Viva Cuba! - Family holiday Trip Notes
Trip code: FFCU
Trip length: 11 days
- Coral reefs & sandy beaches
- Cuba Travel
- Havana & colonial Trinidad
- Mountains & forest walks
A heady cocktail of Hispanic history, atmospheric cities, Latin culture, wonderful music and coconut palm-fringed Caribbean beaches in a Communist state - now there’s an interesting mix! Cuba is the antithesis of American culture; the lack of advertising and US household names is immediately striking and refreshing. Its isolation has ensured that its cars are endlessly recycled; the 1950s automobiles are amazing. Starting in Havana you’ll see the crumbling buildings and feel the exotic rhythms of the numerous live bands. Around Viñales you’ll explore tobacco fields, strange caves and stunning landscapes. At Cienfuegos, take a boat trip to fishing villages, relax in the colonial charm of Trinidad and snorkel at Cayo Blanco. This trip allows you to see all the sides Cuba has to offer. Above all, the Cubans themselves make any visit memorable; open, warm and friendly people with a zest for life.
Your trip starts in Havana. You will receive full details of exactly where to meet your Group Leader on the Joining Instructions which will be sent to you 2-3 weeks before your trip starts. For information on when the trip ends please refer to the itinerary as described below.
Standing on Cuba’s north coast, less than 100 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, and Havana quickly became established as a great port, creating much of the city you can still see today. 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, and Havana has been capital ever since. Occidental Miramar (AAA) - 2 nights - Swimming Pool
Today’s orientation tour gives you 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, and a fine example of the diverse architecture in the city. 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. During your free afternoon you may wish to travel across the channel leading into Havana’s port, to visit the Cabaña Hill. Of the two great forts designed to defend the city (after British forces captured it in 1762), Castillo San Carlos de la Cabaña is the largest in the Americas with splendid views over the city. Havana’s famous esplanade, the Malecón, extends seven kilometres along the seafront, lined with once elegant mansions. This is where young Havanans come to hang out in the evening - with a bottle of rum and some music; by day it’s a place to stroll and enjoy the sea air. (B)
After breakfast, you set out on the 200km (approx. 3 hours) drive westward to Piñar del Rio province, crossing typical landscapes of cane fields, tobacco plantations and tall palm trees along the way. En route you’ll stop at Las Terrazas set in the midst of the Sierra del Rosario Mountains. Here there is a community of farmers and artisans as well as a coffee plantation where you’ll be able to learn something of the process. Nearby is the beautiful San Juan river, a stunning swimming spot. The river has been noted for over a century for its sulphur springs and clear natural pools; don’t forget your swimming costumes!
Straw-hatted guajiro peasants tend the finest tobacco in the world; the plant is native to the island. In Pinar del Rio you’ll stop and visit a cigar factory; cigars, along with rum are Cuba’s principal exports. Turning north on a scenic road you climb into the Sierra de los Órganos towards the sleepy village of Viñales. Hotel Rancho San Vincente (AAA) - 2 nights - Swimming pool (B)
The Viñales Valley boasts the oldest geological formations in Cuba, unique to the area. Spectacular mogotes - sheer-sided, conical towers of limestone, some over 300 metres high are all that is left of a great plateau after millions of years of erosion by wind and water. The resultant karst terrain is similar to southern China or Vietnam - especially when a layer of mist carpets the valley floor in the early morning. The stunning beauty this creates is unforgettable. It’s a fascinating scene - all the more so when oxen are working the fields and the heady scent of tobacco fills the air as the plants reach maturity between January and April. You’ll take a guided walk through this rich countryside to see something of rural life and hopefully stop at a farmer’s house. In the afternoon you’ll visit the Cueva del Indio, an impressive limestone cave, once inhabited by local Indians and filled with stalactites and stalagmites. A river runs through the second half of the cave and so you’ll board a boat to take you through and out into the daylight. At dusk thousands of bats stream out of the cave to go and feed. (BL)
Bay of Pigs; Playa Larga
Today is a relatively long travel day (approx. 5-6 hours). Starting early, you retrace your steps towards Havana before bearing south into Matanzas province. Your route takes you past the badlands of the Zapata Peninsula to 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, an attempt that was ultimately doomed to failure, and helped the Cuban Revolution to succeed. Further along the coast at Playa Girón, a small museum commemorates this failed US effort to impose its will on socialist Cuba. You'll also visit a breeding centre for the endangered crocodrilus rhombifer - Cuba's endemic crococodile. Your stay tonight is on a beautiful Caribbean beach. Hotel Playa Larga (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming pool (B)
This morning you will enjoy fantastic snorkelling and swimming at Caleta Buena. Natural swimming pools are home to countless species of coral and tropical fish. After drying off (and a buffet lunch), you head to Cienfuegos, a pleasant city with a European feel. This is largely due to the influence of French settlers who arrived in the early 19th century. The city was involved in the war between the USA and Spain in 1898, and has a central role in Cuban history. 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. A walking tour of Cienfuegos is included in the afternoon. Hotel Jagua (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming pool (BL)
Continue towards Trinidad (aprox. 1 hours drive). Trinidad, in the Sancti Spíritus province, is one of the seven cities founded by Diego de Velázquez in 1514, and is now a national monument. Nestling on a plain in the lee of the mountains and within sight of the Caribbean, Cuba’s best-preserved colonial town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its narrow, cobbled streets are 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 you will explore the old area around the Plaza Mayor on foot. Being virtually car-free, it’s a pleasant place to wander. You’ll also visit one of the museums which will give you an idea of how these opulent families lived. At night there’s often something of interest happening such as a music or dance performance. Hotel Finca Maria Dolores (AAA) - 2 nights - Swimming Pool (B)
Cayo Blanco Snorkelling
Today you take a day trip to Cayo Blanco by boat. This outcrop of land in the middle of the sea has a beautiful white sandy beach. There is the opportunity to snorkel off the reef and watch the myriad of brightly coloured fish and corals; you may be able to spot some lobsters or a turtle. Those who prefer can simply swim off the beach in the warm Caribbean Sea. (BL)
A short distance from Trinidad is the El Cubano Hacienda – a former plantation owner’s house. Getting there is part of the adventure as you travel through the lush environment for about six kilometres on the back of a truck – Cuban style! On arrival at the Hacienda you’ll take a walk along one of the many tracks and be engulfed by nature with the added treat of being able to take a refreshing dip in crystalline water pools, a refreshing end to your journey over to the pools. For those that fancy it there may be the chance to go horse riding (optional). This afternoon you take the 1 ½ hour drive to Sancti Spiritus, a colonial town where you can visit the local market and ration store to see how Cubans shop for their everyday needs. Your journey for today ends with another 1 ½ hour drive to your destination of Santa Clara. Hotel La Granjita (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming Pool (B)
You wake this morning in the university town of Santa Clara, the site of the last battle of the revolution. It was Che Guevara’s victorious attack on an armoured train here that convinced Batista to flee the country. You will visit the train, now a museum as well as Che’s mausoleum. The museum’s collection includes his famously iconic beret and leather jacket. From here you drive (approx. 3 ½ hrs) to the northern coast and your "all inclusive" beachside base of Varadero. The crystal clear waters and sparkling sand of this peninsula are justly famous. Occidental Allegro (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming pool (BD)
Havana; trip ends
This morning is free to soak up the last of the Caribbean sun and bask in the turquoise waters. You head back to Havana in the afternoon where the trip ends. (B)
About The Imaginative Traveller
Our aim has always been to provide exceptional travel experiences. We believe that adventure travel should be stimulating, and that it should give you an authentic experience of a place. We want our travellers to relish the amazing diversity of countries and cultures the world has to offer. Our focus is on innovation, not imitation.
Obsessed with quality
One of our strengths has been our obsession with quality. We've always believed that our commitment to you doesn't end as soon as you've paid for your holiday. On the contrary, it is just beginning. Whilst most operators simply get a local company to handle the day to day operation of their tours, we do it all ourselves. We have managers for each of our key destinations around the world and all our small groups are escorted by our own leaders. Our local teams include guides, drivers, administration staff and contacts in the local community who help us ensure that our adventures are active and involving.
For comparability, all prices in this dossier are quoted in one currency. We use the US Dollar since that is familiar to most. However, once on tour you will need to pay for all goods and services in the local currency. See your Country Dossier for details of exchange rates.
Trip gradesBeach / coastal
UNESCO Heritage Sites
Anyone in good health should be able to take part. There are some moderate (but optional) walks. The joint effect of temperature and humidity can be tiring. Some accommodation may be basic and expectations may need to be adjusted. Minimum age: 6 years.
Transport - Minibus, on foot, boat.
Accommodation - Hotels (10nts).
Meals - 10 breakfasts , 3 lunches & 1 dinner.
Single room supplementA single supplement is available for this trip priced from 120 GBP. This does not guarantee a single room for all accommodation. please contact us to discuss this.
Cuban hotels can often be without sink plugs so you may want to take one with you – or an old squash ball works too!
SOME INTERESTING READING:
Your Child’s Health Abroad – Matthew Ellis and Jane Wilson-Howarth, (Bradt Publications)
Travel with Children – Maureen Wheeler (Lonely Planet)
The Land of Miracles - Stephen Smith
Inside Cuba - Julio Cesar Perez Hernadez
Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene
Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution - Mike Gonzalez
FOR YOUNGER READERS:
The Road to Santiago – D.H. Figueredo
Where the Flame Trees Bloom – Alma Flor Ada
SOME USEFUL PHRASES:
Hola! (don’t pronounce the ‘H’) – Hello
Buenas dias / Buenos Tardes - Good day / Good afternoon
Gracias – Thank you.
Hasta Luego/pronto/la proxima – see you later/soon/next time
Donde esta el baño – Where are the toilets?
¿Cuanto cuesta? – How much does this cost?
La cuenta, por favour – The bill, please
Mi amigo/hijo/padre/madre pagará – my friend/son/father/mother will pay
Helado – ice cream (again no ‘H’)
Local Costs - Cuba
Approximate costs are given for guidance only, and may vary widely according to location and type of establishment.
Coffee/tea CUC 1.00
Soft drink/small bottle of water CUC 1.00/1.50
Medium beer CUC 1.00/1.50
Bottle of wine CUC 7.00 onwards
Bottle of water CUC 0.70/2.50
Local snack lunch CUC 5.00
3-course dinner* CUC 10.00/15.00
*reasonable mid-range tourist class restaurant
NB: it can be hard to find a suitable place to eat while travelling in Cuba, as roadside restaurants tend to cater for large tour groups and either offer a fixed meal or a very limited selection of snacks. In the cities and towns small privately-owned restaurants, paladares, offer a little more choice but can often only seat a maximum of twelve people (the number for which they are officially licensed) though some proprietors will often find a practical solution.
Visas & Permits - Cuba
A tourist card (Tarjeta del Turista) is valid for all tourist visits with a pre-arranged itinerary. These can be purchased (price approx. £15) from a Cuban consulate. Passports must be valid for at least six months after the end date of the trip. Information can also be found at www.travcour.com.
From the 1st May 2010, the Cuban authorities will require proof of valid medical insurance before allowing visitors to gain entry to the country. It is essential that you have a copy of a valid travel insurance policy, insurance certificate or other suitable evidence in your possession on arrival at the Cuban airport, port or marina. Please ensure that you keep the policy documents easily to hand upon arrival. US residents visiting Cuba must ensure that any medical insurance policy that they purchase covers them for travel to Cuba.
This information is given in good faith, but may be subject to change without warning. Please note that, where appropriate, obtaining a valid visa is ultimately your responsibility. Please consult a visa agency or the consular authorities 4-6 weeks before departure for the most up-to-date information.
Vaccinations - Cuba
None compulsory. The following are recommended:
- Hepatitis A
NB: Yellow Fever. If travelling from an infected area, you must produce a certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever.
For detailed information and advice concerning vaccinations go to:www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
Vaccination requirements change periodically so we advise that you check with your nearest specialist travel clinic 4-6 weeks before departure to get up-to-date information.
International rules for carrying medicines vary. Some countries do not allow certain medicines to be imported, or require official documents, such as a doctor’s letter, to prove drugs have been prescribed by a doctor and obtained legally. It is sensible to contact the relevant embassy or high commission of your destination to check what their drug transportation rules are before you travel.
The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and The Imaginative Traveller.
Responsible Travel - Travellers' Guidelines
At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.
Responsible Travel is twofold. It’s about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.
- It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit.
- We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
- Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.
Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.
Before you depart try to spend some time familiarising yourself with the destination you will be travelling to – their culture and customs. The country dossiers on our website offer detailed information about all the regions we visit. They also include some useful phrases in the local language for you to use on your trip! A few words of the local language can open up many more opportunities for you to interact with the people you will meet.
Although it is tempting to give out pens, sweets and money to people begging, and particularly tempting to give to children, we feel that this encourages a begging mentality and has a long-term negative impact on communities. If someone begging earns more than someone in the same community who works this can discourage local employment. If children regularly bring home money it may discourage their parents from sending them to school. It is of course your own personal choice but you could consider giving to registered charities or contributing to our Responsible Travel fund instead. Money donated through our fund to our worldwide projects is matched pound for pound by Imaginative Traveller and used to help local grassroots projects.
Always ask permission to photograph local people and respect their decision if they would prefer not to have their picture taken.
Respect local dress codes, especially at religious sites. Our tour leaders are always on hand to give you advice about this.
In many of the countries we visit you might see examples of animal cruelty (for example dancing bears, performing monkeys and snake charmers). Please do not take photographs of this or offer money as it encourages the activity.
Respect the environment you are in. It sounds obvious but do not throw litter, take it with you or use rubbish bins! You may see locals throwing rubbish on the street but do not follow their example!
When shopping in countries where haggling is the norm – enjoy it and only pay what you feel is a fair price for the goods you are purchasing. However, remember that the shopkeeper does have to make a living so do stop once you have reached a price you are happy with. Bargaining should be fun but always remember that a small amount can mean much more to the vendor than to you.
Endeavor to take home souvenirs made locally; the money you spend can be very important to the local communities. However, do use your common sense and don’t buy anything that you think might be made out of endangered animals or plants.
To help keep as much money as possible in the host country - try to eat in locally owned restaurants and order local drinks and produce rather than international brands.
In hotels do be conscious of how much water you are using. Many of the areas we visit regularly have shortages; try not to have hour long showers! Don’t leave lights, air conditioners or fans on when you leave the room – you wouldn’t at home!
Respect the environment you are in, especially when in national parks or reserves. Pay attention to rules about keeping on paths, keeping a distance from animals and not removing any of the natural habitat.
Relax and immerse yourself in the differences of the culture you are in – you’ll be back home in the familiar soon enough (and wishing you were still on holiday!). These cultural differences are part of what makes your experience special.
If you would like to offset the carbon dioxide that will be produced on your flights you can do this on our website (on our Responsible travel page). We work with climatecare, who will reduce the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that you produce in another part of the World through their emission reduction projects. These projects are low carbon efficient technologies in developing countries and not only serve to reduce emissions but also help to spread the adoption of low carbon technologies and improve the quality of life for local communities. Details of climatecare’s projects can be found on their website.
If you would like to contribute to our Worldwide projects, helping communities all over the World, you can also do this on our website or with a sales consultant. Please refer to our responsible travel page on the website for details of our current projects. Any donation you make will be matched £ for £ by Imaginative Traveller (up to a maximum of £1000).
Have a great trip!
Please do let us know if you have any comments about responsible travel at firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Imaginative Traveller & The Adventure Company. This trip is operated by our partner company, The Adventure Company. They have more than 10 years experience in adventure travel and they share our ethos for offering unique holiday adventures. As this is a codeshared departure you can expect there to be both Imaginative Traveller and Adventure Company travellers on your trip.