8 days with Alexander+Roberts Rating:
Day 1 - Fly to Havana
Upon arrival, you’ll be escorted to the superior first class Meliá Cohiba Hotel in the heart of the city. This evening’s Welcome Dinner offers another congenial opportunity to get better acquainted with your Trip Leader, Cuban guide and fellow travelers. (D)
Day 2 - Discover Havana
Havana was founded in 1519 and within a hundred years it had emerged as one of the Caribbean’s wealthiest ports and an important ship-building center. Although it’s now a vibrant capital with more than two million residents, its historical core still retains a wonderful mix of Baroque and Neoclassical architecture - including colorful old buildings with arcades, balconies and delicate wrought-iron gates. Start the day by meeting with a local expert on Cuban architecture; this specially arranged people-to-people encounter is the perfect introduction to Havana’s wealth of landmark buildings, streets and impressive town plazas.
After lunch, you’ll spend time with the talented members of a community organization devoted to Afro-Cuban art, music and dance. Then meet with business professionals and students for lively and candid discussions about daily life in the U.S.A. and Cuba. Visit with a local artist in his studio and then dine this evening at La Floridita, one of Hemingway’s favorite spots. (B,L,D)
Day 3 - Art + Culture in the Capital
Founded in 1876, the Colon Cemetery is a 140-acre expanse filled with more than 500 impressive mausoleums, chapels and family vaults. Along with the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, it is regarded as one of the most important cemeteries in the Western Hemisphere in terms of both historical and architectural significance. And it’s the perfect place for a specially arranged meeting with an engaging historian. Later this morning, you’ll enjoy exclusive backstage access for the dress rehearsal of a renowned local dance company.
Sit down to lunch at one of our favorite Havana restaurants before an inspiring meeting at the Literacy Museum, where you’ll learn about an historic event when Cuba’s youth mobilized all across the island to teach reading to isolated rural residents. Later, we’ve arranged a special meeting with the talented performers of La Colmenita, a children’s theater group that performs locally and internationally; in 2012, they were invited to perform at the United Nations. (B,L,D)
Day 4 - Out + About in Havana
This morning, your Trip Leader and native Cuban guide will take you to a local farmers market. You’ll be immersed in the daily life and rhythms of city residents even as you’re learning firsthand about the local economy and Cuba’s dual-currency system. Then take a stroll in Old Havana, admiring the colorful buildings and historic architecture as you make your way to a local restaurant for lunch.
This afternoon, we’ve arranged for a respected art scholar to lead your tour through the National Museum of Fine Arts. Housed in two separate buildings in the historic heart of Havana, this highly-regarded museum showcases Cuban art from the Colonial era to the modern day. Its collection is artistically significant and also offers a unique perspective into the island’s history. Tonight you’ll dine on your own at one of the city’s paladars, private family-owned restaurants which can be found across the island. Of course, our Trip Leader and Cuban guide are well-versed in Havana’s dining scene and will be happy to make personal recommendations and to assist with arrangements. (B,L)
Day 5 - Havana + Playa Larga + Cienfuegos
Heading out from the capital, you’ll journey into the countryside of central Cuba where the scenery is lush and the rhythms of life evoke a slower-paced and more agrarian era. Your first destination is Playa Larga on the southern coast. This is one of the two beaches invaded by US-backed exiles in 1961 and it’s one of the loveliest spots on the coast. Here you’ll spend time with the students and staff of the Korimacao Community Project, an innovative school for the arts known and respected for developing musicians, dancers, poets and actors.
Continue your journey to Cienfuegos. Established in 1819 and known as the “Pearl of the South,” this is one of the island’s newest settlements. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its architectural diversity including a fine Colonial district and a collection of early 20th-century palaces set on a thin slice of land that extends into the picturesque bay. Enjoy a 2-night stay at our comfortable hotel here in Cienfuegos. (B,L,D)
Day 6 - Excursion to Colonial Trinidad
Not far from Cienfuegos, the handsome Colonial-era town of Trinidad is another World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO for historic buildings that reflect Neoclassical, Moorish and Spanish Baroque influences. Founded in the 16th century, these architectural landmarks include the historic Palacio Brunet and the Palacio Cantero, built with wealth from the region’s lucrative sugar trade. Your exploration of Trinidad begins fittingly at the Museum of Architecture, where you’ll learn not just about the town’s history but also the background behind its UNESCO designation and ongoing preservation efforts. Then spend time with a local artist before sitting down to lunch.
In the afternoon, meet with the talented dancers and musicians of the Ballet Folklórico de Trinidad, and then enjoy an exclusive visit with our friends in their home. Experience real Cuban hospitality and warmth and get to know them surrounded by their families and community. Later, a visit to a casa particular, a bed-and-breakfast-type accommodation in a private home, offers further insight into Cuba’s economy. This evening, you’ll dine on your own at a privately owned paladar back in Cienfuegos. Again, our Trip Leader and Cuban Guide know the local dining scene and will be there to offer their recommendations and assistance. (B,L)
Day 7 - Charming Cienfuegos and back to Havana
Cienfuegos has been described by many as Cuba’s most captivating town. It’s physically handsome and also bestowed with a certain stylish elegance and flair. Culturally and artistically, it’s also one of the most vibrant in Cuba – if not all of the Caribbean! This morning, you’ll explore this facet of Cienfuegos at a cooperative artist’s center and then again when you meet the singers and artistic director of the Coro del Cienfuegos, a children’s choir that has tour internationally to critical and audience acclaim.
After lunch here in the “Pearl of the South," you’ll journey back to Havana and visit Finca Vigia. Built in 1886, Ernest Hemingway purchased this handsome residence in 1940 and lived here for nearly 20 years. It was here at Finca Vigia that Hemingway wrote two of his most famous works – For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. This evening’s farewell dinner is a chance to share your favorite experiences and Cuban memories with your fellow travelers. Overnight once again at the superior first class Melia Cohiba Hotel. (B,L,D)
Day 8 - Depart Havana
After breakfast, we’ll take you to the airport. (B)
All This Included
An experienced North American Trip Leader and native Cuban Guide will take you behind the scenes in Havana - introducing you to artists, professionals and other residents eager to share insight into their lives. Then spend two nights in lovely Cienfuegos and discover the Colonial landmarks of Trinidad, two outstanding World Heritage Sites with a wealth of art and culture.
Havana: Melia Cohiba
Cienfuegos: To be determined
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