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Island Life Cuba

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Departure Dates

  • Oct 28, 2017 - Nov 05, 2017


Reserve NOW &  SAVE $1,000 per couple!

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Island Life Cuba

This exciting nine-day program provides an unprecedented People‑to-People opportunity—engaging local Cubans and U.S. travelers with one another to openly share commonalities of values and interests. Experience firsthand the true character of the Caribbean’s largest and most complex island, with three nights in the spirited, soulful capital city of Havana, two nights in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cienfuegos, one night in culturally active Santa Clara and two nights in Camagüey, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Also visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Old Havana, Trinidad and the Viñales Valley. Accompanied by experienced, English-speaking Cuban hosts, immerse yourself in a comprehensive and intimate travel experience that explores the history, culture, art, language, cuisine and rhythms of daily Cuban life. Interact with local Cuban experts including musicians, artists, farmers, academics and architects.

Study Leader

John Meffert
, consultant on Heritage Conservation Services, has a long tradition with the National Trust. He has served as the Director for our Southern Office from 1982-1988 and was the director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, the oldest nonprofit organization in the United States, responsible for preserving the historic resources of Charleston, S.C. John has delighted many study tour groups to Cuba with his lectures and insights on preservation, and receives rave reviews as study leader.

Tour Map

Please Note: Due to increased tourism in Cuba, itinerary schedules may need to be adjusted throughout the program. Passengers are encouraged to be flexible as we enjoy this bourgeoning travel destination. Our intent with this program is to give travelers a well-rounded introduction to the island, including major highlights, as well as interactions with local people. The above itinerary is subject to change without notice. We will do our best to adhere to the program, but changes beyond our control may occur.
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For more information or with any questions call 888-484-8785 or email


U.S./Havana, Cuba
Day 1 and Day 2

Depart your home city for Havana. Upon arrival, meet your experienced, English-speaking Cuban hosts and guides, who will accompany you on people-to-people exchanges and be part of your immersion into their way of life. Check into the IBEROSTAR PARQUE CENTRAL. Havana’s downtown district of Vedado is a fascinating mix of old and new, including the University of Havana, the pre-revolutionary Capitolio reminiscent of the U.S. Capitol, the iconic Malecón (oceanfront promenade), the legendary Hotel Nacional de Cuba and many gracious, sometimes grandiose mansions and townhouses of the 19th and early 20th centuries. See Revolution Square, where Fidel Castro gave his famous hours-long May Day speeches. Visit the historic Colón Cemetery—named after Christopher Columbus—and admire the stunning sculpture and architecture of its chapels, mausoleums and family vaults. The Spanish colonial core of Habana Vieja, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a colorful neighborhood of winding cobblestone streets, pastel-hued houses and picturesque squares filled with architectural beauty, including the bayside Plaza de Armas, the site where San Cristóbal de la Habana was founded in 1514. Here, the lively street life is a testament to the flourishing artistic and social lives of the Cuban people. Enjoy lunch in one of the city’s premier restaurants. Visit the community of Jaimanitas, home to one of Cuba’s best-known artists, José Rodríguez Fuster, a sculptor and painter whose distinct works of art are inspired by Antoni Gaudí. Enjoy the Welcome Reception in the hotel. (1B,2L,1R,2D)

◆ Learn about student life at the University of Havana during an interactive walking tour.
◆ Walk through Old Havana and admire its preservation and evolution of art and architecture.
◆ Enjoy a colorful performance at Habana Compás Dance that merges the spirit of Spanish dance with percussive Afro-Cuban rhythms and contemporary dance.
◆ Interact with residents of José Rodríguez Fuster’s artistic community.
◆ Dinner is in a local paladar each evening.

HavanaPinar del Río/Viñales Valley
Day 3

The striking Viñales Valley in Cuba’s westernmost province of Pinar del Río is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known for its natural beauty, the valley is a much photographed 270-square-mile plain surrounded by limestone karst hills called mogotes. The farmland here is among Cuba’s richest, and ancient agricultural practices produce robust coffee and some of the world’s best tobacco, products central to Cuban history and identity. (B,L,D)

◆ Tour an organic farm and enjoy an enriching discussion with the farmer. Afterward, share a homestyle lunch with his family. ◆ Meet a traditional tobacco farmer and cigar roller in Vuelta Abajo, the country’s tobacco heartland. Meet his family as he welcomes you into his home to sample Cuban coffee.
◆ Enjoy dinner in a paladar.

Havana/Santa Clara/Trinidad
Day 4

This morning, check out of the hotel and visit Finca Vigía, the former home of Ernest Hemingway, affectionately called “Papa” by locals. This hilltop farmhouse is where he wrote The Old Man and the Sea, based on a local fi sherman, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Continue to Santa Clara, a culturally active town and the gateway to Cuba’s historically and agriculturally rich central region. Long associated with Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the prestigious university town of Santa Clara features the beautiful Teatro La Caridad, constructed in 1885 and one of the Eight Grand Theaters of the Cuban Colonial era, where famed musicians such as Enrico Caruso once performed. See the impressive Che Guevara Monument and walk through the comprehensive History Museum of the Revolution. Transfer through the countryside from Santa Clara to Trinidad. Upon arrival, check into the IBEROSTAR GRAND HOTEL. (B,L,D)

◆ In a typical community Casa de Abuelos, learn more about social welfare in Cuba and enjoy conversations with its elder residents and staff, who will introduce you to a longtime Cuban dance tradition, the danzón.

Day 5

Developed from the wealth of the sugar industry in the 19th century, UNESCO World Heritage-designated Trinidad retains much of its colonial charm, with terra-cotta tiled roofs, pastel-hued houses, cobblestone streets and ornate tiled courtyards. Walk through 18th-century Plaza Mayor, and visit the Palacio Cantero museum, showcasing the history of Trinidad’s residents. This afternoon, transfer to Cienfuegos and check into the JAGUA HOTEL. (B,L,D)

◆ Enjoy lively rumba and salsa performances at the Palenque de los Congos Reales, an outdoor music center devoted to traditional Cuban music and dancing.
◆ Visit Casa Chichi, a multigenerational pottery workshop established in 1892 that uses clay sourced from Cuba’s caves.
◆ Enjoy lunch in a local paladar.

Day 6

Known as the “Pearl of the South,” the UNESCO World Heritage-designated colonial harbor city of Cienfuegos was founded in 1819 by French settlers from Louisiana and Bordeaux while located in a Spanish territory, which today has made for a fascinating blend of history and local culture. Once a trading port for sugar cane, coffee and tobacco, Cienfuegos was built in a neoclassical style from the wealth of these industries, and its original grid layout plan is an incredible example of early urban planning. Visit the eclectic Teatro Tomás Terry, which hosted its fi rst opera in 1890, and walk through the town square, Parque José Martí, named for the Cuban national hero. Following lunch in a local paladar, visit the Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos, featuring over 2,000 species of plants from as far away as India and China, including over 400 types of orchids. (B,L,D)

◆ Listen to a performance by the Orquesta de Cámara and meet the musicians.
◆ Lunch and dinner are in local paladares.

Cienfuegos/Sancti Spíritus/Camagüey
Day 7
This morning, enjoy a scenic drive to Sancti Spíritus—one of Cuba’s seven original villas founded by conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar and named after the Holy Spirit. Admire the town’s colorful, 16th-century historic center during a walking tour. Continue through the scenic, verdant heartland of Cuba to Camagüey and check into the HOTEL SANTA MARÍA. Dinner is in the picturesque rooftop restaurant of the hotel this evening. (B,L,D)

◆ Lunch is in a paladar in Sancti Spíritus.

Day 8

According to legend, Camagüey’s narrow, winding streets, reminiscent of a Moroccan medina, were designed to protect the city’s residents by confusing marauding pirates. Today, friendly camagüeyanos help visitors discover the hidden gems among their mazelike alleyways—beautifully preserved plazas, Baroque churches and a Gothic necropolis. The city’s historic center, the best preserved on the island, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Seldom-visited Camagüey is known as the city of tinajones. These large, red earthenware pots were historically used to store water but are now an ornamental hallmark of residents’ patios, gardens and courtyards. In addition to the impressive colonial and eclectic architecture, cultural treasures abound in Camagüey. From a prestigious ballet company to numerous art galleries and houses painted in a rainbow of pastels, Camagüey has a rich tradition of celebrating the arts. Following lunch in a local restaurant, experience the sights and sounds of Camagüey’s old town aboard a famous Cuban bicitaxi—a three-wheeled pedicab. This evening, enjoy a Farewell Dinner in an authentic local restaurant. (B,L,D)

◆ See a demonstration of the making of tinajones at the family-run Casanova pottery studio.
◆ Interact with performers of the world-famous Camagüey Ballet during a rehearsal.

Enjoy visits to several contemporary art studios, including that of the award-winning artist Martha Jiménez, the home of painters Joel Jover and Ileana Sánchez, painter Orestes Larios Zaak and Magdiel Garcia Almanza’s sculpture studio.

◆ Enjoy a performance of local flamenco dancing.

Day 9
Check out of the hotel and continue to Holguín for the Post-Program Option, or transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)