Walkers' World
 Guided Walking and Sightseeing Holidays in
CUBA   REVOLUTIONARY RAMBLES
Feb 24 - March 06, 2020                                    
ITINERARY

Day 1  - Arrival in Cuba  
Our meeting point is Santa Clara Airport. (There are flights from Toronto and Montreal to Santa Clara).  Our accommodation is at a pretty hotel in the countryside near Santa Clara.  This is Che Guevara's city in the centre of the island and here stands the massive and impressive Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara. The monument, in classic Cuban revolutionary style, is big, bold, made of concrete and looming over Che's remains.   Nearby we find our delightful hotel, Los Caneyes, set in the countryside amid lovely gardens filled with tropical flowers, eucalyptus and palms as well as Taino artwork and sculpture. The Tainos were the pre-Columbian people of Cuba and the hotel recreates a Taino village. 

Day 2  - In the morning we have walking and sightseeing in Santa Clara and hear about the last battle of the guerrilla war which marked the end of Batista's dictatorship in 1958. We see the Tren Blindado, a boxcar where Che and his band of 18 rifle-wielding revolutionaries barely out of their teens derailed an armoured train using a borrowed bulldozer and home-made Molotov cocktails.    We then head for the Valley of the Sugar Mills (UNESCO). This is an open air museum from the days of the 18th century when Cuba produced over 1/3 of the world's sugar. We walk to see the area which is filled with romantic ruins that were once home to scheming "Dallas" style sugar baron dynasties .  After lunch  we start our walk in El Cubano National Park. The shaded path  (5 km) takes in the remains of a colonial sugar ranch as well as a bohio (a traditional rural peasant house). The path goes through a pristine forest of agave, palms & papyrus passing clear pools. Along the way we see wooden plaques explaining that the trail was originally used by "cimarrones" (runaway slaves).  At the end of the walk we continue (25 minutes) to our hotel.  Set against a backdrop of the green Sierra de Escambray Mountains, our hotel enjoys a glorious beach-front setting on pristine Ancon Beach which stretches for 4 km. This is one of the loveliest beaches in Cuba with perfect white sand, warm turquoise water and few tourists. The colonial city of Trinidad is just 15 minutes away and easily reached by a shuttle bus or vintage cars that function as inexpensive taxis.   BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER INCLUDED 

Day 3  -  Today's walking is northwest of Trinidad in the thickly pine-covered mountains of the Sierra del Escambray (UNESCO), a beautiful range that cuts across central Cuba. This was Che Guevara’s second front in the late 1950s, and, following Castro’s victory, counter-revolutionaries sheltered here. The National Park is a cool refuge from the coast. The mountainous area has its own microclimate and is always a few degrees cooler than Trinidad. It is a splendid area for hiking with some of the most spectacular scenery in Cuba.  All-terrain vehicles transport the group up the mountain (about 700 metres) to the National Park where we walk.  Trails are well marked and shady, cutting through dense woodlands opening out here and there for breathtaking views of the landscape.  Our hike follows the Guanayara River down to Salto El Rocio, a beautiful waterfall. Along the way it incorporates some memorable views of the tallest peak in the range.  A barbeque lunch is included.   Later in the afternoon we return to the hotel in time to have a little beach and pool time.  ALL INCLUSIVE - BREAKFAST, PICNIC LUNCH AND DINNER INCLUDED (including drinks)

Day 4  -  This morning we explore Old Trinidad (UNESCO) on foot. Tiny Trinidad is one of the finest colonial towns in all the Americas, ranking as one of Cuba's greatest attractions. Founded in 1514 by Diego Velasquez, it was his base for searching the surrounding mountains for gold. The original cobblestone streets and houses give the impression that time has scarcely moved on since the days of the Spanish Main.  The exquisite buildings are fronted by mahogany balustrades, fancy wrought iron and massive wooden doors with swinging shutters that open to let the breeze flow through. From the 1600s to 1800s the city was a major centre for the sugar and slave trades and the buildings around the Plaza Mayor bear witness to the wealth of the landowners of the time. The historic centre has been skilfully restored, down to details like the streetlights and its cobblestone streets are more populated by horse-drawn carts than automobile traffic. The Museo Romantico is a grand affair with fine murals of classical scenes, scrolls and pediments over doorways and windows. Once the home of a wealthy plantation owner, it features Roman style baths that amused 19th century travellers with a fountain that spouted cologne for ladies and gin for gents. There is free time for lunch and for browsing. Since the change in communist government restrictions allowing locally owned businesses, Trinidad seems to have a business in every house with the whole family involved.  

Later in the day there is free time to enjoy the beach and pool.  The long beach of Ancon is perfect for a stroll.    BREAKFAST AND DINNER INCLUDED

Day 5 - 
Today is a free day. There are optional excursions for snorkelling or sailing.   BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER INCLUDED
 

Day 6  - After breakfast we transfer to Havana and along the way visit the Museo de Ernesto Hemingway where we walk to explore La Finca Vigia (“the lookout farm”) a Moorish-style house with glorious views of Havana and of the sea. It was here Hemingway wrote nine novels including For Whom the Bell Tolls and where he called home until 1960 when he left Cuba.   Next comes El Malecón, the seafront promenade lined with once-glorious mansions whose original owners fled Cuba following the Revolution. Our four star hotel is located in the leafy and quiet Miramar district of Havana. This is the exclusive seaside area where Cuba's pre-revolutionary upper class built palatial homes. Today many of these are elegant embassies centred around Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) with its tropical gardens.  Our hotel overlooks the sea and has a beautiful pool. If you would like to stroll in the area near the hotel you will find John Lennon Park (yes - the Beatle not Lenin the Russian revolutionary.)
BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER INCLUDED

Day 7  - This morning we leave for Western Cuba and the Vinales region, famed for its spectacular mauve coloured ‘haystacks’. These bizarre rounded mountains frame the Valley of Vinales where Cuba’s finest tobacco is grown. The landscape forms a perfect backdrop for walking through coffee, orange and banana plantations. Viñales village seems to be lost in a time-warp. Its small Botanical Garden is an Eden-like mix of ornamental and medicinal plants as well as cascades of orchids, palms, cinnamon trees, ferns and tropical fruit trees. There is free time for lunch and in the afternoon we enjoy leisurely walking in the bottle green mountains and jade valleys of Vinales. Most of the hiking here is on gentle, well-groomed trails in the tropical plain rich with hibiscus, papaya, pineapple, bougainvilleas and flame trees laid out among a patchwork of tobacco fields and rice paddies.    BREAKFAST and DINNER INCLUDED

Day 8 - Today is a full day of walking in the lovely Vinales region.  We have two walking guides here so there will be a choice of walks.    Those who want just a half day of walking will have the option of returning to the hotel after lunch.

In the late afternoon we return to the hotel to swim or perhaps explore the town. A spell seems to have been cast over sleepy Vinales with its pastel painted small cafes and fun ‘tree house’ bars.   BREAKFAST, PICNIC LUNCH, DINNER INCLUDED

Day 9  - After breakfast we head west to Las Terrazas Biosphere National Park.  The National Park is a UNESCO site and is a part of the country’s budding ecotourism industry.  Sierra del Rosario encompasses an area of tropical deciduous forests with numerous rivers and waterfalls. Many tropical birds can be spotted here, including Cuba's 22 endemic species.  At the height of the Cuban coffee boom in the 1820’s this area had 54 coffee estates and on our walks we discover the ruins of some of these estates.  At the end of the day we check into La Moka, a pretty eco-hotel which is part of the Las Terrazas Community Project.  BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER INCLUDED

Day 10  - This morning we transfer (about an hour) to Havana where we have a day of sightseeing on foot.  Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a kaleidoscope of colourful architectural treasures - cathedrals, castles, and colonial mansions with flower bedecked balconies. We see the sheltered harbour where, in the 1500's, Spanish galleons filled with plundered gold from the New World waited before setting off for Spain.  We stroll through picturesque San Francisco Plaza bordering the old port. Next comes the elegant Plaza de Armas which is lined with Baroque buildings and overflowing with tropical vegetation. Plaza Vieja was originally the venue for Havana’s slave market and now its original Spanish colonial buildings have been restored.  Plaza de la Cathedral is dominated by its gracious church, one of the most beautiful in the Americas. Our walk is a chance to soak up the atmosphere of this sultry Caribbean city with its sensual salsa music, brightly painted 1950's American cars, revolutionary slogans and Che Guevera's picture etched on the walls of flaking Spanish Colonial buildings.  We see the Museum of the Revolution, housed in the ornate former presidential palace where a string of dissolute presidents once ruled.  

 After more exploring we check into our hotel and perhaps sip a cool mojito.  In the evening there are optional visits to the famous Tropicana Nightclub or to the Buena Vista Social Club.  Havana by night is filled with hip-swaying music and usually the hotel has entertainment for those who want an early night. BREAKFAST  INCLUDED

Day 11 -   Another day in Havana. Today we stroll through the "Joy of Living" community project where more than 80 neighbours allowed the artist Alex Fuster to use their homes as his canvas..  Then we have a fascinating walk in the flamboyant "Cemetery of Columbus" with its extravagant chapels, vaults and tombs. There are miniature Greco-Roman temples, an Egyptian pyramid, medieval castles, plus sculpture by Cuba’s leading artists. Were the remains of Christopher Columbus ever here? The stories are conflicting. It seems he asked to be buried in the Americas and officially his remains were moved from Spain to Dominican Republic to Havana but back in Spain the great explorer's remains are said to be in the Cathedral of Seville.   We explore the huge El Morro Fortress. With tons of gold being transported through Havana in the 1600s and 1700s, the harbour needed a fortress to guard the entrance from pirates.  Each night a floating chain was strung across the harbour and a cannon was fired to announce its closing, a ceremony that still takes place each evening. The interior of the fort resembles a small village complete with a chapel, spacious lawns, several (modern) cafes and cobbled streets where soldiers and officers were billeted. With our expert guide, we explore the vast fortress with its many exhibits including the area where, in 1959, Fidel Castro and the revolutionaries set up their headquarters.

In the evening we walk to a private enterprise "paladar" restaurant for a farewell dinner.    BREAKFAST AND DINNER INCLUDED

Day 12  -  Early morning departure from Havana Airport or perhaps spend a few more days exploring Cuba.

Click below for details:

Cuba Itinerary
Cost and booking Travel to Cuba
Cuba Hotels Frequently Asked Questions

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