Alumni Cuba Flyers (DRAFT): Ashé Cultural Tours reserves the right to make changes to the itinerary in order to accommodate the availability of artists, lecturers, and venues, and to account for unpredictable weather conditions.
Day 1 (Friday): Make your way to Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Make your way to Fort Lauderdale, by flying into either FLL or MIA. Around 6PM, many of us will head out to for dinner and get to know one another. But, you can check in as late as you prefer.
Day 2 (Saturday): Flight to Havana. Full day of activities
Today we rise early, and take an early morning flight to Havana. Once we clear customs, we’ll board our coach bus, drive 30 minutes to our homestays, and drop off our luggage. From here, we’ll walk two blocks to the iconic oceanfront Malecón where we’ll have lunch together at Castropol. Afterwards we will take a leisurely stroll to the Prado (Havana’s treelined pedestrian boulevard), just four blocks from our homes and explore Havana’s best outdoor artist market. Then we’ll hop in 1950s classic American convertibles and enjoy a 2 hour tour of the city! When we return to our homes, our hosts will greet us with a welcome drink and a fantastic home-cooked meal. Lunch and dinner included today.
Day 3 (Sunday): Havana
After breakfast, we will head over to the Hotel Nacional, to enjoy the ocean view and witness the magnificent architecture of this infamous hotel with a strong connection to mob/gangster history. We will walk through Vedado (once a highly affluent neighborhood full of casinos), down La Rampa to see the Havana Libre (formerly Havana Hilton), Coppelia (an outdoor ice cream shop that fills an entire city block), and the University of Havana. We will then enjoy lunch at Bicky’s, one of Havana’s most successful (and delicious) new private restaurants. From here, we will continue on to the world-famous Callejón Hamel, an alley known for its extensive murals, Sunday rumbas, and fascinating murals (most of which have been inspired by Afro-Cuban culture and religions). Then we’ll head over to the Museum of the Revolution. After dinner, your hosts will happily walk everyone over to some of the nights spots along Obispo, where dozens of bands will be playing music in bars, restaurants and hotel lobbies. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included today.
Day 4 (Monday): Havana – Las Terrazas – Viñales
This morning we’ll board an air-conditioned coach for the start of our two-day excursion to Piñar del Rio province. Our first stop is at the pioneering ecovillage of Las Terrazas. Today it’s a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, a burgeoning activity center and the site of the earliest coffee plantations in Cuba. Close by, in the picturesque whitewashed village that overlooks a small lake, there’s a vibrant art community with open studios, woodwork and pottery workshops. But the region’s biggest attraction is its verdant natural surroundings, which are ideal for hiking, relaxing and birdwatching. After spending the afternoon in this region, we will continue an additional 2 hours to the mountain town of Viñales, where we will check into our hotel (La Ermita) and enjoy the sunset as it casts a magnificent light on the moutains and valley below. In the evening, bands often play at the hotel. You can also head in to town around 9 or 10PM to enjoy music at the Polo Montañez Cultural Center. It’s a 1km walk, so you will want to rely on taxis to move you in and out of town. Breakfast and lunch included today.
Day 5 (Tuesday): Viñales – Havana
Today we will explore Viñales and its environs. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the striking karst landscape of the Viñales Valley is notable for its mogotes, a series of tall, rounded hills that rise abruptly from the flat plain of the valley. It is also significant for its cultural associations, particularly its traditional agricultural practices related to growing tobacco. Because mechanical methods of cultivation and harvesting lower the quality of tobacco, time-honored methods such as animal traction are still used. The lush landscape is largely rural in character. Most of the buildings scattered over the plain are simple, built of local and natural materials and used as homes or family farms. The valley is home to an original culture, a synthesis of contributions from indigenous peoples, Spanish conquerors and African slaves who once worked the tobacco plantations. We have choices this morning. Some of you may opt for a 2-hour horseback ride into the valley. Others may wish to go and explore a frequently visited tourist cave outside of town. The steep walk culminates with a short boat ride on an underground river! Everyone will visit a working farm, and learn about tobacco, coffee, and subsitence faming. After lunch on your own back in town followed by a 2.5 hour bus trip back to Havana. In the evening, we’ll have plenty of time to enjoy an intimate concert at La Zorra y El Cuervo, Havana’s most famous jazz venue. Breakfast and dinner included today.
Day 6 (Wednesday) Havana
Wednesday morning, we will venture into Havana’s Old Town (Havana Vieja), where we will guide you through Havana’s four main squares (Plaza de Catedrál, Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza de Armas, and Plaza Viejo). After our tour, we invite you to wander the old town at your leisure. This is the most photographed part of Havana and is where all the cruise ships come in to dock. You’ll want plenty of time to explore this part of town and its shops. Around noon, we will finish the tour and encourage you to find lunch on your own. There are many great restaurants in this area. After lunch, we will take a ride Ernest Hemmingway’s house in Cojimar, about 30 minutes outside the center of town. In the evening we will head to the Tropicana, an outdoor night club with 5 stages featuring live music and hundreds of dancers! Breakfast and dinner included today.
Day 7 (Thursday): Havana
Today we have choices! Some of you will undoubtedly want to experience the beautiful white sand beaches east of Havana. These pristine beaches are about 30 minutes east of Havana. Others will opt to visit the home of ceramics artist Jose Fuster about 30 minutes outside of the city center in Jaimanitas. Fusterlandia is magaical place, multi-level art complex straight from a Dr. Seuss book. After lunch, we’ll tour the Capitolio, the former seat of government and a magnificent building. In the evening, we’ll have options, including several music choices. Breakfast and dinner included today.
Day 8 (Friday): Havana – Cienfuego – Trinidad
Today, we board an air-conditioned coach for the start of our two-day excursion to Trinidad de Cuba. Our first stop, about 4 hours into the trip, will be Cienfuegos, known for its beautiful colonial buildings and even more beautiful bay, called by some “the pearl of the South.” During our short stay here, we will tour the town center (Parque José Martí) and the Moorish-inspired Palacio de Valle. The Palacio was built in 1917 on a dramatic piece of land that juts into the bay and is comprised of an outrageous jumble of tiles and turrets, crenellated edges and scalloped arches. In the mid-afternoon, we will leave Cienfuegos and make our way to Trinidad, a dramatic drive with towering mountains to our left and ocean views to our right. Trinidad is a beautiful colonial city situated on the edge of the 2nd largest mountain range in Cuba and overlooking the Caribbean. Founded in 1514, it is the third oldest-settlement in Cuba. Full of wonderful restaurants and several music venues (most notably, Casa de Music, Casa de Trova, and El Palenque de Los Congos Reales), everything is easily accessible within 2-4 blocks of our homestays. Music is audible from our homestays 365 nights a year. Tour participants will have this night to independently explore Trinidad and have dinner at their personally selected restaurants. Breakfast included today.
Day 9: Trinidad – Valle de los Ingenios – Trinidad
This morning begins with a tour of Trindad’s beautiful countryside where we learn about Cuba’s sugar history, while visiting plantations, mills, and historic mansions. After concluding this tour, we will return to Trinidad where tour participants can independently experience the historic downtown where shopping is abundant, the food is wonderful, and the music is ever-present. For those interested in a different view, for an additional cost, trips to the local beach may be arranged. For those interested in pottery, our local guide will arrange transportation over to the Santander family pottery studio. Here you will be able to see their pottery and (hopefully) see the artists at work. Breakfast included today.
Day 10: Trinidad – Santa Clara – Tour Ends
Today we leave Cuba. After breakfast in our homestays, we leave for the Santa Clara airport at 9:00AM. A 2 hour drive, we’ll arrive around 11:00, with plenty of time to check in for our 1:30 flight to Fort Lauderdale. Arriving a little after 2:30, be sure to leave plenty of time to clear customs when making your return arrangments. We suggest at least three hours (but cannot be responsible for any costs associated with missed connections due to delays). Breakfast included today.