Please note: This is a representative itinerary. Features are subject to change, as availability is controlled by the Cuban government.
Day 1 - Miami
Make your own air arrangements to Miami today. After settling into your hotel, gather with the group for a welcome briefing, which includes an overview of the meetings we will have with Cubans throughout our visit.
Day 2 - Havana
We fly to Havana, Cuba, today, and have the opportunity to see the sights as we make our way to the hotel. Later, we check into the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, overlooking the sea in Havana's Vedado district.
Day 3 - Havana
After breakfast, we learn about Cuba's rich tradition of music during a discussion at the hotel. After the discussion, we learn about Cuban customs at historic Cristobol Colon Cemetery, a sprawling 19th-century burial ground with elaborate memorials to figures from Cuba's political history and culture. Next, we visit a program sponsored by Caritas Cubana, a relief agency established to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Cuba. Our visit will be to the St. Augustine Senior Center. Here, we meet local elders, perhaps share family photos and snacks, and learn a little about Cuban family life.
After lunch, we'll see a rehearsal of a music or dance group and have the opportunity to meet and have a discussion with the performers. In the late afternoon, we drive to the outskirts of Havana to visit a public art project in Jaimanitas, a village where Cuban artist and sculptor Jose Fuster has decorated over 80 neighborhood houses with ornate, Gaudi-inspired murals and domes. We begin with a tour of what has become known as "Fusterlandia in Jaimanitas." We have an opportunity to ask the artist questions about his living canvas and discuss contemporary Cuban art during dinner with Jose Fuster (or with his son Alex).
Day 4 - Havana/Viñales Valley
After breakfast, we journey to Viñales Valley, an unspoiled landscape noted for its dramatic geographical formations (called mogotes) in the western province of Pinar del Rio, one of Cuba's important tobacco-growing regions. Our first visit is to one of the many tobacco farms spread across the fertile Viñales Valley, said to produce the finest tobacco leaves in the world. An intrinsic part of Cuban culture, indigenous Cubans have been cultivating tobacco since before the arrival of Columbus. Depending on the season, we either meet with workers spreading the aromatic leaves in a dry barn or visit with rollers who hand-fashion the dried leaves into quality Cuban cigars.
After lunch, we have a short visit to the city of Pinar del Rio before transferring to our hotel. Later this afternoon, we check into our hotel..
Day 5 – Viñales Valley: Las Terrazas
Our day begins with meetings with environmental scientists and Cuban professionals responsible for the preservation and care of the environment surrounding Las Terrazas, whose landscape is a blend of semi-tropical rainforest and evergreen forest. A successful reforestation project in nearby Sierra del Rosario in the 1970s led to its declaration as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1985.
We gain further insights into the harmonious nature of this eco-friendly village community during meetings and interactions with local artists and craftspeople in their homes and studios.
Day 6 – Viñales Valley: Soroa
Today begins with a visit to the Orquiddeario (orchid farm) in Soroa, the largest garden in Cuba and part of the Sierra del Rosario biosphere reserve. In addition to more than 20,000 orchid plants, the garden boasts thousands of specimens of ferns and trees. Here, we'll discuss conservation works with plant experts from the University of Pinar del Rio. We then visit a grammar school in the valley and participate in a group discussion with the schoolchildren who will demonstrate their English language skills and share art projects with us, allowing us to gain a unique perspective of Cuban life from the next generation of Cubans. Later, we visit an artist's home, where we learn about his work and meet his family, and share a lunch with them.
Later that afternoon, we visit a local farming community in the valley, where we meet with some guajiros (farmers) and learn firsthand about how they live. Our interactions with the hard-working guajiros will provide insights into the traditional methods of agriculture that have survived in Cuba for centuries.
Day 7 – Viñales Valley/Havana
After breakfast, we depart our hotel and journey back to Havana. Our first stop is the Instituto Superior de Arte (Higher Art Institute), where we meet with some of the academy's professors and students who share insights in Cuban culture and enlighten us about the schools of music, ballet, modern dance, and fine arts at this leading art academy.
After lunch, and get an introduction to contemporary Cuban art when we view the collections in Havana's Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) with a discussion led by a member of the Ludwig Foundation. Later, we learn about the proud Cuban tradition of beisbol (baseball) during a lively discussion by a member of the Ludwig Foundation. Baseball is the national game of Cuba, which won the first-ever Olympic gold in the sport at the 1992 Barcelona games.
Day 8 – Havana
After breakfast, we drive to Finca La Vigia, Ernest Hemingway's home for 20 years in the Havana suburb of San Francisco de Paula. Respected by Cubans for living in a modest area among the people he fished with, Finca La Vigia (meaning "lookout house") is where the great author wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Then, some local fishermen will join us for lunch in the nearby fishing village of Cojimar to discuss Hemingway. Perhaps you can ask them about Gregorio Fuentes, the Cojimar fisherman who was the inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea. Fuentes, who was a close friend of Hemingway's, and died in 2002 at the age of 104.
This afternoon, we visit the historic town of Guanabacoa, an important center of Regla de Ocha—the Afro-Cuban religion better known as Santeria. After viewing the religious collections at the Museo Historico de Guanabacoa, we meet with members of the local community to learn about the importance of religion in modern Cuban culture and witness a performance of Afro-Cuban music and dance associated with Santeria. Later, mingle with local Cubans during a stroll through the historic streets of Habana Vieja (Old Havana). The entire neighborhood of Old Havana has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 9 – Return to U.S.
We bid Cuba farewell today as we board our return flight to Miami.
Please note: This is a representative itinerary. Features are subject to change as availability is controlled by the Cuban government.
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