CUBA CULTURE & NATURE EXPEDITION

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Cuba - the world's longest-standing dictatorship

THE LARGEST CARIBBEAN ISLAND

CUBA CULTURE & NATURE EXPEDITION

oldsmobiles, cabarets, endemic species, pristine beaches, rainforests and colonial cities

2022-11-10 - 2022-11-20

Cuba is one of the most interesting and outstanding adventure travel destinations in the world. Its historic colonial atmosphere has often been overshadowed by its turbulent, controversial and often brutal dictatorial periods, and unwarranted propaganda - from both empires of the cold war. Still Cuba is at a crux in its history. Trapped in antiquity and sheltered from the the rest of the world, yet yearning to join the masses of globalization, the Caribbean island is even more interesting, more controversial and a greater draw now than ever. After more than 49 years, Castro has finally stepped down from power, thousands are returning home, the US is its 5th largest commercial partner, and the
country is in its second decade of being open for international tourism.


It is time to visit Cuba! See Cuba as it has been for the last half a century, before the international world turns it on its head and the pressures and desires to develop erase any trace of this once closed island country's culture and heritage. See the remains of the colonial glory, the remains of the communist oppression, and the magically remaining smiles, friendliness and hospitality of the Cuban people. See that the cultural wealth of Cuba is so much more than simply cigars and rum. Cuba is a vibrant, lively, progressing country, with an unbelievable mixture of ancient and modern. An equally fascinating place for nature and culture lovers, with hundreds of endemic bird species and thousands of ancient cars and ancient technology. To understand Cuba, one must walk its streets and shake hands with its people, and with each exchange you'll go home a little more Cuban in your heart, and leave behind a little glimpse of the world to come.


A trip to Cuba is a must for everyone who is interested in the world. Quality Expeditions is the only company to offer an itinerary that equally emphasizes on the cultural and natural values.


Detailed itinerary:

Nov 10      Havana
Today we all arrive at Havana International Airport. Whichever way we decide to approach the country (you can
connect through over a dozen airports in the region), we will be picked up at the airport and transferred to our hotel.
Once we have treated ourselves with a great shower and a very short rest, we gather in the dining room of our hotel
for a trip introduction speech by our tour leader and a great Welcome Dinner. After dinner, we shall retire early, to restore

our energies for the coming adventures.
Accommodation: Higher-end comfortable city hotel

 

Nov 11      Havana
Our entire day is dedicated to the exploration of this famous colonial city. We gather for our first breakfast in the
country just as the sun is rising over the horizon, and will be out on the streets of Havana Vieja (Old Havana) soon
afterwards, to capture the very first soft morning lights, as they lit up the quiet morning scenes. Havana Vieja is a
magnificent place, an incredible atmosphere, a World Heritage Site. Old Havana is dominated by the grandiose
buildings of open-air plazas and enormous palaces, such as Plaza de Armas and Palacio de los Capitanes Generales
to mention a few. Among the buildings (many of which are currently being restored), pass by the largest collection
of oldsmobiles in the world, cars all from the 50s and 60s, adding a truly unparalleled atmosphere and experience.
Once it is time for a great Cuban lunch, we stop by a local restaurant. After a short siesta and refreshment back at
our hotel, we get on our vehicle and drive to some of the most interesting outer parts of the city: the Che Guevara
and José Marti monuments, local markets, Plaza de la Revolution, central cemetery and many others. Once we have
seen the sunset at Hemingway's favorite hotel-top bar that overviews the city, we return to our hotel, dress up nicely
and have yet another delicious Caribbean dinner at a city restaurant. After dinner, we all get into one of those
vintage cars of Havana and drive to the one of the world's most famous night show, Cabaret Tropicana.
Accommodation: Same as previous night

 

Nov 12      Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve/Vinales
Despite our late night entertainment yesterday, this morning we will have an early breakfast again, in order to be
able to experience some of the natural beauties of the island before the day gets too hot. Our destination is Sierra
del Rosario Biosphere Reserve. Upon our arrival at Soroa village, we take the trail that leads us all the way to the
top of the range, providing magnificent views of the surrounding area. En route, we will keep our eyes open for the
first endemic bird and reptile species of the country, of which there are many. Once we have taken all the pictures
we want, we descend back to the parking lot and onwards till we reach the famous Soroa Waterfalls of the
Manantiales River, where the brave ones can have a quick swim in the crystal clear pond. From here, we walk back
up to the restaurant and settle down for our great lunch at El Salto de Soroa. After lunch we quickly visit the nearby
orchid farm, before we get back on our vehicle and drive to one of the most scenic areas of Cuba: Los Vinales
Valley. Before we would proceed to our lodge, we stop in one of the regional city centers (Pinar del Rio) to visit an
iconic element of Cuban life and Cuba's economy: a cigar factory. Once we have properly documented how the
popular Cuban cigar is being manufactured, we continue to our lodge in order to be able to check in just before the
magnificent sunset begins over the picturesque valley. A little bit later we gather for a well-deserved dinner, after
which we can enjoy the cool breeze on the mountaintop.
Accommodation: Hotel La Ermita

 

Nov 13      Vinales
Today we are going to explore the picturesque Vinales Valley. Even before breakfast, from our hotel, we will have
the chance to see the "mogotes", these giant boulder-like limestone hills, sticking through the morning mist. After
taking some spectacular images and also trying to photograph one of the endemic hummingbird species in the
garden, we take a short ride to Vinales Village and start hiking around in the valley floor. We are going to meet
local farmers and learn about their lifestyle, and continuously enjoy the spectacular valley. Among the many
attractions, the most unusual is the Prehistoric Mural Painting, located on one of the mogotes in The Two Sisters
Valley. It is a huge 120 meter high by 180 meter wide mural painting that describes the geological evolution of the
"Sierra de los Organos" ridge, the flora and fauna of the valley with fossil representations, prehistoric animals and
plants. Once we have explored this part of the valley, we take a quick lunch at the Mural and drive to one of the
many underground cave systems of the region: La Cueva del Indio. This place has been used by the local
Guanahateby Indians as a burial site, and as a refuge form the Spanish conquistadors. We walk around the beautiful
bay and take a short boat ride on the underground river that flows through the stalagmites and stalactites of the
narrow cave. From the cave, we return to our accommodation in Vinales for a few hours worth of siesta, followed
by a great dinner and a relaxing evening.
Accommodation: Same as previous night

 

Nov 14      Vinales/Bay of Pigs/Zapata
This morning those photographers that are willing to get up with the rising sun, can take further images of the
mist-filled valley with all the mogotes and palm trees rising through the mist. Our breakfast time will be determined
the night before, but afterwards we get on our vehicle and drive towards the eastern part of Cuba. Due to the road
system of the country, first we head back to Havana, at the outskirts of which we stop for a quick coffee and
refueling, before continuing south, about 200 km away, into the Zapata Peninsula area. This is the 1961 landing site
of the well-known, US-backed coup attempt, the Bay of Pigs. We shall reach the region just on time for a great
lunch, after which we visit Boca de Guamaa, a place where the world's second largest crocodile farm exists. After
paying a short visit to the farm, we board a small local boat that will take us across the beautiful Laguna del Tesoro.
On the other side of the lake, our destination is the village of Guamaa, a beautifully reconstructed Taino Indian
village, sitting on stilts overlooking the water. Here we will have a quick coffee break again, after which we return
to the gate and begin our drive towards the exact location of the Bay of Pigs landing, Playa Giron. This is where all
the war memorials stand and a small museum has been built, to commemorate the heroic fight-back by the Cuban
forces. We are going to arrive here just on time to enjoy before closing time, and once we have taken our fill of this
important location of Cuban history, we drive to our nearby accommodation, which is located right on the beach,
and spend the rest of the evening enjoying sunshine, the Caribbean Sea and several endemic species in the hotel's
garden. After the sun disappears beyond the horizon, we all meet in the dining room for yet another traditional
Cuban dinner.
Accommodation: Playa Larga Hotel

 

Nov 15      Peninsula de Zapata/Sierra del Escambray
We are dedicating our entire day to the exploration of Cuba's natural beauties, in some of the richest national parks
of the country: Peninsula de Zapata and the Escambray Mountains. As we are all aware of, wildlife, and particularly
birds, are best seen at early morning hours, which means today we are going to have the earliest start of all. We will
have breakfast even before the sun rises and drive to the entrance of the Zapata National Park. This national park is
the most important reserve of the island and the largest wetland area of the entire insular Caribbean. Nearly 90% of
all of Cuba's bird species can bee seen here, including Cuban Trogon, the national bird, along with many mammals
and reptiles, like the giant iguana and others. Upon arrival, we pick up a local guide and a special permit to visit one
of the strictly protected areas. An hour and a half walk with our special guide shall be able to introduce us to almost
all the Cuban endemics here, so that we can reposition to yet another, couple of locations within the national park, o
maximize our chances of seeing Cuban endemics. Once we have done all we could, we take a great lunch at a
nearby seaside restaurant, and then start our 4 hrs drive to Topes de Collantes, from where an extensive trail system
can take us into the mountain range of Sierra del Escambray. Upon arrival, we quickly check in at our hotel and
enjoy an hour or two at leisure, before we drive back down the road to a lookout point, in order for us to enjoy a
fantastic sunset over the sea. Once the sun sets, we drive back and gather at the hotel's dining room for a great
dinner and some evening entertainment.
Accommodation: Hotel Los Helechos

 

Nov 16      Sierra del Escambray/Trinidad
This morning we have yet another great walk ahead of us, to further explore the beauties and wildlife of this
mountain range. After our early breakfast, we get on this trail called Guanayara. This walk will take us through
great landscape, some small waterfalls and interesting vegetation, all alongside a crystal clear river. A very
relaxing, interesting and educational walk, starting and finishing at the restaurant La Casa de La Gallega. After our
walk, a nice local lunch will be served, before we return to our hotel for a quick check out. From the hotel, we drive
to the famous nearby coastal town of Trinidad. We check in at our all inclusive beachfront hotel there and enjoy the
rest of the day on its fascinating Caribbean beaches. The keen photographers can photograph yet another sunset,
before our great local dinner will be served.
Accommodation: Hotel Trinidad del Mar

 

Nov 17      Trinidad
Our entire day is dedicated to explore Trinidad and its surroundings. First we walk though the historic downtown
area, visit Plaza Mayor, El Museo Romantico and many other sites, and enjoy a traditional local drink, La
Canchanchara. As it gets a little bit hot, we drive back to our hotel for lunch and siesta, and after lunch, we are
going to visit places which are not reachable on foot: the Valle de los Ingenios, a traditional sugar production
centre. From here we return to the beach front and enjoy a great sunset cruise, before we return to our
accommodation for dinner.
Accommodation: Hotel Trinidad del Mar

 

Nov 18      Trinidad/Santa Clara/Matanzas
Today we check out from our hotel right after breakfast and drive about two hours north, to the colonial town of
Santa Clara. The most important and relevant site of this town is that Commander Che Guevara's remains rest here,
in a spectacular mausoleum erected for his memories. We visit his memorial complex, and then pay a short visit to
the famous Tren Blindado, a memorial to one of his many controversial acts. This will be followed by a delicious
local lunch and another short drive to the Varadero area, on Cuba's northern coastline. This is a long, extremely
narrow peninsula, with a great mix of local and international hotels, being internationally recognized as Cuba's best
beach area. We will stay in Matanzas town, at the bottom of the peninsula, in a wonderful colonial hotel and enjoy
some more colonial atmosphere and photography for the rest of the afternoon. At around 7 in the evening, we will
all be back to our hotel for a great dinner and some evening entertainment.
Accommodation: Hotel Velazco

 

Nov 19      Matanzas/Varadero/Canimar River
Our early morning is free today, allowing the avid photographers to be out and about and capture great sunrise
images in the city center. After everyone is back to the hotel and we finished our breakfast, we take off for a
morning excursion. First we attempt to snorkel in the ocean, on one of the last untouched coral reefs of the
Caribbean, and then swim and snorkel in a limestone cave. Soon afterwards, a boat ride will drive us up the
Canimar River, to La Arboleda (yet another great nature center), where we are going to spend the rest of our
morning with a variety of activities. Those interested in birding, can further expand their species lists, others can
rent canoes, water bikes and even horses, or relax in the hammocks. We will be served lunch here, in a local
waterside restaurant, after which we get back on our van and drive home to our hotel in Matanzas. The rest of the
afternoon is free for relaxing, shopping for souvenirs and packing. Dinner and local entertainment at our hotel after
7 pm.
Accommodation: Hotel Velazco

 

Nov 20      Matanzas/departure
This morning, according to the time required by the first scheduled flight out of the country today, we take off from
Matanzas and drive back to Havana. Our trip officially ends at Havana International Airport today. Have a pleasant
trip home.

Trip price

In double room: USD 4445
In single room: USD 4925

Trip images

Price includes:

- all accomodation
- all meals
- all activities mentioned in the program
- all land transportation
- bottled water in transport vehicles
- all airport and local transfers
- all national park fees
- all entrance fees
- all local guiding fees
- international tour leader
- all government taxes and levies
- photography education and assistance

 

Price excludes:

- international flights
- travel insurance
- personal expenses at accommodation
- departure taxes at airports
- visa fees
- any other items not mentioned above