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Essential Cuba Tour

From: US$ 1080
Essential Cuba tour map Check Available Tour dates Meet other Cuban Adventures Travellers going on this tour
Duration: 9 days / 8 nights
Group Size: Minimum 2 / Maximum 12 / Average 7
Accommodation: 8 nights Comfort Guesthouses. Twin share
Single Supplement: Single Room for the tour - US$285 extra
(read more)
Transport: Private minibus
Activities included: Walking tour of Old Havana, Classic Car tour of Havana, Visit to Che Guevara Memorial, half day walk in Vinales Valley
Other Inclusions: All breakfasts, 2 dinners, 2 lunches, airport arrival transfer, one of best performing local guides throughout
Suggested combinations: Combine with the Eastern Cuba Short Stay an Havana Short Stay package, or a Beach Stay package!
Itinerary Summary Vinales valley, Pinar del Rio, Cuba
  • Day 1 - Arrival Day Havana
  • Day 2 - Trinidad via Santa Clara
  • Day 3 - Trinidad
  • Day 4 - Cienfuegos
  • Day 5 - Viñales via Bay of Pigs
  • Day 6 - Viñales
  • Day 7 - Havana
  • Day 8 - Havana
  • Day 9 - Departure Day
Description

On this tour we use some of the better guesthouse accommodation presently available in Cuba, without departing from our grass-roots style of travel. The focus is on meeting the Cubans and learning about their culture and history, while visiting some of the more interesting and beautiful parts of the island. However, being our comfort class tour, apart from the upgraded accommodation, we also provide you with one of our most experienced and best performing guides. We include a few extra meals as well as some of the most popular activities that are usually optional.

If you want to get a taste of authentic Cuban culture and are prepared to pay a bit more for more comfortable accommodation, this is the could be tour for you!

  • The Comfort Guesthouses - The recent changes in Cuba have meant that individuals have a bit more freedom A room in one of the Comfort Guesthouses in Trinidad to do business and an increased access to materials. This has resulted in some of the privately owned B&B Guesthouses being able to improve the comfort levels and style of their accommodation. Features such as quiet, modern air conditioning, imported mattresses, and reliable hot water systems, that were previously difficult to obtain in Cuba, are now appearing in some of these better equipped guesthouses. While comfort levels still cannot compete with a 4 or 5 star hotel, the levels of service and personal attention compare favourably to state run hotels in Cuba. The guesthouses offer flexibility, local character, and opportunity to meet local families and everyday Cubans.

    The Comfort Guesthouses are an optimal choice for accommodation in Cuba, if you enjoy the style of travel we offer, but are looking for the best comfort possible given the limitations that private guesthouse accommodation in Cuba has. Read more here about the difference between our categories of Standard and Comfort Guesthouses in Cuba.

  • Natalia is an experienced local tour guide, Cuba
  • The Guides - Natalia is one of our most outstanding guides in Cuba, and has been so since she started working for us way back in 2006. Over this time she has developed an intimate knowledge of places and culture all around the island. Perhaps more importantly, this experience has given her the ability to deal with travellers and their diverse individual requirements and a sound understanding of the group dynamic. Her most valuable traits are her energy and enthusiasm toward her role as guide and tour leader, a determination to make sure her tours are a success, her friendliness, and her sense of enjoyment. All of this rolled together, apart from making her an outstanding guide for Cuba, makes her one of the most charming and fun people you will ever meet.
    Valeri - one of our most experienced and best performing local tour guides in Cuba
    Valeri is another of our local guides in Cuba, who is consistently one of our best performers since he started with us in 2007. He manages to balance being extremely hard working and determined, while and at the same time very fun and entertaining. He has an excellent knowledge of Cuba's history and culture and is one of the best people to speak to, to gain an understanding of Cuba's political system and society, the ideology behind it, and how it works (and doesn't work!) in practice. Having worked for many years with foreign travellers, he now has a veritable fan club that spans across the globe. This seems to not have affected him in the slightest, as he remains to be the same humble and self-effacing person we got to know all those years ago.


Please note: Natalia and Valeri are the only guides scheduled for the regular departures of this tour in 2016 and 2017. If for some unexpected reason, both of them are available for a particular departure, another of our most experienced and better performing guides will be assigned. We will do our best to advise you in advance if we are forced to make such a change.

Itinerary Details

Day 1 - Arrive Havana

An image of the La Gargola Guesthouse in Old Havana, CubaToday is the arrival day of the tour, and tour participants will arrive throughout the day. The arrival point is La Gargola Guesthouse in Old Havana. Many of the tour participants will be staying here, while some will be staying a few blocks away in the newly renovated Casa D. Osbe. If you arrive to Havana today, or if you arrange extra nights of accommodation in the Guesthouses with us before the tour, your included airport arrival transfer will take you from the Havana airport directly to your guesthouse. If you are already in Havana for some other reason, we can arrange your included transfer to take you from your place of accommodation to your starting guesthouse for the tour.

Since it is quite common for some group participants to arrive later this evening, there are no included activities today. However your tour guide will be at La Gargola at 7pm to meet those group members who have already arrived. An optional group dinner with the guide in Old Havana will follow.

If you arrive early, the friendly staff members of La Gargola speak English and can help you with information and give you suggestions on things to see in Havana.

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Day 2 - Trinidad - via Santa Clara A Comfort Guesthouse in Trinidad, Cuba

Today the tour takes us across the island of Cuba to the Caribbean coast and to the beautiful colonial city of Trinidad. Our transport is in a private tour bus.

On the way we will make a stop in Santa Clara and visit the Che Guevara Museum and Mausoleum. Che is an extremely controversial figure in Latin America and an immensely important figure in Cuba's history. His remains were found in Bolivia and brought here to rest in 1990. There is a huge bronze statue of El Che, an eternal flame and many of his personal items as exhibits in the Museum.

We eventually reach Trinidad and its beautiful colonial buildings and cobblestone streets. Our Guesthouse for the next two days will be near the central Plaza Mayor of the colonial hub.

  • Included Activity - Visit to Che Guevara Museum
  • Included Meals - Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3 - Trinidad

Trinidad, Cuba Trinidad is one of Cuba's most exciting cities. It's colonial hub has been impressively conserved and its small and compact size means that all of its attractions within the city can be visited on foot. It's wealth grew through sugar production using African slave labour in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the architecture of the buildings reflect that period.

Natalia's favourite excursion is a 3 hour return hike to a beautiful waterfall in the nearby mountains. She can arrange to take you there. However if you prefer to spend your time wandering around the streets of Trinidad visiting museums and sitting in bars listing to local musicians, Natalia can give you tips on the best places to go. Guided day tours can also be arranged.

Trinidad has a very lively nightlife. There are many open air restaurants, bars, and live music and dance shows. Your are welcome to join your guide and the rest of the group to explore the city at night, or otherwise explore on your own.

  • Included Meals - Breakfast, Dinner

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Day 4 - Cienfuegos

Palacio del Valle, Cienfuegos, Cuba Today we head along the Caribbean coast and to the very different city of Cienfuegos. This port city is a lot more modern looking than Trinidad and was developed by the French who came here to settle. The French had a strong influence on the city layout, which features an expansive main square, and a very pretty boulevard that runs from the city centre, along the edge of the bay and to the end of the peninsula.

It's here at the end of Peninsula that you'll find the Palacio del Valle. This was a privately built mansion that was constructed by a wealthy businessman and merchant. The architecture of the building is a mixture of styles, but what is clear is that a great deal of expense and effort went into its construction and decoration, and the result is nothing short of spectacular.

  • Included Activity - Visit to the Palacio del Valle.
  • Included Meals - Breakfast

Day 5 - Viñales via Bay of Pigs

A swimming spot in the Bay of Pigs, CubaToday we head further along the Caribbean coast, then inland and all the way to Viñales.

We stop in the Bay of Pigs at an excellent site for snorkelling, which can be done straight off the coast. Snorkelling gear is available for hire at low cost. If water activities are not your thing, you can sit in the share of a sea grape tree and enjoy the natural scenery.

After the Bay of Pigs we head back inland through a densely forested swap land area called La Cienega de Zapata. This is our longest travel day so you might want to take advantage of the drive along flat central part of the island past Havana, for a siesta in our comfortable bus. We eventually reach Viñales which is one of Cuba's most picturesque areas. The Valley of Viñales is surrounded by steep limestone hills, and the floor of the valley is a UNESCO heritage site for rural landscape. It's here that the farmers employ traditional methods such as using oxen, or simply by hand, to till the earth. The main crops are rice, corn, root vegetables - such as yuca, boniato, and malanga, and most famously some of Cuba's best tobacco.

  • Included Meals - Breakfast, Lunch

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Day 6 - Viñales Dinner at the organic farm in Vinales, Cuba

We've included a walk of the Viñales Valley this morning as this activity has been one of the most highly rated by our travellers for many years now. The walk takes you through the UNESCO area of the valley where you will see the different farming activities that take place here and we will visit some farm houses, include that of a tobacco farmer who will explain the process of producing tobacco for Cuba's world renowned cigars.

This evening we include a visit to an outstanding organic farm with a spectacular view of the valley. It's here that we will enjoy watching the sun set over the valley and dinner in the farmhouse.

  • Included Activities
    - Guided walk of Viñales Valley
    - Visit to an organic farm (dinner included).
  • Included Meals - Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7 - Havana

La Gargola Guesthouse in Old Havana has works of local artists on display We return to the capital for 2 nights in our Comfort Guesthouses in Old Havana - La Gargola and Casa D. Osbe.

Havana is one of the world's most interesting cities to visit and recently it has become more accessible. Restoration of the oldest buildings has been going on for over a decade while many others are still neglected and decaying. Apart from the individual buildings being impressive sights in themselves, this juxtaposition of decay and restoration fuels the imagination and also a sense hope. Add to that the living and vibrant society that lives within, the city has a unique character that will forever be etched in your memory.

This afternoon your guide will take you on a walking tour of Old Havana. She will take you to the main attractions and also to some of her favourite hidden corners. There is a lot to see in Havana, so we can't cover everything in this half day tour. However your guide will give you tips and suggestions on places you can come and visit tomorrow, or in any extra days you decide to spend in Havana after the tour.

  • Included Activity - Guided walking tour of Old Havana
  • Included Meals - Breakfast

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Day 8 - Havana

A classic car tour of Havana

Today we take some classic old American cars on a tour to visit some of the interesting places outside of Old Havana. The neighbourhoods of Central Habana, Vedado, and Miramar have their own characteristics and charms, and these are best seen in a slow riding open air car. This tour takes us to the Revolucion Square where we stop to appreciate the huge images of the revolutionary heroes Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, and the scene of many lengthy speeches by Fidel Castro.

Tonight is our final evening as a group, and Natalia will propose a few different dining options, as well as places to go out afterwards such as live music venues, bars, or dance venues. As always, you have the option to explore on your own with tips and ideas that they guide can help you with.

  • Included Activity - Classic car tour of Havana
  • Included Meals - Breakfast

Day 9 - Depart Havana

Today is the departure day of the tour and you are free to depart at anytime. Your guide will be around and available until at least midday. You can pre-book a departure transfer to the airport with us for an extra fee. Otherwise you can arrange your own, or ask your guesthouse to help you with this the day before.

We recommend a few extra nights in Havana after the tour to further explore this amazing city. We recommend you request this in our Guesthouses in Old Havana, however you are free to book your own, or otherwise we can help you book a hotel of your choice.

  • Included Meals - Breakfast

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Summary of Travel Times

  • Havana to Trinidad via Santa Clara - 7 hours
  • Trinidad to Cienfuegos - 2 hours
  • Cienfuegos to Viñales via Bay of Pigs - 8 hours
  • Viñales to Havana - 3 hours

Late arrivals or Early departures

Late Arrival - If you plan to arrive on Day 2 or after, we can arrange for you to catch up to the group. This may involve you paying transport costs to do so.

Early Departure - This tour arrives back in Havana, around midday or early afternoon on Day 7, so a departure from Cuba in the evening of Day 7 is possible. An earlier departure than this is also possible and may involve you paying transport costs for us to send you back to Havana by yourself.

Spending Money

We estimate you will need between US$350 and US$500 for local expenses during the tour such food and optional activities. Cost of meals can vary greatly (especially in Havana) depending on your restaurant of choice. Click here to see further description and details of expenses you will have while on the tour in Cuba.

Not Included in the Tour

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