hosts this week-long festival that celebrates music and dance from all over the Caribbean area. Called by some the Festival del Caribe and by others the Festival del Fuego it aims at being a forum for exchanges between the diverse cultural manifestations of the region and is dedicated to strengthening ties between peoples and nations by highlighting common cultural elements. It features free outdoor concerts, indoor shows, processions of decorated vehicles, and parades of spectacularly attired dancers, foodstalls, beer stands, and goat powered cart rides for children. Join or view the facebook page for 'Festival del Fuego': Festival del Fuego
Read more about this festival
Highly recommended - Operations manager Clarita .
Santiago de Cuba Carnival
22 - 28 July Annual
The carnival of Santiago de Cuba is the largest, most famous, and most traditional carnival in all of Cuba. It is an explosion of colour, contagious drum rhythms, and dance. It is also a time for Cubans to re-gather themselves and remember their history, community, and culture, and is punctuated by the Cuban national holiday of July 26th.
This event coincides with the following tours:
Read more about the Santiago de Cuba Carnival
26 July Celebrations
26 July - Annual
26 July is the most important date on Cuba's revolutionary calendar. Patriotic and revolutionary fervour grips the nation, and streets are covered with communist banners, posters and official graffiti. The date is the anniversary of Fidel Castro's ill-fated 1953 assault on Santiago de Cuba's Moncada Barracks, and also the birth of Cuban writer and patriot Jose Martí. Fidel's attack in 1953 failed and the dictator, Batista, was not actually overthrown until 1959. At the Moncada barracks in Santiago, the names of the martyrs of the revolution are read out and guns are fired. A customarily long speeches are broadcast on national television.
Festival Internacional de Rap
01 Aug - Annual
Titled “Habana Hip Hop”, the Havana International Rap Festival will be held in Alamar - a suburb on the East side of Havana. Hip hop became a sensation in Cuba during the 1990s when this festival was born. Since then, the event has attracted an increasing number of hip hop artists from other countries, as well as featuring many important local groups. There are more than 1,000 rap groups in Cuba today. More recently, the festival has also included rap dancing, graffiti artists, a series of films, and a colloquium with discussion of hip hop culture and issues regarding this type of music which has delved into controversial aspects of Cuban life, such as racism and emerging economic inequalities.
While a poor cousin to the more traditional version in Santiago de Cuba, Havana's Carnival still provides a spectacular display of music, dancing, conga lines, fanciful outfits, fireworks, beer, and rum. Parades run the length of the Malécon and rich traditional music competes with more contemporary sounds. Look out too for the Muñecones - huge satirical figures of politicians and other famous faces, in the parades. They are accompanied by the faroleros - dancers who carry a multi-coloured accessory resembling a streetlight, which they rotate constantly. Cuba's renowned carnivals were discontinued for a while during the "special period" (the immense privations which came after the collapse of the USSR and its enormous subsidising of the Cuban economy, which, combined with the US trade embargo, created a large fall in the quality of life in the country). Now that the situation has improved (partly due to the government's new emphasis on tourism), Carnival is back on the menu.
Matamoros Son Festival
Sep - Biannual
The Festival of Son set in Santiago de Cuba - the birthplace of music in Cuba, and is a tribute to one of the most famous names and most important composers in Cuban - Music Miguel Matamoros (born in 1894 the city of Santiago De Cuba). This festival is a meeting of all the famous musicians in Cuba and joined by international artists from all over the world. The festival has endless concerts, lectures on music Cuban music and traditional music, dances, workshops, book and CD launches, a national dance competition of Cha-cha-cha, son, salsa, casino, mambo, & danzon. A fantastic festival for lovers of Cuban music. Concerts take place in many of the well known venues around the city including: casa de la Musica, casa de la Trova, Teatro Heredia, Casa de los Dos Abuelos, and others.
Click here - to read more about the Festival.
Sep 28 - Annual
The CDR's (Comite's de la Defensa de la Revolution) are the main grass-roots organisations of Cuba's socialist system. Each CDR is typically a block of a city. The annual birthday party involves a street party with all the residents of the neighbourhood participating. Among the traditions of the party is the preparation of a caldosa stew that is cooked by wood-fire in a pig pot in the street. Its a great time to interact with the locals.
You can join in on the celebrations in the neighbourhood of your guesthouse!
Havana Ballet Festival
Founded in 1960 by Cuban Prima Ballerina Absoluta, Alicia Alonso, this festival attracts top dancers and dance companies from around the world. The Gran Teatro de La Habana and Teatro America are two of the principal venues. Photography and visual arts exhibitions, conferences and related film screenings run alongside the performances throughout the festival, that also reaches out to other cities across the island.
Havana Theatre Festival
The 15th Havana theatre festivalHavana's theatres and cultural spaces come alive with plays for adults and children and the fusion of theatre and dance at this annual event. There are performances from Cuban and international theatre groups as well as workshops, exhibitions and conferences.
Next festival Dec 2015
"International Festival de Choirs" (Santiago De Cuba)
It was in the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba where the first known choir pieces in the Island were composed by Havana-born composer Esteban Salas (1725-1803), who for years was chapel master. Honouring this tradition, in 1961 Electo Silva, who has been for decades director of Orfeón Santiago, organized the First Choir Festival in Cuba.
Throughout the years, vocal groups from all over the world have also participated in the festival together with their Cuban counterparts, winners at prestigious international competitions. An intensive programme of concerts in theatres, schools, factories, hospitals UNESCO listed buildings and public squares throughout the city characterizes these days in which audiences can enjoy the best of the repertoires of choral music, modern, eclectic and gospel music in an a cappella style.
3rd Sunday of November
This sporting event held on the 3rd Sunday of November every year, attracts an attendance of between 1 and 2 thousand walkers and runners, including locals and international athletes from nearly 30 different countries. The half marathon route goes through some of the more scenic areas of Old Havana, Central Havana, and Vedado. Participation is offered for distances of full-marathon (2 laps), half-marathon, as well as 5, 10 and 15km. One day before the Marathon, the internationally recognized running project Maracuba takes place. It mobilizes over 1 million participants and is said to be the largest running event. Simultaneously participants of all ages from hundreds of communities, remote areas, and mountain regions take off for the 3000 and 4000 meter tracks, becoming part of a memorable running experience.
OFFICIAL MARABANA INSCRIPTION for foreign participants online.
See the official WEBSITE
Havana Jo Jazz
Nov 2015 Havana
Venue:Teatro Amadeo Roldán.
Jo Jazz-Joven Jazz or Young Jazz-takes place prior to the Havana International Jazz Festival as a competition for young musicians. Proposed by five-time Grammy winner Chucho Valdés in 1998, this competition for young jazz singers and composers from 16 to 30 years of age has had contestants who today rank among the most outstanding in the musical panorama of the Island. A special bonus for the winners is the chance to cut an album with Chucho.
Havana Film Festival
Dec 3 to 13, 2015
The festival of "Nuevo Cine Latino Americano" In cinemas across Havana, film fans get their fix of the latest regional productions at the annual International Festival of New Latin American Cinema. Films featured are typically from the Latin American and Caribbean region and include feature films, short films, documentaries and animation. There is a section of films in a category called "Made in Cuba" where one can discover the intricacies of daily Cuban life on the big screen. An array of seminars also run alongside the screenings. The festival began in 1979, with the acclaimed Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez as one of the judges that year.
Havana Jazz Festival
Dec 17 to 20, 2015
2013 will be the 28th international Jazz festival. Organised by Chucho Valdés, this festival is an internationally renowned event that consistently attracts an excellent line-up of jazz musicians - both local and international. Cuba has its own famous genre of jazz, and the importance placed on music by the Cuban Government and the Cuban society means that there is an almost endless supply of new and exciting local talent on offer. Performances take place in the Casa de la Cultura Plaza, Teatro Nacional de Cuba and other venues across the city.
Parrandas de Remedios
19 - 24 Dec, Annual
The small town of Remedios is famous for its Christmas festival, called “Las Parrandas de Remedios”. The celebrations are considered the oldest in Cuba, and by those who are familiar with them, the most wild and crazy. Events include street parades with rumba percussion ensembles, music and verses, a float display and the very dramatic fireworks competition.
This event coincides with the following tours:
Tours will be in Remedios for the biggest night of the weeklong celebration - Dec 24.
PARRANDAS DE REMEDIOS - see details.
Charangas de Bejucal
24,25,26 Dec, Jan 1
The oldest of Havana's traditional festivals takes place at the end of every year in the small Havana provincial town of Bejucal. In the past it has involved a performance from Los Tambores de Bejucal (a typical Cuban percussion band of high International prestige), and festivities formed by a traditional rivalry between two conga groups. The Ceibistas (members of the Ceiba de Plata group, characterised by the colour blue and a scorpion as their symbol) compete with the Espinistas (Members of the Espina de Oro, who wear red and have a rooster as their symbol), to see who can play the loudest drums and construct the most impressive float.
Recently however, according to our travellers and guides who have been to the festival (in 2010 and 2011), this event has deteriorated into a simple street party, which is perhpas not worth the 50min drive from Havana.
CHARANGAS DE BEJUCAL FESTIVAL - see details.
This event coincides with the following tours:
- New Years Cuba Tour from Dec 22 to Jan 01, 2016
- New Years Cuba Tour from Dec 23 to Jan 02, 2016
- The 8 day Original tour of Cuba from Dec 24 to Dec 31,2015
New Years Eve in Havana
31 Dec - Annual
The biggest New Year's Eve party in Havana is a special dinner/show put on at the impressive Cathedral Plaza in Old Havana. The only restaurant in the Square called El Patio brings all their tables outdoors and caters for 300 diners. Wine, champagne, beers and all sorts of spirits, including the famous Habana Club rum, are served plentifully and the food is a assortment of Cuban recipes. A purpose built stage hosts a spectacular Tropicana style outdoor music and dance show
You can see this event on the following tours:
- The special NEW YEARS RUMBA TOUR from Dec 22, 2015 to Jan 1, 2016 annually.
- The special NEW YEARS RUMBA TOUR from Dec 23, 2015 to Jan 2, 2016 annually.
This celebration is very popular and is recommended by all our staff if you are in Havana.
STAFF TIP: purchase your tickets early as they sell out!!!!