Ashé Cultural Tours reserves the right to make changes to the itinerary in order to accommodate the availability of artists, lecturers, venues, accommodations and venues, and to account for unpredictable weather conditions. We remain flexible to ensure the best possible experience for our participants.
This detailed itinerary reflects the experience for participants selection OPTION 1 (which includes the coach bus transfer, flight from EWR-HAV, and Cuban Tourist Visas.
DAY 1 (Saturday) Jan 12
The Mainstay’s Cuba Experience begins early in the day, when our bus to Newark Airport leaves at 4:30AM. After a 2.5-hour drive, we will begin the check-in process for our 10:15AM direct flight to Havana (duration 3.5 hours). After clearing customs and boarding air-conditioned coach bus, the group will arrive at our homestays around 4PM. Here we will meet our wonderful Hostess, Lily, and check into our rooms. After a short walk (2 blocks) to Havana’s beautiful and iconic waterfront boulevard, the Malecón, we will enjoy our first of many home cooked meals. After dinner, we will take a short bus ride to the La Cabaña Fort high on the cliffs overlooking Havana’s large natural harbor to enjoy the “cañonazo,” a theatrical show during which actors dressed in full 18th-century military regalia reenact the firing of a cannon over Havana harbor – a ritual that used to signify the closing of the city gates.
DAY 2 (SUNDAY) Jan 13
After a delicious breakfast, guests will participate in a private salsa class offered by world-class dance instructors. After freshening up, we will depart via bicycle taxi, and wander through the streets of Centro Havana on our way to the world- famous Callejón Jamel, an alley known for its extensive murals and fascinating art, most of which have been inspired by Afro-Cuban culture and religions. Here we will have a chance to meet some local artists and then enjoy a portion of the rumba that draws large crowds of Cubans and foreigners every Sunday at noon.
After the Rumba, we will walk a short distance and enjoy lunch at Bicky’s, one of Havana’s most successful (and delicious) new private restaurants. Next, we will be joined by several Cuban tour guides who will take us on a one-mile walking tour of the Vedado community, where we will see and learn about the Park of the Martyrs and the University of Havana, enjoy ice cream at the Coppelia Ice cream park (ice cream is a national obsession among Cubans), and the opulent Hotel Nacional – known for both its beauty and for its connection to American mobsters such as Al Capone
After enjoying some refreshing mojitos (one of Cuba’s national drinks) at the Hotel Nacional, we will hop in taxis and head over to Patio EGREM where will enjoy an Afro-Cuban folkloric performance. EGREM is an intimate club known only to Cubans and serious music aficionados. Dinner tonight will be around 7:30PM. We’ll all be exhausted and will likely fall into a deep sleep!
DAY 3 (MONDAY) Jan 14
After another fantastic breakfast, several classic American Convertibles from the 1950s will pull up to our houses and whisk us away for a 2.5-hour tour of Havana’s most notable destinations, including the Plaza of the Revolution, the Forest of Havana, the Colon Cemetery, and an outdoor museum displaying missiles and other hardware from the 1961 Cuban Missile Crisis (it is a moving experience for anyone who lived through this frightening crisis). After the tour, we’ll have lunch together on the Malecón at Castropol, known for its fabulous brick oven pizzas. After lunch, we’ll walk over to the Museum of the Revolution (only 5 blocks away) for a guided tour of this former Presidential Palace.
From 3:30-7:00 clients will be able to enjoy some free time to wander around near the Museum of the Revolution or to steal a short nap, as it will be a late night! After a 7:30 dinner, we will leave our houses for a 10:00p.m. show at the Tropicana, the world’s famous Vegas-style stage show. An outdoor venue, the Tropicana features five stages and hundreds of musicians and dancers! It will be among the most memorable moments of your Cuban experience!
DAY 4 (TUESDAY) Jan 15*
Today, we will rise early and 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.
DAY 5 (WEDNESDAY) Jan 16*
This morning begins with a tour of Trindad’s old town led by our local guide Yuder Ignacio. Following the tour, our group will split. Some of us will enjoy the 3-hour horseback ride that skirts the edge of Trindad’s sugar cane fields and ultimately ends up deep within a tropical mountain rainforest. Along the way, there will be opportunities to stop and drink locally grown and roasted coffee and (for the bravest among us) to hop into a crystal clear, refreshing mountainside swimming hole. Those who don’t want to climb on horses, will instead hop into local taxis (hopefully convertibles) to tour the beautiful countryside and learn about Cuba’s sugar history, while visiting plantations, mills, and historic mansions. After concluding these two tours, 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.
DAY 6 (THURSDAY) Jan 17*
This morning we will begin our drive back to Havana. Along the way, depending upon the Havana Jazz Festival schedule, we may visit the Ernesto “Che” Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara. Che was a polarizing figure in the 1950s and 60s, loved by socialist revolutionaries and despised by western capitalists. His legacy extends well beyond Cuba’s borders (he was born in Argentina and died in Bolivia), but here in Cuba he is revered, and his Mausoleum is a beautiful tribute to his life and to the Cuban Revolution. This night’s goal is to attend one of the many concerts connected with the HAVANA JAZZ FESTIVAL. So, our decision to go to the mausoleum will largely depend on the what time our preferred concert(s) begin!
DAY 7 (FRIDAY) Jan 18
On day seven we will venture into Havana’s Old Town (Havana Vieja), where we will get a guided tour of Havana’s four main squares (Plaza de Catedrál, Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza de Armas, and Plaza Viejo). After our tour, we will invite you to find lunch on your own, and 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. Tonight, we will again seek out the best jazz that Cuba has to offer and join the HAVANA JAZZ FESTIVAL!
DAY 8 (SATURDAY) Jan 19
Today we will tour a typical Cuban home, visit an artist’s community, tour a Tobacco Factory and visit the largest craft market in Cuba. We can be flexible this day and modify our tour to match the desires of our clients. If we are lucky, we will have the opportunity to witness an Afro-Cuban religious ceremony. Of course, this evening we will again join the HAVANA JAZZ FESTIVAL!
DAY 9 (SUNDAY) Jan 20
Farewell to Havana, Cuba, and our host families! Our return flight is at 2:50PM, requiring us to be at the airport by noon. In the morning, you’ll have some free time. Perhaps a short walk to the art market? Or perhaps we’ll squeeze in one last tourist site. We arrive in Newark at 6:15PM and should be back in Kent County by 10:30PM.
* Please note that our trip to Cienfuegos, Trinidad, and Santa Clara on Days 4, 5, and 6 might be substituted with a three-day trip to Laz Terrazas (Artemisia Province) and Viñales (Piñar del Rio Province). These locations, though quite different from Trinidad, are rich in Culture and full of natural beauty!