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 drive to Vinales, nestled in the west of Cuba in the Pinar del Rio province. Vinales Valley is filled with palm trees, tobacco plantations and 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. Traditional farming methods are used in this area and it's common to see farmers ploughing their fields with an ox and cart. This afternoon we have a warm up walk through an area of the valley and visit Cueva del Indio, a cave with an underground river running through it. We stay overnight in some simple huts with a spectacular backdrop of the valley. Approximately 2 - 3 hours walking.
Today we complete a full daywalk through the valley, passing by dramatic karsts, alongside rural farmland and through caves. The scenery here is striking. We'll take a picnic lunch with us (included) to eat on the way. This evening is free to explore the town of Vinales, with its wooden houses and country charm. Approximately 6 - 8 hours walking.
The Sierra del Escambray is the second highest mountain range in Cuba, dominating the central part of the island and spanning across three different provinces; Cienfuegos, Villa Clara and Sancti Spiritus. Richly forested with pines, the climate here is cooler and perfect for trekking. Today is a travel day to reach the area of Hanabanilla where we stay overnight. On the way we will stop at Santa Clara, the site of the last battle of the Cuban Revolution in December 1958, just before Fidel Castro took Havana. 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 Che Guevara's Mausoleum and time permitting, look in the Museum.
A boat takes us across Lake Hanabanilla (approx. 30 minutes) to the start of our trek in Topes de Collantes, a reserve in the Sierra del Escambray Mountains. We walk along the banks of the lake using a dirt track to reach 'El Rocio' Waterfall where we stop for a refreshing dip in its cool waters. Lunch today will be at a small rural farmhouse that we pass on the way. This evening we camp at Guanayara for the night.
Drive in Russian 6x6 truck to the starting point of the Caburni trail, which takes us to some magnificent waterfalls which offer a lovely swimming spot. We then continue on a steep path to visit the Vegas Grandes waterfalls with a brief stop for lunch at Julio's farm. We then walk to the hotel which is located in a natural setting where Cuba's national flower, the mariposa blanca or 'white butterfly' lily can often be found. Today involves approximately 5 hours walking. In the afternoon we have a short drive to Trinidad.
Trinidad is beautiful; a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988 and perhaps the best-preserved colonial town on the island. Exploring Trinidad can feel like entering a time warp, its colourful, cobbled streets and horse drawn transportation whisking us back to Colonial Times. There are many interesting museums housed in old colonial buildings and music drifts through the streets and plazas. Today is free to soak up the atmosphere of Trinidad, relax by the hotel pool, or join an optional excursion to explore the surrounding areas. We offer the option to join a Catamaran trip, embarking from the beach of Playa Ancon and sailing the Caribbean to the small island of Cayo Macho (or Cayo Blanco depending on availability) to lunch on fresh seafood amongst tame iguanas and tree rats. Alternatively you can walk the 'El Cubano' trail in the nearby national park. This evening we recommend a visit to Trinidad's Casa de la Trova (the House of Music) for traditional Cuban music and dancing.
Today we have a long drive to 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 war in the 1950's and as the base of Radio Rebelde, which provided information for the revolutionaries. We usually stay overnight in Bayamo.
After breakfast we depart by jeep for the 15 minute drive up to Alto de Naranjo (950m). We then start a tough undulating and uphill trek along the stepped Pico Turquino trail, stopping for the night at Aguada de Joaquin, a bunkhouse. Max altitude 1360m, approximately 5 hours walking.
This morning we have an early breakfast and start the toughest trekking day of the whole trip as we ascend and descend Pico Turquino in one day. In total we climb 3 peaks today. First we climb Joaquins peak (1680m), rest and then continue along the ridge to Pico Regino (1685m.). From here we begin our final ascent to Pico Turquino (1974m) crowned by the monument to Jose Marti, the Cuban National Hero. We then retrace our steps to La Platica where we spend the night in another bunkhouse. Approx 10 hours walking (please note that today's walk is optional and if you think it will be too strenuous you can choose to relax at the accommodation for the day).
This morning we walk to Comandancia La Plata, Fidel's headquarters in the Sierra Maestra (approx. 3 hours in total). We then descend to Santo Domingo Villa for lunch and depart for Camaguey. The journey takes approximately 3 hours, arriving in Camaguey in the late afternoon.
We visit Camaguey and have time to explore the historic city, characterised by tinajones - large, earthen jugs, found in the squares, churches and gardens, originally used to store water during the drought periods. This provincial capital was recently awarded World Heritage Site status. After sightseeing we head to Sancti Spiritus, a gorgeous colonial town where we'll visit and stay overnight.
This morning we return to Havana. A city tour takes us through old and new Havana, Cuba's capital and the largest city in the Caribbean. This is a busy and bustling, energetic capital. Old Havana is described as a living museum with its marvellous monuments, cathedrals and palaces - 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 also visit the Plaza de la Revolucion with its images of the Cuban Revolution.
Today is free for you to explore Havana at your own pace.
Free morning in Havana and then we meet to have lunch and a mojito cocktail (included) in one of Hemingway's old haunts, La Bodeguita del Medio. Those on group flights will be taken to the airport for their return journey to London.