5 nights/6 days
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Arrive Havana. Clear immigration, customs and baggage, a process that takes approximately an hour and a half.
We will stop by the Plaza de la Revolucion. The center of government, this area contains most of the offices of the main ministries and is often used for massive rallies, including that of the Pope in 2012.
Tapas and refreshments at El Litoral. This restaurant was recently acquired from the State by a co-op of restaurateurs. Wonderful views of the Capitolio, El Morro and the Bahia de la Habana.
Tour the Hotel Nacional de Cuba overlooking the Straits of Florida and the Malecón. When it opened in 1930, Cuba was a prime travel destination many illustrious guests including Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, Marlon Brando, and Ernest Hemingway.
Check-in to Hotel or Casas Particulares.
Welcome dinner at Paladar Rio Mar located at La Puntilla in Miramar. Enjoy views of the bay gentle ocean breezes from the terrace. The food is upscale and contemporary with European influence. The service is impeccable and refined. Dinner guests to be determined based on your personal interests.
Evening entertainment to be determined.
Complimentary breakfast is served daily in your hotel restaurant or by your Cuban hosts.
Begin our walking tour of Havana Vieja. Please make sure to wear comfortable shoes!
Thanks in part to history and ideology, Cuba -- and especially Havana -- is a treasure trove of architectural styles spanning six centuries. With buildings dating from the 16th through the19th centuries, Havana is perhaps the most authentic colonial city in the Americas. Since 1982, when the city became a UNESCO World Heritage site, the government has embarked on an ambitious preservation and restoration program concentrated in the Old City. However, a severe lack of funding and materials has hampered efforts. Therefore, the decay and neglect of the past 40 years coupled with the destructive tropical weather continues to claim buildings every year.
We will visit Havana’s Central Park and the first monument erected in Cuba (1904), dedicated to National Hero Jose Marti.
See the Centro Gallego, built in 1915 by Belgium architect Paul Belau, today the Great Theatre of Havana, which includes the Garcia Lorca Theatre among other rooms.
See the Capitolio Nacional, a fabulous monumental building inspired in the Capitol model and built in 1929 by Cuban and foreign artists. Gardens designed by famous French landscaper Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier.
See the Bacardi Building, erected in 1930 and remaining today one of the most fabulous examples of art deco in Cuba.
See the Sevilla Hotel, remodeled in 1923 by the American firm of Schultze & Weaver, and the recently restored lavish Palacio de los Matrimonios, the former Casino Espanol of Havana, built in 1914 by Luis Dediot.
We will visit the Escuela de Taller where we will learn about the Restoration Project that is underway in Havana Vieja. This urban rehabilitation project is preserving the architectural history and cultural heritage of this beautiful city. We will visit a construction site and meet with engineers, builders, woodworkers and other craftsman utilizing traditional handcrafting methods to preserve the authenticity of these once – and soon to be once again - resplendent structures.
Visit the Plaza Vieja. This plaza is the oldest plaza in Havana, dating from the 16th century. Learn about the massive historic preservation program which began in this Plaza under the leadership of City Historian, Eusebio Leal.
We stroll through the Plaza de San Francisco, a cobbled plaza surrounded by buildings dating from the 18th century, dominated by the baroque Iglesia and Convento de San Francisco dating from 1719.
Lunch at Paladar Mercaderes. This beautifully restored mansion in Havana Vieja is a welcome relief from the bustling streets of the city.
Visit the Plaza de Armas, a scenic tree-lined plaza formerly at the center of influence in Cuba. It is surrounded by many of the most historic structures in Havana as well as important monuments.
Visit the Taller de Grafica Experimental. We will be welcomed by Directors Yamilis & Jaqueline Brito. The Taller is more than Havana’s printmaking workshop. It is a studio, a school and most of all, an art institution that preserves and develops the sophisticated art of print making.
Artist studio visit with Wilay Mendez. A sculptor, painter and poet, he is one of the most exciting artists to come out of the new generation of contemporary Cuban art world. A self-proclaimed cimarrón or "runaway slave," Wilay's work utilizes commonplace materials that have been recycled and discarded; often decomposing.
Return to the hotel via Obispo Street, a pedestrian promenade. You will see some significant buildings such as the Art Deco Style La Moderna Poesia, the Ambos Mundos Hotel, and the banks of the former Havana Wall Street. (20 minute stroll)
Some may choose to visit La Bodeguita del Medio, the most famous of Hemingway’s haunts. Dancing and fun where Hemingway enjoyed the famous mojito and famously declared "Mi Daquiri en Floridita y mi Mojito en Bodeguita".
Optional: Visit the Sinagoga Adath Israel de Cuba in Havana Vieja. We will be received by a member of the Synagogue, Solomon Susi Sarfarti. Tour the Hotel Raquel, known as the Jewish Hotel located in the area of Havana that was once the Jewish Quarter.
Optional: Visit La Casa del Son for a dance demonstration and salsa lessons. Casa del Son is a popular dance school in Havana. We will meet the directors, Silvia and Raymond, who with their troupe of professional dancers will give us a demonstration of different Cuban dance styles. We will be partnered with experienced dancers who will guide us through our dance lesson.
Optional: Return to the hotel and enjoy the rooftop pool featuring the best views in the city.
Dinner at La Catedral in the Vedado neighborhood. Dinner guests to be determined based on your personal interests.
Private performance in the home of Jorge Luis Pacheco. A rising star in the world of Cuban jazz, the immensely talented pianist and singer Jorge Pacheco has recently toured the USA with his quartet and played such illustrious venues as the Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Accompanied by his fellow musicians, Pacheco will perform Cuban standards as well as his original compositions in the comfort of his lovely home.
Attend a private dance performance of the Compañia Irene Rodríguez. We will receive a warm welcome by Irene and her company. Irene is considered by many to be the finest flamenco dancer in Cuba. Irene will introduce the dancers, many of whom speak English; describe the history of her own dance career and formation of her independent dance company; and discuss the cultivation of artistic talent in Cuba, opportunities and challenges of being a professional dancer, and the arts more generally in Cuba.
Depart for our visit to the former residence of Ernest Hemingway, La Finca Vigía. This beautiful estate, known as La Vigia was his primary residence in Cuba during some of his most productive years. The house remains completely intact and looks exactly as Hemingway left it 60 years ago.
Visit Finca Yoandra, a farm located in the neighborhood of Mantilla that produces more than a 100 varieties of organic fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants. The farm also serves as a community center, providing social programs and leisurely activities for the local elderly.
Cooking demonstration and lunch at the farms restaurant, Il Divino.
Optional: Visit to Playa Santa Maria.
Optional: Visit the picturesque fishing village of Cojímar. Ernest Hemingway loved this little town. He kept his boat, El Pilar, in harbor of Cojímar, and he used this village setting for his story The Old Man and the Sea, which won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.
Dinner at La Guarida. One of the best restaurants in Havana and famous not only for its delectable dining, but also as the location for the film “Strawberry and Chocolate.” It is housed on the third floor of a large, old town house and carries the charming ambience of the 1920's. Dinner guests to be determined based on your personal interests.
Evening entertainment to be arranged by your escort. Cultural calendar pending.
Optional: Tonight you may choose to venture on your own for a nightcap at Bar Floridita in Havana Vieja - a short and easy stroll from the Hotel. This popular tourist destination and hangout of Hemingway offers the legendary Daquiri, live music and a life size bronze of a smiling Hemingway leaning against the bar – a great photo opportunity.
Day trip to Viñales Valley. Considered by many to be the most beautiful place in Cuba, the Viñales Valley National Monument holds stunning landscapes and jaw dropping vistas. The area is also famous for being the premier tobacco growing area in the world. This is a photographer’s paradise!
Optional: Arrive in Piñar del Rio for our visit to Proyecto Grabadown. The Grabadown Project was started ten years ago by Jesus Carrete and his daughter Linianna, who was born with Down Syndrome. What began as way for Jesus to share his love of art with his daughter has grown into a well respected community project supported by many other families who have discovered the benefits of engaging their special needs children with art and music. Starting with a simple printing press that offered the children a chance to express their creativity, the program has grown into a multi-discipline creative workshop where the children are encouraged to sing, dance, create art and take a more active role within the community.
Continue to the town of Viñales and meet local guide & CCT representative Yaniel Luis.
Arrive Finca Confianza in the valley with stunning views of the mogotes. We will learn about the production of a multitude of organic fruits, vegetables, grain and tobacco. Lunch will be a community event on the farm where we will be served a large variety of organic fresh vegetables, fruits, chicken and roasted pork. This is a true field to table dining experience.
Visit the home of Ramón Vázquez León, an artist born in Viñales, Pinar del Río, who graduated from the National School of Fine Arts in Havana. Ramon creates fantastic worlds full of allusions with his bright colors.
Optional: Meet Cuba's newest entrepreneurs, the home owners and proprietors of local Casa Particulares (B&B's). These homes have been licensed by the State to accommodate the influx of tourists in places where there is a shortage of hotel rooms. Unique interior decor and resourceful remodel solutions make each home unique as do the vivid, brightly painted exteriors.
Return to Havana. Dinner on your own. Suitable recommendations will be provided.
Optional: A special dinner in a home with some of our Cuban artists, scholars and friends can be arranged.
EXAMPLE: Our evening begins with demonstrative lecture on Cuban Music & Food in the home of Prof. Alberto Faya. Faya is and award winning musician, professor and researcher within the Cuban musical world. He has recently published a cook book that showcases Cuban Music that has been directly inspired by Cuban Cuisine.
Visit the Museum of Cuban Art. We will be greeted by art historian Aylet Ojeda. The museum is dedicated exclusively to Cuban Art from the earliest days of colonialism to the latest generation of Cuban artists.
Lunch at the whimsical home of artist José Fuster, who has made a major contribution to rebuilding and decorating the fishing town of Jaímanitas in the outskirts of Havana, where he lives. Jaímanitas is now a unique work of public art where Fuster has decorated over 80 houses with colorful ornate murals and domes.
See Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA). One of the few major architectural projects completed in Cuba in the early 1960s, this remarkable post-revolution campus is the premier school in Cuba for students studying music, visual arts and performing arts. Castro commissioned Cuban architect Ricardo Porro and two Italian architects, Vittorio Garatti and Roberto Gottardi for this tuition-free, educational institute built on a former golf club. "Cuba will count as having the most beautiful academy of arts in the world.” – Fidel Castro (1961)
Visit the home of Josie Hernandéz, a historic mansion trapped in time and filled with rare antiques, artwork and unique decor.
Optional: Visit to Patronato de la Casa de la Communidad Hebrea in Vedado. The Patronato was once Havana's upscale shul, built by affluent Cuban Jews in the early 1950s. Today, the synagogue is affiliated with the Conservative movement in the USA. It currently serves as the focal point for most Jewish activities in Havana and is also home to the Bertolt Brecht Theater.
Optional: Visit to Callejon de Hamel, a street full of shrines, diverse sculptural pieces, and colorful murals. It has been considered a public temple to Santería and African influences in Cuban culture. Much of the artwork there has been created by artist Salvador González Escalona since 1990. Our host and guide will be local scholar Elias Aseff, who will explain the role of African religion and culture in Cuba and the importance of Santeria in everyday life. He will also explain how Afro Cuban religion has influenced the evolution of Cuban culture. We will visit the home of a Babalao (Yoruba Priestess) who will receive the group and explain via Elias the religious deities and elaborate alters in her home. The home is very large and many visitors pass thru during the day to give offerings.
Farewell dinner at Paladar San Cristobal. About a 10-minute walk from Parque Central, this cozy paladar has a reputation of excellence in both atmosphere and local cuisine. The food is refined and balanced (enjoy dishes like gazpacho, tender lobster, crème carmel) and the nostalgic atmosphere is unforgettable, adorned in a unique style of art nouveau. Dinner guests to be determined based on your personal interests.
Evening entertainment to be arranged by your escort. Cultural calendar pending.
Optional: Visit Fabrica de Arte Cuba. This former tramway power plant located in the Vedado neighborhood was built in the beginning of the XX Century and is the most current collaborative art project in Havana.
Optional: Visit to the Arts and Crafts market, a great place to interact with local, everyday artisans. You’ll find just about anything here, a great place to find souvenirs or gifts for your friends and family back home.
Lunch on your own.