The group flight arrives in the afternoon and we transfer to our hotel. Those on Land Only arrangements should join us at the hotel in the evening.
This morning we have a panoramic tour of Old Havana including the Capitolio building and Revolution Square. We then drive to Santa Clara, the site of the last battle of the Cuban revolution. In December 1958 Che Guevara and his troops ambushed an armoured train carrying arms to Santiago de Cuba and this was a major turning point in the revolution. We visit the train museum and the Mausoleum of Che Guevara and his comrades who died in Bolivia. The museum attached to the Mausoleum has many of his former belongings and is a fascinating insight into one of the 20th Centuries most revered icons. Our final destination today is Sancti Spiritus where we check into our hotel for the night. Transfer approx. 4.5 hours.
Today is a long driving day as we head to Holguin in the east of the island. We pass through agricultural towns and sugar cane plantations, learning about the importance of sugar in Cuba's history. We stop for lunch in Camaguey, Cuba's fourth largest city, to break up the journey. Transfer approx. 7 - 8 hours.
After breakfast we leave Holguin and drive to the beautiful Playa Maguana beach, where we will spend a few hours relaxing or swimming in the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean. There is a beachside cafe where we can have lunch before we continue to our destination - Baracoa. Founded in 1512, Baracoa was the first Spanish settlement and served as the capital for three years. It's location on the easternmost tip of the island left it open to attacks from pirates, smugglers and the English, so three forts were constructed in the 18th Century for protection. Baracoa's has only been accessible by road since the 1960s and this has left it largely off the tourist route. Surrounding the quaint town are lush, tropical mountains and golden sand beaches. This area is renowned for cocoa growing and chocolate production. The Malecon on the northeast side of the town is known as the Caribbean's first ocean drive. There is still a strong Indian influence here and the El Yunque Mountain, (the anvil shaped mountain described by Christopher Columbus in his diaries) used to be the site of various aboriginal communities. We arrive in the late afternoon and spend some time exploring before checking into our hotel. Transfer approx. 5 hours.
This morning we take a boat trip on the River Toa followed by a walk through a Biosphere Reserve to learn about cocoa production. The afternoon is free to explore the town or visit the beach. If you'd prefer a tougher walk, there is an optional trek to explore 'El Yunque' mountain that will fill the whole day.
After breakfast we depart sleepy Baracoa for Santiago de Cuba, which is known as the 'city of heroes' for the important role it played in Independence and Revolutionary struggles. Santiago rivals Havana in literature, music and politics, and is rich in traditions, folklore and legends making almost every street corner in the city famous. Transfer approx. 3.5 - 4 hours.
This morning we explore Santiago de Cuba, visiting the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, Revolution Square, El Morro Castle and Moncada Barracks - where the opening shots of the revolution were fired on 26 July 1953, when Castro and his men attacked the barracks. The afternoon is free for you to explore yourself.
Leaving the city behind we drive towards the green mountains of the Sierra Maestra, stopping to visit El Cobre, the most sacred pilgrimage sight in Cuba. Our first choice is to stay in a hotel in the Sierra Maestra, however due to the popularity of the area we may stay in Bayamo, a charming colonial city with a recently renovated boulevard where the locals love to congregate in the evenings. Transfer approx. 3 hours.
We spend this morning in the Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra, a spectacular national park within Cuba's highest mountain range. This region is well known as Fidel Castro's base of operations during the Cuban Revolutionary War. High in the Sierra is Comandancia La Plata, the secret mountain hideout of Castro and Che Guevara, used for planning the revolutionary war in the 1950's and as the base of Radio Rebelde which provided information for the revolutionaries. We hike to the revolutionary base and may have time to bathe in the Yara River. After lunch we continue our journey on to Camaguey where we'll spend the night. After almost continuous attacks from pirates the original city (founded as Santa Maria del Puerto del Principe around 1515 on the northern coast) was moved inland in 1528. The new city was built with a confusing lay-out of winding alleys that made it easier to defend from raiders. Transfer approx. 4 hours.
This morning there will be time to explore this historic city, characterised more recently by 'tinajones' - large, earthen jugs found in the squares, churches and gardens that were originally used to store water during drought periods. We then continue to Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988 and perhaps the best-preserved colonial town on the island. Exploring Trinidad is like stepping back in time, the cobbled streets and horse drawn transportation whisks you back to colonial times. There are many interesting museums housed in old colonial buildings to visit in the daytime, but it is as the sun sets that Trinidad really comes to life. We recommend a visit to Casa de la Trova for traditional Cuban music and dancing! Transfer approx. 3.5 - 4 hours.
Today is free to continue your exploration of Trinidad and its surroundings or simply to relax by the hotel pool. For those who wish to venture a little further afield an optional catamaran trip is available. Embarking from the beach at Playa Ancon the full day trip heads out into the Caribbean Sea to the small islands of Cayo Macho or Cayo Blanco (depending on availability) where you will have a fresh seafood lunch amongst tame iguanas and tree rats.
After breakfast we set off for 'El Cubano' Nature Park, a reserve nestled in countryside on the outskirts of Trinidad. We'll walk through tropical forest to reach a waterfall where we can stop to take a refreshing dip. We then carry on to colonial Cienfuegos where we have a city tour of the main plazas and spend the night. Transfer approx. 1.5 hours.
Today we visit the Bay of Pigs and drive through the Zapata Peninsula back to Havana. The Bay of Pigs was the site of the US invasion in 1961. In perhaps one of the United States' most embarrassing moments, approximately 1400 CIA trained Cuban exiles were deposited on the white sands here and the forewarned Cubans almost immediately cut off their supply chain. Kennedy then refused to grant air support and the much touted Cuban revolution that they were to spark completely failed to start. 114 exiles were killed in skirmishes and almost 1200 captured, but perhaps the worst result for the Americans was the push towards the communist Soviet Union that this gave Cuba. We visit the museum at Playa Giron and stop for lunch and to swim at Caleta Buena, a protected cove that is great for snorkelling. On arrival in Havana we have a walking tour of Old Havana's plazas before checking into our hotel. Transfer approx. 3.5 - 4 hours.
Today is free for you to explore Havana or take an optional day trip to Vinales. The Vinales Valley is filled with palm trees and tobacco farms, where traditional farming methods are still used, scattered amongst some of the most impressive scenery in Cuba. Huge limestone karsts (sheer-sided, flat-topped hills) rise from the valley floor, riddled with caves and covered in forest. In the evening there is an optional trip to the famous Tropicana Nightclub in Havana.
This morning you have free time to explore old Havana, Cuba's capital and the largest city in the Caribbean. This is a busy and bustling, energetic capital. Old Havana is often described as a living museum with its marvellous monuments, cathedrals and palaces. It is the finest surviving Spanish colonial complex in the Americas, preserved by a combination of minimal war damage, post revolution restoration work and the millions of dollars invested since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. We meet to have lunch and a Mojito cocktail (included) in one of Hemingway's old haunts, La Bodeguita del Medio.