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Photo by Roman Cahero
Culture, Caves, Reefs and Waterfalls
DETAILED ITINERARY AND ACCOMMODATIONS
During our visit to Cuba, we plan to stay at "Casas Particulares" which is a phrase for a "private home", owned and operated by a Cuban family
rather than the government. Our private home stays will vary at each location, but you will share a room within a comfortable
Cuban home on a double occupancy basis.
As with a rental home here, living areas and bathrooms will be shared. After a day of learning and adventure, you make relax in your room or
join the group in the communal living area as pictured below.
Many Casas Particulares operate like our B&B's and provide a breakfast. As featured below, our rental house while in Habana has a more modern design than others. While in
Playa Larga our Casa Partiuclar will be simpler than our Habana home stay, but just a few steps away from a beautiful beach.
Most dinners will be enjoyed at a nearby restaurant featuring Cuban cuisine.
Keeping to our mission of providing truly authentic experiences during our People to People learning adventure,
we are excited to meet and converse with our Cuban hosts at each Casa Particular we visit.
Living space in Habana
DAY ONE: ARRIVAL TO HABANA
Our adventure begins with the arrival into Habana International Airport. After clearing customs, we will be welcomed by our bilingual Cuban guide
who will join us throughout our Cuban adventure, from land to sea!
On our first People to People Exchange, we will be meeting with The Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity (FANJ), a cultural and scientific non-governmental institution
dedicated to research and promotion of programs and projects for the protection of the environment as it relates to culture and society.
In 1987 Antonio Nuñez organized an expedition that began in Quito and traveled 17,422 kilometers through 20 countries.
The objective of this one year expedition was to study the prehistoric tribes of the basins of the Caribbean and the Orinoco. This meant a canoe trip down the waters of Napo,
The Amazons, Negro Guainia, Casiquiare, Atabapo, Temi, the Orinoco and the Caribbean Sea. The expedition ended in Cuba.
Tonight we'll dine on some fine Cuban cuisine followed by a meeting to prepare us for our rich educational journey highlighting the cultural and natural wonders of Cuba.
Overnight accommodations In Habana.
photo by Roman Cahero
After breakfast we will depart for Vinales Valley, established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site which offers a fascinating feature to our People to People program.
Noted for its freestanding karst rock formations known as Mogotes, the valley is also home to many endemic species of flora and fauna.
As we meander through the breathtaking valley, we will stop at several scenic overlooks including the stunning views from the Los Jazmines Hotel.
Our day will include visiting an organic tobacco plantation and meeting local farmers of the Tobacco Planters House. We'll learn the farming techniques involved in producing organic coffee and details for harvesting wild honey.
After a typical Cuban meal at the Valle del Silencio Restaurant, we'll take a refreshing swim in the lake of the Valley of Silence before transferring to our accommodations in Habana.
photo by Roman Cahero
DAY THREE: HABANA
Today, we'll head out to explore the beautiful and historical city of Habana led by local architect Orestes Del Castillo who is in charge of the office of the historian.
While exploring Habana, we will gain invaluable insight into an integral component of our People to People exchange program.
Habana was founded in 1515 by conquistador Diego Velazquez as a trading port.
It became the capital of the Spanish Colony of Cuba in 1607.
Our day will include meandering through the picturesque streets and squares of Habana's Historical Centre, also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Plaza de la Cathedral (Cathedral Square), named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture: the Cathedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana built by the Jesuit order.
The Cathedral's baroque facade is simultaneously intimate and imposing, and one of the two towers is visibly larger, creating a pleasing asymmetry.
As with many churches in the city, the building material of Habana Cathedral includes coral, cut and hauled from the edge of the sea by slaves.
Look carefully and you'll see fossils of marine flora and fauna in the stone of the cathedral.
Plaza de Armas (Square of Arms), ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers and surrounded by impressive buildings such as: Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the former official residence of the governors (Captains General) of Habana, Cuba. It is home to the Museum of the City of Habana. It houses exhibitions of art and historical artifacts and many of the rooms are preserved with their original Colonial decoration.
photo by Roman Cahero
Palacio del Segundo Cabo (Palace of the Second Lieutenant) dates from 1770, the seat of the second authority of the island. Today it houses important publishing concerns. Castillo de la Real Fuerza. The second oldest fortress built by the Spaniards in the West Indies. The castle was recently renovated and reopened in June 2008 to hold the impressive maritime museum. Well laid out exhibits a chart of Spain and Cuba's naval history.
Plaza de San Francisco de Asís (San Francisco Square), named after the Convent of San Francisco, this square was conceived in 1628, with the objective of supplying water to the ships trading with the metropolis.
For many years it also served to stockpile the goods arriving from the harbor. Chronicles of the time say that the square had a busy commercial life. The people, in humble carts or afoot, sold and bought a variety of goods. It’s important to know that through this place the Spanish immigrants arrived to Cuba. Plaza Vieja (Old Square), the only civic square of colonial times. Notice it doesn't have a church or government building and is in contrast surrounded by opulent aristocratic 17th century residences. Here we will visit important institutions for visual arts.
Visit to the famous Handicraft Market of Old HaBana and meet local Cuban artists. The market is located inside the Almacenes de Depósito San José, an old warehouse on the harbor side.
For dinner, we'll explore one of many delicious paladars, private businesses owned by Cuban families. Privately owned restaurants are a great example of Cuba’s incremental shift to a more free-market economy. We will have the opportunity to meet the owners of the Paladares and discuss about the changes and their goals as new business entrepreneurs.
Paladar means “palate” and is named after a chain of restaurants in a Brazilian soap opera popular in Cuba. Overnight accommodations in Habana.
DAY FOUR: PENINSULA DE ZAPATA GIRON~PLAYA LARGA
After enjoying another Cuban breakfast, we'll head into the suburbs of San Miguel del Padron in Habana. Our day will include a fascinating interpretive tour of Finca Vigia, the home of Ernest Hemmingway from 1939 to 1960.
Departing for Cienega de Zapata National Park, we plan to visit Bernabe's House in Palpite cienega de Zapata.
The exotic lush tropical flora dotting Bernabe's backyard provides a kaleidoscope of colors where the world's smallest bird, the bee hummingbird resides.
Our destination tonight is Playa Larga where we can relax on a beautiful stretch of beach near our accommodations in Playa Larga.
photo by Kim Powell
DAY FIVE: BAY OF PIGS~PLAYA LARGA
Today, we'll travel towards the country's southern coast to explore the largest insular humid marsh in the entire Caribbean basin. Our day will include snorkeling at the fabulous diving area known as Punta Perdiz at Playa Giron.
Boasting a rich and colorful history of sword bearing pirates and buccaneers, this region is renown for its fantastic snorkeling in crystal clear water housing rich marine life and natural pools.
The water that surrounds this rich natural region is home to 4 of the planet's 8 sea turtles. We hope to catch a glimpse of these elusive reptiles while we are exploring the underwater world.
We'll snorkel over coral reefs which have not felt the impact of mass tourism or fisheries as much of the Caribbean has.
Schools of colorful reef fish, snappers and jacks will be viewed as we interpret fish behavior and the ecology of coral reefs.
Certified divers may have an opportunity to arrange a scuba dive on this day (not included in our package).
After a relaxing typical lunch at Punta Perdiz, we'll continue along the southwestern side of Bay of Pigs in the Zapata Peninsula.
Our afternoon will be active as we hike and swim at ancient cenotes passing through several forested areas.
Return to our accommodations at Playa Larga.
Tonight we will meet with the Frank Medina, Director of Zapata National Park as part of our People to People Exchange program.
He'll discuss conservation issues facing Cuba such as the re-introduction of the endemic Cuban crocodile and programs to eradicate invasive species.
Accommodations in Playa Larga.
photo by Roman Cahero
DAY SIX: CIENFUEGOS
After breakfast, we'll enjoy a refreshing snorkel at Playa Larga before our departure for Cienfuegos, known as the Pearl of the South.
Our destination is Laguna Guanaroca protected zone which supports one of the largest colonies of pink flamingos in all of Cuba.
We'll have the pleasure of meeting local architect Raymundo Gonzalez who will share his knowledge of Cienfuego's stunning architecture,
another UNESCO World Heritage Site and fantastic opportunity for People to People interfacing.
Cienfuegos is unique in that it is the only city in Cuba founded by French colonist. Our day will include another great meal at a Casa Particular followed by a night of Cuban music at El Terry.
Overnight accommodations in Cienfuegos.
DAY SEVEN: CIENFUEGOS~EL NICHO
Today we'll head out for a truly beautiful day as we explore the stunning waterfall, El Nicho on the Rio Hanabanilla. As we hike along a nature trail, we will enter several caves and be treated by a
refreshing swim in several natural freshwater pools. Birding is superb in El Nicho which is part of the ecologically rich Parque Natural Topes de Collantes.
We'll have another delicious Cuban meal with accommodations in Cienfuegos.
photo by Kim Powell
DAY EIGHT: TRINIDAD
After breakfast, we'll transfer to the cultural world heritage site, Villa de la Santisima Trinidad, founded by Diego Velazquez in 1514.
We'll hike along the stunning Guamuahuaya River in El Cubano Park.
Birding is excellent along the trail which ends at the waterfall el salto de Javeria. An exhilarating swim in natural pools and exploration of a magnificent cave awaits you!
In the afternoon we'll explore Bay of Caslida by boat which will take us to one of the most beautiful reefs in the province of Sancti Espiritus.
We'll continue onward to Trinidad with a tour of the city before dinner and salsa dancing at Plaza Mayor.
Overnight accommodations in Trindad.
DAY NINE: ONWARD TO HABANA
We'll make our way back to Habana enjoying lunch at a Habana Paladar. This afternoon you'll have time to explore Habana on your own before we meet for our farewell dinner together. Overnight Accommodations in Habana.
DAY TEN: HOME
After our final breakfast together and cup of warm Cuban coffee, we will transfer to the airport to catch out flights home.