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Active Cuba: Hike, cycle and salsa

16 days from £2,934pp

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Active Cuba: Hike, cycle and salsa

16 days from £2,934pp
 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive in Havana. Transfer to hotel in the historic centre.
 
Private transport to your hotel just off the main square in the historic centre of Havana. 
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Day 2

Guided cycling tour of Old Havana.
 

Your introduction to the city is a guided cycling tour of Old Havana. The streets of La Habana Vieja were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, and the subsequent restoration of this part of town has transformed it into arguably Latin America's finest colonial quarter, in marked contrast to the rambling, potholed streets and crumbling façades around it. 

Ride along the cobbles, between grand, pastel-hued mansions and bustling street life. Music seeps out of every doorway and the narrow streets are clogged with gargantuan, crumbling 1950s American cars. This leisurely tour takes you around the Cuban capital, stopping to view key attractions. Witness scenes of everyday Cuban life as you pedal along the picturesque streets. Starting from outside your hotel, you'll be guided through the working class neighbourhood of Centro Habana, downtown Vedado and the commercial centre of Miramar, then finally continue on to the Port of Havana to view the remains of the city fortifications.

 

 

 

 

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Car and bike on Cuban cobbled street

Day 3

By bus to colonial Trinidad.
 

Travel by bus to Trinidad, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Its popularity has not affected its colonial charm and unhurried atmosphere.  You’ll be staying in a family home here for 2 nights. There’s a feast of terracotta-tiled roofs, cobbled streets and pastel-coloured buildings. Founded in 1514, the town was originally used as a base for expeditions into the 'New World'; its squares and churches date from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The town has hardly changed in a century, no suburbs creep out from its historic centre and no high-rise buildings obscure the view to the sea. Home-grown talent fills the squares and music venues in the evenings, when the town comes alive with dancing and the sound of salsa. Evening entertainment continues into the early hours with dancing and music each night.

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Day 4

Hiking in Topes de Collantes mountains.
 

Guided hike in Topes de Collantes National Park.  The park is in the Escambray mountains which compose the backdrop to Trinidad and have an exquisite landscape of forests, waterfalls, deep valleys and lakes, perfect for hiking along visible trails.  On arrival you'll trek along winding paths up to the highest point (1,140m) and a spectacular look-out point. This area takes pride in being one of the healthiest climatic regions in Cuba. We recommend you take binoculars to make the most of the wide variety of tropical birds found within this enchanting natural environment. 

After the hike you'll enjoy lunch in a well-known paladar - a small family-run restaurant that serves delicious home-cooked food. You'll have the chance to bask in a tranquil pool en route.

 

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Trekking in Cuba

Day 5

By private transfer to Viñales in the west.
 
You'll have a private transfer to Viñales, a small, bucolic town tucked away in the Sierra de los Órganos. The shady high street is lined with trees, wooden colonnades and single-storey, red-roofed houses. Horse and carts clatter along the main road and local children play baseball with sticks and stones outside the dilapidated whitewashed church in the main square. There is a splendid old chemist's shop and a few other bare-shelved stores, as well as a couple of salsa bars that attract a lively crowd in the evening.
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Bucolic Vinales

Day 6

Explore the fertile valley by bike.
 
Guided cycling tour of the countryside. The valley has a distinctive landscape, with dramatic limestone mountains, known as mogotes, which jut into the sky from a lush, fertile plain. Using oxen and carts, local farmers cultivate the red soil of the valley floor for fruit, vegetables and tobacco, and the countryside is peppered with thatched curing barns for drying the tobacco leaves.

The biking tour stops at a prehistoric mural. You’ll also visit a tobacco farm to learn about the growing process of this high-value crop, stop at El Palenque and continue to enjoy a boat trip along a subterranean river inside the cave Cueva del Indio.  The tour lasts approximately 3 hrs.  
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Day 7

By bus back to Havana.

Day 8

Fly to Santiago de Cuba in the east.
 
Fly to Santiago de Cuba, the island's most Caribbean city and a melting pot of Haitian, African and Spanish influences, reflected in both its architecture and its people. Cuba's second largest metropolis sits in a valley surrounded by mountains huddled around a natural harbour. Despite being a bustling hive of activity, Santiago retains the intimate air more associated with a smaller provincial city.  What's more, the city is jam-packed with culture and tradition, from the deep-rooted African religion of Santería to its conveyor belt of great contemporary musicians. 
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Day 9

Guided jeep safari and walk up the Gran Piedra; salsa lesson.
 

Depart by jeep for La Gran Piedra, situated in the beautiful Sierra Maestra.  Visit the botanical gardens and continue to the ruins of La Isabélica, a coffee plantation where you can learn about coffee production in 19th Century Cuba. Of course, there is the opportunity to taste some of Cuba's finest coffee.

Later, climb to the top of La Gran Piedra, a huge bulk of naked rock with near vertical sides. Fortunately there is a walkway with handrail up to the top, from where climbers enjoy expansive views. Occasionally a regular car will be used instead of the jeep.

Salsa dancing is integral to popular culture in Cuba, the dance's birthplace.  Today you have a unique opportunity to learn new skills with a one-to-one lesson provided by a professional instructor. There are several centrally located live music venues where you can practice your new moves in the evening!

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Salsa Cuban style

Day 10

Explore the city at leisure; transfer to Bayamo.
 

You have time to explore the city in the morning before heading off by bus to Bayamo, the capital of the Granma province and rich in history and nature. Low-key Bayamo is renowned as containing almost half of the most significant historical sites in the country. A stroll round of this city will help you discover some of the most significant sites, view the cathedral, spectacular colonial architecture, and enjoy the elegant houses and plazas.

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Day 11

Trek to Castro’s hideout in the Sierra Maestra.
 

Guided hike into the Sierra Maestra National Park. This region is renowned for its natural beauty, history and culture.  You’ll walk in Turquino National Park to Comandancia de la Plata, Castro’s pre-revolution mountain base.  Perched on a mountain ridge sheltered by thick forest and now a museum, this was the head-quarters of the revolutionary army for nearly 2 years during the early days of the insurrection against the Batista government. 

Start with a steep 5km ascent from Santo Domingo village to Alto del Naranjo at the entrance to Turquino National Park. Here, there’s a look-out point with panoramic views of the plains of Granma. As you rise, there are vistas of wild, rocky mountain ranges crinkled with stream-carved valleys. The foliage becomes thicker and more exuberant as you climb.  

After a short rest, trek on to Comandancia de la Plata, where you have time to explore the evocative and historic site. You can view some of the conserved buildings, including the medical hut where Che Guevara treated farmers and injured revolutionary fighters, as well as the building that was Fidel's private quarters. On the way back, stop at Alto del Naranjo for a light picnic lunch, then descend to Santo Domingo.  If you are a wildlife enthusiast, take binoculars as there are many birds to be spotted.  

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Castro's base camp in Sierra Maestra

Day 12

Bus to Baracoa on the eastern coast.
 

Travel by public bus to coastal Baracoa. This alluring historical town is found off the beaten track on Cuba's south-eastern tip.  Columbus was charmed by the area's beauty when he arrived here in 1492 and it became the island's first colonial settlement 20 years later. It's a lively place - full of local atmosphere and character. The surrounding countryside is verdant and tropical, and dominated by the table-top mountain El Yunque.

Your accommodation is at Playa Maguana, a lengthy curve of sand on the Atlantic Ocean, 22km from the city down a bumpy road. 

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Beautiful Baracoa bay.

Day 13

At leisure on the beach.
 
At leisure on Playa Maguana beach. The soft vanilla sands, stroked by benign aquamarine waters are shaded by palms and backed with rich vegetation. There’s a coral reef about 180m from the shore where you can snorkel. The beach is within the protected biosphere reserve Cuchillas del Toa and the surroundings are completely natural.
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Day 14

Climb El Yunque mountain.
 

Guided climb up El Yunque – the word means anvil, a true reflection of its shape. An imposing outcrop of limestone rock, which the Admiral Christopher Columbus immortalised on 27th November 1492 when he wrote in his diary "and at the head of it in the south east part, stands a cape in which there is a high and square mountain that looks like an island…". 

It's a challenging hike to the summit at 575m taking around 90mins. The climb follows a narrow, rocky trail between shady trees and there’s an abundance of endemic flora and fauna to interest you as you hike up and down the trails. Once you’re on the flat top, you have some great panoramic views.  It’s a full day’s walking, but with plenty of rest stops. 

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Table mountain

Day 15

Fly to Havana.
 
Transfer to Baracoa airport and fly to Havana. Overnight. 
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Day 16

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

16 days from £2,934pp

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