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 4:15AM. 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*
Today we will rise early and depart on a two-day tour of Cuba’s beautiful and lush countryside. Our first stop is in Las Terrazas, just one hour to the west of Havana. Once completely deforested as a result of centuries of charcoal production for coffee processing and cooking, Las Terrazas today is a vibrant self-sustaining eco-community and offers prime viewing of Cuba’s most important bird species. We’ll visit the rural village called Rancho Curujey and learn about this self-sustaining community’s successes in reforestation, historical preservation, environmental balance. We will meet with local guides, walk the incredible ruins of a French Coffee Plantation built in 1801 worked by African slaves, visit the workshops of local artists, and have lunch in a top-rated vegan restaurant that features 100% locally grown produce.
After lunch we will continue 2 hours to Viñales, in the provice of Piñar del Río, known around the world for its rugged mountains, known as Mogotes. Upon arrival, we will check-into Hotel La Ermita. With a beautiful pool and stunning view, this is the only hotel we will use while in Cuba. We will make our way to the small downtown area of Viñales where you can enjoy dinner on your own and then head over to the Polo Moñtanez Cultural Center to enjoy an evening of local music and dancing.
DAY 4 (TUESDAY) Jan 15*
This morning we have some great options. For those who enjoy the prospect of horseback riding, we offer a three-hour tour of the Valley of Viñales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its dramatic landscape with rocky outcrops, its fertile soil, traditional farming techniques, and tobacco production. During our tour, we will visit a local farm, and spend an hour with its owner who will explain local faming traditions, including all stages of coffee and tobacco production. We will have an opportunity to enjoy coffee, cigars, honey, and a local rum (made from local fruit known as guayabita), all produced from start to finish on this very farm!
For those who would prefer an alternative activity, we will first visit Cueva del Indio (Cave of the Indians), one of the many caves carved into this region’s limestone. Here, we will take a short boat ride in an underground river. Afterwards, we will take a short walk (an alternate route) to the farm described above and enjoy the same guided tour!
After lunch on your own in town, we will leave Viñales behind us and continue on to one of two locations, either a cigar factory in the city of Piñar del Río or the town of Soroa, known for its orchids and natural scenery. This evening, we will return to our homes in Havana. We will surely be exhausted this evening. But, for anyone looking for nightlife, we will offer some great options you can easily explore on your own.
DAY 5 (WEDNESDAY) Jan 16
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 set you free to have lunch on your own. 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. Tonight is the opening gala for the 2019 Havana International Jazz Festival. We don’t yet know the actual start time for this concert. But, last year it was at 9PM. So…be ready for a late night.
DAY 6 – 8 (THURSDAY-SATURDAY) Jan 17- 19
For the next three days, we will continue to explore Havana in the mornings and enjoy the Jazz Festival in the afternoon & evenings. Though the final program will be published only a few weeks before our arrival, we know that Jazz Festival concerts are spread throughout the day (Here is last year’s lineup to give you an sense of the festival). It is too early to finalize our daily activities. However, there is plenty to do. Here are some examples!
- On one morning, 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.
- On a different day, we will tour a typical Cuban home, visit an artist’s community on the edge of town, visit the Ernest Hemmingway home/museum, tour a Tobacco Factory and/or visit the largest craft market in Cuba. If we are lucky, we will have the opportunity to witness an Afro-Cuban religious ceremony.
- One of these days, we will certainly find time to visit the white sand beaches 30 minutes east of Havana.
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 have been substituted with a two-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!