Day 1: Miami
Arrive in Miami and transfer to your Miami airport hotel. Dinner is on your own.
Day 2: Miami - Cuba (L)
This morning transfer to Miami International Airport and check in for your flight. Upon arrival in Havana, Cuba and after clearing customs at Jose Marti International Airport, we'll meet our local Cuban Tour Guide, an experienced bilingual guide outside the terminal. Enjoy a panoramic orientation tour of Havana as we drive into Cuba's capital city. Make a photo stop and learn more about the Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana's largest plaza where huge rallies are held every May. Next enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before exploring the historic Museo de la Revolucion that displays documents and artifacts, weapons and planes from the revolution. See artifacts & learn more about the Bay of Pigs, the 1961 historic clash between the CIA trained Cuban exiles & rebel forces, the event that defined US-Cuba relations for decades. The museum is housed in the former presidential palace which was the home to Cuba's leaders from the 1920s until 1959. This building offers beautiful architecture as well as an interior that was designed by Tiffanys of New York. Arrive at your hotel and check in. Dinner is on your own this evening.
Day 3: Havana (B,L,D)
Today tour the Bocoy Rum Factory established in 1878. Interact with a docent to learn about this true working museum dedicated to the rum making process and rum industry in Cuba. Enjoy a sample of the rum produced in the factory. Next, a fascinating walking tour of the Colon Cemetery, founded in 1876 and named for Christopher Columbus. The cemetery is noted for its many elaborately sculpted memorials and contains more than 500 major mausoleums, chapels and family vaults. Later we visit Callejon de Hamel, a street in central Havana where cultural rescue and expansion has been expressed through the art of Salvador Gonzalez. His murals and sculptures have taken over entire buildings and facades. Here we'll meet with local artists to learn more about this art form. Next enjoy a guided walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See the beautiful Cathedral de la Havana, built in baroque style in 1748 and learn about its preservation and continuous restoration. Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier described the building as "music turned to stone," words that still ring true today in the local culture. See the Greek Orthodox Church and the Scale Model of Havana and more. Lunch is included at a local restaurant before visiting the National Museum of Fine Arts, opened in 1954 and offering an extensive art collection of the works from the painters of the earliest colonizers of Cuba. This evening dinner is served in a local restaurant.
Day 4: Havana - Santa Clara - Cayo Santa Maria (B,L,D)
Following breakfast we'll leave Havana behind and depart for Cayo Santa Maria. Along the way we will stop in Santa Clara, a city most famous because of the history of Cuba's revolution and the massive Che Guevara Memorial, a 25 foot-tall bronze statue of Che bearing his rifle, by sculptor José Delarra. Tour the Che Guevara Museum and see the Mausoleum where his remains are laid to rest. Visit the Santa Maria Art School & Cultural Center to see a dance, music & acting performance by the school's children with an opportunity to interact with the children and their families. Later we will depart for Cayo Santa Maria to check into the Sol Cayo Santa Maria Hotel for our two night stay. Cayo Santa Maria has been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Enjoy dinner this evening at hotel. Tonight, it's time to dust off your dancing shoes for Salsa Dance Lessons with the locals.
Overnight: Cayo Santa Maria
Day 5: Cayo Santa Maria - Caibarien - Remedios (B,L,D)
This morning depart for Caibarien known as "La Villa Blanca" (The White Town) for an overview of this seaside town. Visit a Printing House to see early 1900's printing machines still in use today and interact with the workers and learn about the process of printing by hand using century old machinery. Next enjoy a concert by locals of Caibarien and a chance to interact with them in the town square. Then it's off to the Marcello Salado Sugar Mill Museum. Enjoy a sugar cane sample before a guided tour of the amazing machines used to process sugar cane, interact with the museum docents and learn about the process of making sugar cane and the history that was once one of Cuba's biggest industries. In 2002 the government activated a plan for the reconversion of Cuba's sugar mills. The Ministry of Sugar decided that, of the 156 mills that existed at that time, that five would be converted into museums. Later we take a short Steam Train Ride from the museum to a local restaurant for lunch. After lunch we head to the colonial jewel town of Remedios, founded by the Spanish in 1578. Enjoy a Remedios Walking Tour an interact with the local historian / guide. See the Central Plaza or "Plaza Mayor" that is surrounded by colonial buildings, beautiful monuments, trees, palms and a gazebo like many towns in Cuba. Next, tour inside the colonial grand church "Iglesia Mayor" of San Juan Bautista containing beautifully decorated gold altars and explore beautiful Remedios before returning back to Cayo Santa Maria.
Overnight: Cayo Santa Maria
Day 6: Cayo Santa Maria - Cienfuegos - Havana (B,L)
Today drive to Cienfuegos, Cuba's "Pearl of the South", founded in 1819 by French settlers and currently one of Cuba's newest cities offering harmonious architecture and urban planning. Enjoy a panoramic overview of its Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a fine example of the military architecture of 18th century Cuba. Meet with a local historian to learn about the history of the beautiful Thomas Terry Theatre, built in 1889 by Leno Sanchez Marmol and completely in its original state adorned with painted ceiling frescoes. While in Cienfuegos enjoy a performance by the local choir and an opportunity to meet and interact with them to learn about the musical history of this group and the music culture of Cuba. Return back to Havana via the Cuban National Highway.
Day 7: Havana - Guanabacoa - Havana (B,L,D)
Visit the Cuban Literacy Museum where we'll learn about a national effort to educate rural farmers and families. The two things of which Cuba is most proud, and which it most emphasizes, are health care and education. The campaign to make all illiterate Cubans literate within one year was announced by Fidel Castro in his speech to the United Nations in 1960. By 1961 the campaign had largely succeeded. This small museum's treasures include uniforms worn by literacy campaign participants, books, manuals and more. From here we'll venture to Guanabacoa, with its rich religious diversity. This town has some of the finest colonial churches where locals worship both Catholic and Santeria Saints. Santeria is a dynamic example of the perseverance and inventiveness of the West African slaves who were brought to Cuba to work on the sugar plantations. We'll visit the interesting and eclectic Museo de Guanabacoa of Santeria Orishas and see many exhibits on the fascinating Afro-Cuban culture, a huge sugarcane juicer machine and a 1907 Cadillac. Also enjoy a Santeria Music Performance by locals with a chance to interact with them. Next, we'll enter the world of Ernest Hemingway with a visit to Hemingway's Farm, Finca La Vigia (meaning 'lookout house'). This beautiful property hosts the house where the Nobel Prize winner lived with his wife Martha for 21 years. View the perfectly preserved home where many of the Hemingway personal belongings remain intact. View his yacht on display, the Pilar in which he used to patrol for Nazis in the Caribbean waters and featured in his novel "Islands in the Stream". Next enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in Havana before a tour of the Morro Castle, built in 1589, to protect the mouth of the Havana Harbor. In this case "Morro" in Spanish means a rock which is very visible from the sea and therefore serves as a navigational landmark. Perched on the headland on the opposite side of the harbor from Old Havana it can be viewed from miles around as it dominates the port entrance. Next, you have time to explore the San Jose Craft Market to meet and interact with local artists to discuss and learn of the importance of their art in Cuban culture today. Dinner is included this evening.
Day 8: Havana - Vinales - Pinar Del Rio - Havana (B,L,D)
Today we travel Vinales a small town and municipality in the north-central Pinar del Río Province of Cuba. This town is known for its one-story wooden houses with porches. This region, the western province of Pinar del Rio is known for its stunning scenery, a landscape of prehistoric looking flat-top mountains or "mogotes", tobacco plantations, caves and rivers. Stop at the Franciso Donatien Cigar Factory for a guided tour to learn about the manufacturing of fine Cuban cigars and interact with the factory workers about the history and process. The factory specializes in Cohiba & Monte Cristo cigars. Then visit a traditional Tobacco Farm to learn about the tobacco farming process and enjoy a visit with a Cuban family inside their farmhouse. Tour their house and interact with them and see how Cubans live. Then enjoy a visit to a local primary school to meet with the teachers and the children. Later stop at the Los Jasmines viewpoint for incredible views and an opportunity to take panoramic pictures of this beautiful region. Return to Havana where tonight there will be a Farewell Dinner at local restaurant for traditional Cuban cuisine and music.
Day 9: Havana - USA (B)
Following breakfast at the hotel, we'll transfer to the airport for our return flights with incredible memories of Cuba!
NOTE: This itinerary provides a full time schedule of activities that result
in meaningful exchanges through people-to-people contact. U.S. law requires all travelers joining this program adhere to the full time schedule and imposes on Chamber Explorations the responsibility to ensure such observance.