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'Cuban Odyssey'

What makes this trip special?

Cuba's unforgettable capital

Cuba's unforgettable capital

Havana

There is no other capital city in the world quite like Havana. Impossible to sum up in only a few words its combination of magificently restored buildings, crumbling apartment blocks, classic cars, lively atmosphere and sense of defiance will stay with you for a long time.

Caribbean vibes and fascinating history mixed with rum and salsa

Caribbean vibes and fascinating history mixed with rum and salsa

Santiago de Cuba

A city of contrasts and one that regularly divides opinions, Santiago is a colourful mix of culture, history, arts and scenery.

Taste the real Cuba

Taste the real Cuba

Camaguey

An elegant colonial town, Camaguey is out of reach for most visitors. The town buzzes with life, whilst the cobbled squares and colonial buildings make it an attractive place to stop over.

Colourful and lively colonial town

Colourful and lively colonial town

Trinidad

The magnificent colonial town of Trinidad has recently been restored under UNESCO World Heritage, with brighly painted facades, cobbled streets, bands playing and horse drawn carts the town feels very much alive.

Sweet like sugar

Sweet like sugar

Valle de los Ingenios

The eastern slopes of Sierra del Escambray were once the hub of slave-powered sugar production in Cuba.  Today the valley is scattered with ruins of old sugar mills.

Cuban resistance

Cuban resistance

Bay of Pigs

Visit the elegant colonial squares and boulevards of Cienfuegos before moving on to the site of of the notorious US backed invasion of Cuba to overthrow Castro at the Bay of Pigs.

Cigars, gardens & village life

Cigars, gardens & village life

Vinales

The small town of Vinales offers visitors a peek into everyday rural cuban life, as well as stunning botanical gardens and a number of family run tobacco farms.

Hemingway's Havana

Hemingway's Havana

Havana

A different perspective on Havana following the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway. See where he lived, eat in his favourite restaurant, have a mojito (or two) in his local hangout and visit the hotel where he wrote 'For Whom the Bells Tolls'.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Cuban Odyssey'

DAY 1

Havana

You are met on the arrival at Havana airport of your chosen international flight and transferred to the group's Havana hotel, where we enjoy a welcome cocktail and meet our fellow participants. Everything one has heard about Cuba’s capital city is true! Lovers of history, architecture, music and people will revel in this fascinating city that outwardly seems frozen in time since the days of the revolution, while seismic shifts in politics have affected the lives of everyone.

DAY 2
BL

This morning we meet our local Havana guide and set off on foot for a walking tour of Old Havana, through narrow colonial streets, around elegant plazas, beside lavish mansions–some now crumbling, others beautifully restored. We visit the Plaza de La Catedral, the delightful Museum of Colonial Art and the worthy but fascinating Museum of the Revolution. After lunch we stroll past the Castillo del Real Fuerza (a 17th century fort), stop at a peaceful courtyard shrine to Princess Diana, paid for by the British Embassy, and continue to the lively Plaza de Armas. We may have time to visit the Camera Obscura to see life on Havana's rooftops or enjoy a refreshment at Taberna de la Muralla. We’ll then take a tour of Havana in old American open-top classic cars before returning to our hotel. Our guide will be able to provide information on restaurants, and on nightspots from the gaudy Tropicana to cool jazz hang-outs.

DAY 3
BL

Less pressure on the feet today as we are driven out to Miramar and Playa, a well-to-do area of embassies and government offices in art deco and neoclassical styles, where some luckier Cubans still live. On the way back into town we stop to see John Lennon in the park that bears his name and visit the 1920s art deco mansion that is now the Casa de la Amistad, a cultural centre. We then repair to the rather lavish Restaurant 1830 for lunch. Our afternoon brings us firmly into post-revolution Havana with a visit to the vast Plaza de la Revolución, with a giant outline of Ché gazing across it. Our route back passes the US Special Interest Section and the Wall of Flags defiantly blocking it from view. It will then be time to collect our bags and be driven to the airport for our flight to Santiago. We are met on arrival and transferred to our hotel for a 3 night stay.

DAY 4
BL

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago was one of the first Spanish settlements in Cuba and even the country’s capital for a brief time. The most Caribbean city in Cuba with the highest African-Caribbean population, the city is as vibrant as Havana yet retains an intimate small town atmosphere. One of the first Spanish settlements, it boasts one of the oldest buildings in the Caribbean–the Museo de Ambiente Cubano, built for the conquistador Diego Velasquez in 1515. Santiago’s magnificent fort looking over the bay was built to deter rampaging pirates (without much success). This morning our guide takes us on an orientation tour in the historic centre around Plaza Céspedes including the Museo de Ambiente Cubana and the Museo Bacardi. After lunch we visit Moncada Barracks, a stark and moving reminder of young people’s sacrifices, where the horror of Batista’s brutality hits one with considerable force. In the same vein we visit the Museum Museo de la Lucha Clandestina, a tribute to the pre-revolutionary struggle. The museum is housed in a reproduction of the original 18th century house, burnt down in 1956 in an attack by another Santiaguero, schoolteacher Frank Pais. In the evening we visit the city’s famous Casa de la Trova, one of the true homes of son, the Cuban style that influences most of today’s Latin American music and has a following around the world.

DAY 5
BL

A day exploring the area just east of Santiago. We pass by Siboney Farm, where the young fighters led by Fidel Castro dined before their ill-fated attack on the Moncada Barracks. We visit the dramatic rock out-crop of Gran Piedra, a vantage point with great panoramic views, and the Isabelica coffee plantation. In the afternoon we continue down the ‘Revolutionary Highway’ to Baconao Park where we can take a pleasant lakeside stroll. Here you might spot the Cuban Tody, a most delightful small bird. We pass the marvellously incongruous ‘Valley of Prehistory’ theme park where life-size dinosaurs roam the landscape, and visit a museum of classic cars. Our evening is free. Santiago buzzes at night, with rooftop cafes and bars, plazas where locals come to stroll after their day’s work, and some of the best places for music on the whole island.

DAY 6
BLD

A leisurely start today. First we tour the outskirts of Santiago and visit the immediate suburbs of the city to take a look at Vista Alegre, an elegant leafy suburb, for an impression of how wealthier people lived before the revolution. Although some houses appear a little shabby, there are some fantastic examples of colonial and neoclassical homes, some still private residences, but most are now museums, community buildings or restaurants. Close by is the cemetery with José Martí’s mausoleum. Buena Vista Social Club’s Compay Segundo, who wrote their defining song ‘Chan Chan’ and others you will hear all over Cuba, is also buried here. We move on to El Castillo del Morro San Pedro de la Roca, the splendid seventeenth century coastal fort built high on the cliffs. After lunch we depart for Holguín via Birán, where Fidel and Raúl were born. The Castro family home is now a museum and we stop for a short visit. We cross the train tracks from Alto Cedro to Cueto, that go on to Mayarí, with ‘Chan Chan’ in our ears. Overnight just outside Holguín at a hilltop hotel with commanding panoramic views.

DAY 7
BL

Central Cuba

Today we descend into Holguín to stretch our legs a little strolling along the principal avenues which link several small tree filled squares. Cubans call this the ‘city of parks’. There’s a little time to explore the shops or just sit and watch the world go by before we drive to Camagüey (3-4hr), where we stay 2 nights in a characterful mid-range hotel. Camagüey is a colonial town with winding streets, designed to confuse marauding pirates, and lovely colonial squares. Look out for its tinajones–large clay water pots redolent of Byzantium. An evening stroll reveals other gems from the past.

DAY 8
BL

Camagüey is a friendly, lively place, and is in many ways a typical Cuban town. This morning we find out about two initiatives that help show how Cuba works and has found its unique identity. At the busy farmers' market we learn about a national scheme, for which Camagüey is the pilot project, which calls for farmers to grow fruit and vegetables and raise some livestock in 4-mile rings around 150 towns and cities, so that fresh produce can be easily brought to market to feed the townspeople. Then after lunch we visit the HQ of the internationally successful Camagüey ballet at the beautiful Teatro Principal. Potatoes and pirouettes in one day. Later, there is time for you to explore Camagüey by yourself if you wish. It is easy to get around on foot or by bici-taxi. There is music, of course, and quirky local events such as a regular synchronised swimming display. Your guide will help you decide.

DAY 9
BLD

Trinidad

Today starts with a drive to the beautiful colonial town of Trinidad. On our way we visit the Valle de los Ingenios, a tucked-away valley of sugar plantations that were worked by slaves, where a gaunt bell-tower stands over a picturesque village now known for its handmade lace and embroidery. Having settled into our beach hotel just outside Trinidad we set out in the evening to the Casa de la Trova for live music, Cuban style. Opportunities to join in the dancing may prove irresistible.

DAY 10
AI

Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is definitely one of Cuba’s loveliest towns. This morning we take a stroll through the picturesque cobbled streets with our guide, looking into the many colonial houses with their magnificent internal patios, and visiting the delightful Museo Romantico with its delicate painted frescoes and insights into fine living in centuries past. The rest of the day is free to explore further or enjoy the beach or the hotel pool.

DAY 11
BLD

We drive up to Sierra del Escambray, the mountain range just behind Trinidad, for a day in hills and lush forests. We arrive at Hacienda Codina in time for lunch. After lunch you may decide to relax on the lovely verandah, or to put on your walking shoes for a leg-stretching country walk, or for a gentle meander around the plantation. You might even be the one to find the world’s smallest frog! We return to our hotel later in the afternoon.

DAY 12
BLD

Cienfuegos and the Bay of Pigs

An early start today to explore with our guide the nearby city of Cienfuegos, which has a distinctly French look to it. We continue to the Bay of Pigs, where we visit the museum at Playa Girón dedicated to Cuba’s gallant resistance to the woefully misconceived US invasion. We move on to the Zapata Biosphere Reserve, Cuba's unique wetlands with its wealth of bird life. We take our lunch at Zapata before we are driven on to Soroa, where we spend one night. Depending how the day goes, we may also be able to visit the orchidarium in Soroa before we arrive at our hotel, if not, we will visit it tomorrow.

DAY 13
BL

Viñales Valley

Today we visit breathtakingly beautiful Viñales Valley with its mogotes–limestone hills that rise above flat fields awash with bougainvillea, hibiscus, and flame trees. We spend much of the day in this lovely area, and then return to Havana in the early evening for 2 nights at the Hotel Nacional, the great 1930s megalith that looks over the Malecón and out to sea from its hilltop setting. Is that Errol Flynn at the bar, and Rita Hayworth?

DAY 14
BLD

Hemingway’s Havana

Today we drive to Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway's home for 20 years before he left Cuba forever in 1960, giving the house and its small estate to the Cuban government. He left his boat, the Pilar, to his faithful skipper, Gregorio Fuentes, and the salty little launch stands dry-docked in the grounds. The house is so meticulously kept that ‘Papa’ might step through the door at any moment. At Cojimar we lunch at the great writer's favourite restaurant and return to Havana for a walk through Old Havana's streets where you can stop at either or both of his two favourite bars, La Bodeguita del Medio and La Floridita, for a daiquiri or a mojito. We also visit the room at the Ambos Mundos Hotel, where he wrote part of ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’. We return to the Nacional, and step out for a farewell dinner with our guide.

DAY 15
B

A final free morning in Havana before we are transferred to the airport for our chosen international flights. You might relax by the hotel pool or fit in some independent sightseeing or shopping. Your guide is on hand to advise and assist. Havana

Departure dates and prices

tour code starts ends price per person single supplement
Prices are per person and include:
  • Cuba visa
  • airport transfers
  • all accommodation
  • all transport
  • services of English-speaking local guides
  • meals as specified: B = Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner; AI=All - inclusive
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • airport and departure taxes
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc

Customer reviews for 'Cuban Odyssey'

Average customer rating 96%

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National Parks, route well designed to allow all different nature, aspects, habitats for the country.

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Santiago de Cuba and Trinidad

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El Salton, Santiago

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Would have preferred to stay in Vinales instead of Cayo Levisa, but we know this was not an option at that time

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Old Havana, just the right amount of time at the beach.

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We really enjoyed out trip. I enjoyed getting some history and then getting out of the city (and away from the tourists) to explore part of the country. We really enjoyed having the guide to ourselves. This way we could stop when and where we wanted to

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Havana/Santiago/Trinidad

Seasonal information for 'Cuban Odyssey'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall

Typical weather for January

rainchart

Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'Cuban Odyssey'

Days 1 - 2

Hotel Park View, Havana

This 3* Habaguanex hotel is a good choice of hotel for people on a budget who wish to stay in central Havana and be comfortable.  Hotel  Park View is  mid-range Habaguanex hotel - 7 floors with lift and staircase. There is a popular small bar on the ground floor. It is very conveniently situated close to the Prado and Old Havana and a short walk from Parque Central and the Malecon. The hotel rooms are small, well furnished and comfortable with air-conditioning. There are excellent views of the city from the seventh-floor restaurant, where you have breakfast.

Hotel Park View, Havana
Days 3 - 5

Casa Granda, Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba

The Casa Granda is Santiago de Cuba's most elegant colonial hotel, housing 58 high quality rooms in a great location and stylish terrace bar overlooking the city's main square, Parque Cespedes.

Rooms are medium sized with a/c, private bathroom (with shower and bath), hot water, minibar, safe (included), hairdryer, and double glazing. 24 of the rooms have a view to the main square.

 

However, the hotel does not entirely live up to its grand exterior image. It does not have a swimming pool or garden, but it has a super roof terrace for drinksand breakfast. Street parking only. There are 2 computers on the ground floor with internet access, and a restaurant serving 3 meals a day, although service is slow and fairly sullen. There is just one small lift serving the whole hotel and, in general, the finer touches of an otherwise elegant hotel will not to be found here.

Casa Granda, Santiago de Cuba
Day 6

Royalton

Bayamo

Built in the 1940s and refurbished in the last few years the 2* Hotel Royalton has 33 rooms and  is a comfortable choice for your stay in Bayamo. The hotel is centrally situated facing the attractive Parque Cespedes.  There is a small restaurant, mini bar, nightclub, car rental facilities and parking.

Royalton
Days 7 - 8

Gran Hotel, Camaguey

Camaguey

This 19th century building became a hotel in the 1930s and retains much of its original charm with its old fashioned reception and lift. The reception area is furnished in colonial style and there are four bars. The rooms vary in size but all are comfortable.There is a pleasant top floor restaurant with windows opening wide across the town's rooftops, where breakfast is served. The Piano bar serves excellent cocktails and hosts  frequent salsa sessions. The pool area hosts a synchronised swimming display on occasions, which is fun to watch. There is a good atmosphere at this hotel, the staff are very courteous and it is one of our favourite hotels in the area but it can get very noisy in this part of the city so bring ear plugs.

Gran Hotel, Camaguey
Days 9 - 10

Costa Sur Hotel

Small all-inclusive hotel with swimming pool and plenty of daily activities to choose from, Costa Sur was refurbished in 2008 and is situated a ten minute drive from Trinidad at Playa Aguilar. Rooms are a mixture of two storey hotel, garden and bungalow rooms, some of which open straight onto a small private beach (good for snorkelling) set apart from the rest of the hotel and the main beach.

Costa Sur Hotel
Day 11

Hotel Jagua, Cienfuegos

Punta Gorda
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Average rating 4.5 (8 ratings)

Spacious, clean rooms (149 rooms)  and well run hotel next door to the Byzantine folly Palacio del Valle at Punta Gorda. Modern hotel. Great views. Large swimming pool. This hotel is used by groups. Services include curreny exchange, internet, laundry service,satellite TV area, parking.

Hotel Jagua, Cienfuegos
Day 12

Hotel Horizontes Villa Soroa

Villa Soroa

Hotel Soroa is located in Pinar del Río, the westernmost province of Cuba, surrounded by the spectacular Sierra del Rosario, defined since 1984 as  a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  Only 75 km from the City of Havana, Hotel Soroa provides an attractive and yet relaxing environment for nature lovers, from bird watchers to trekkers and horse riding. Close to the Hotel, there is a 21-meter waterfall and the largest orhidarium and orchid gardens in the country, with over 700 varieties of orchids. From here you will be able to visit old coffee plantations originally owned by French settlers that fled to Cuba from the Haitian Revolution over 200 years ago.

Hotel Horizontes Villa Soroa
Days 13 - 14

Hotel Nacional, Havana

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Average rating 4.1 (48 ratings)

The historic Hotel Nacional, a short taxi ride away from Old Havana and overlooking Havana's seafront Malecón, has enjoyed the patronage of many distinguished guests in its time, Winston Churchill and Franklyn Roosevelt to name but two. There is oodles of atmosphere and the hotel is always lively. It has a lovely terrace and gardens overlooking the Malecón - a great place for that evening mojito. This is a hotel to watch people and it is a meeting place for Cubans doing business with non-Cubans. The rooms are standard business hotel type rooms but the majestic lobby and regal gardens add a certain frisson.

Hotel Nacional, Havana