Across Cuba: From Santiago de Cuba to Havana - 2017

Santiago de Cuba • Holguin • Camaguey • Trinidad • Cienfuegos • Havana

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Those who know Cuba only as Havana are overlooking some of the most beautiful cities, enchanting countryside, and distinctive cultural experiences on this largest of the Caribbean islands. Join us on our newest Cuban adventure, as we begin in far southeastern Santiago de Cuba and make our way westward to Havana, almost the full length of the island. Along the way, you’ll explore the narrow, history-haunted streets of five of the seven original Spanish–colonial villas, thrill to performances by musicians, dancers, and and theater groups, mingle with artists in their studios, meet Cuban cowboys at a historic ranch, and much, much more. And to soothe your body and soul, you’ll spend a few days surrounded by the tropical beauty of all-inclusive international resorts on the beach in Holguin and on serene Cayo Santa Maria, one of the tropical keys strung like a necklace along Cuba’s northern coast. Departures are limited and the demand for this very special program is sure to be extremely high, so you’ll want reserve as soon as possible!

Itinerary at a Glance

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DAY 1:

Depart Miami / Arrive Holguin / Transfer to Santiago de Cuba

Today we fly from Miami to Holguin, then transfer to Santiago de Cuba just in time for a Welcome Dinner at the hotel. Fidel Castro and his fellows in arms launched their revolution from Santiago, making this historic city tucked between the Sierra Maestra mountains and an enclosed bay a fitting place to begin your journey across Cuba.

Included Meals:

Dinner

DAY 2:

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago was one of the first European settlements in Cuba, dating to 1514. Today’s tour of the historic district includes the house of the city’s founder, Diego Velázquez. You’ll also visit the peaceful Santa Ifigenia cemetery, where Cuban poet, essayist, and revolutionary Jose Martí is buried in a fortress-like mausoleum. 

Following lunch in a local restaurant, you’ll visit the Morro Castle, the daunting Spanish fortress also known as Santa Pedro de la Roca that was built to repel invaders at the bay’s narrow entrance. After dinner on your own, it's time to put on your dancing shoes! Cuba’s hottest musicians will have you up on your feet as we head for the famed Casa de la Trova nightclub. The squares, clubs, and performance halls of Santiago have given rise to many of Cuba’s most famous musical styles and musicians, including members of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 3:

Santiago de Cuba / Bayamo / Holguin

Departing on the first overland leg of our cultural journey, we soon arrive in the old copper mining town of El Cobre. Cubans of all walks of life make the pilgrimage here to pray at the tiny but ornate statue dedicated to Cuba’s patron saint, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. Among the gifts left at the sanctuary basilica is Hemingway’s gold Nobel Prize for Literature medal. From El Cobre, you’ll continue through the mountains to Bayamo, a sugar plantation town that witnessed some of the earliest uprisings against Spanish colonial powers. Cultural Discovery: Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant, then tour Bayamo’s nicely restored historic district in a horse carriage. From there, we continue on to the resort in Holguin, where we'll have time to enjoy the beach.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 4:

Holguin

Your city tour begins with an overview of the city and the sea from the Loma de la Cruz overlook. Then, discover Holguin’s three colonial plazas as we explore this pleasant city. Cultural Discoveries: Visit a fascinating paper factory that makes handmade paper and produces unique books and other materials that are themselves works of arts, using traditional letterpress equipment. You’ll also attend a performance by the amazing Neon Theater, which produces entertaining puppet performances under blacklight. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure at your all-inclusive beach resort.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 5:

Camaguey

A morning drive takes us to Camaguey. It’s said that the twists and turns of the labyrinthine old city center — now a UNESCO World Heritage Site — were built that way to confuse pirates. Nonetheless, Camaguey holds the dubious distinction of having once been looted by the infamous privateer Henry Morgan. After lunch in a restaurant overlooking one of the historic squares, you’ll get a unique view of the old city on a tour by bici-taxi, a pedal-powered rickshaw. Cultural Discoveries: Afterwards, enjoy a rehearsal by the En Dedans Ballet Company, which performs a blend of classical and contemporary dance. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 6:

Camaguey

Sugar may have been king in Cuba, but raising cattle was also a mainstay, as you’ll discover when we visit Rancho King, founded as a Caribbean outpost of the famed King Ranch of Texas. Enjoy lunch in the ranch dining room, tour the grounds in a horse-drawn cart, and watch skilled vaqueros in a roping demonstration. Cultural Discoveries: You’ll also have a chance to meet some of these Cuban cowboys, many from families that have worked the ranch for generations. In addition, we’ll visit the rural school attended by the children of the ranch families — an opportunity to meet the children and learn about education and rural life in this part of Cuba.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 7:

Camaguey / Trinidad / Cienfuegos

Trinidad, a meticulously well-preserved colonial city nestled among green hills, comes first on today’s agenda, as we continue our westward journey. With its UNESCO designation and handsome architecture, cobblestone streets, stately palaces, and trim plazas, Trinidad is often referred to as the “museum city of Cuba.” On a walking tour, admire the fine colonial buildings as you make your way to the charming main square for a peek inside the cathedral. Artists and craftspeople find inspiration in Trinidad’s lost-in-time atmosphere, and there is a thriving arts scene here. Lunch is included in a local restaurant, then we’ll proceed to the colonial port city of Cienfuegos, our base of exploration for the next few days.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (cocktails included with Dinner)

DAY 8:

Cienfuegos (Remedios)

Discover another of Cuba’s colonial gems, the graceful town of Remedios, which was founded early in the 15th-century. Cultural Discovery: Board a vintage train pulled by a steam locomotive for a ride to the Sugar Museum, where open-air exhibits show the process once used to refine “white gold” from the island’s extensive sugar cane plantations. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant, then continue to Santa Clara to visit the mausoleum dedicated to Che Guevara. In 1958, Santa Clara was the site of the decisive battle of the revolution, when troops under Che ousted government forces. The revolutionary hero was reinterred at the mausoleum in 1997 after his remains were recovered from a mass grave in Bolivia, where he had been executed while helping lead an uprising there. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (cocktails included with Dinner)

DAY 9:

Cienfuegos / Havana

This morning enjoy a walking tour of Cienfuegos' graceful Old Town, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for it’s French neoclassical architecture and 19th century city planning. During your visit, you’ll see the Tomás Terry Theatre, the Government House, and the Cathedral de la Purísima Conceptión. Then, en route to Havana, we'll visit the Cuban home of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway. The author loved Cuba and the feeling was mutual — he’s considered a national hero to this day. In 1939, he and his then-wife Martha Gellhorn acquired Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm) and it's where he worked on some of his most famous novels, including “The Old Man and the Sea” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” It's now preserved as a museum. When we arrive in Havana, settle into your hotel, which is located just steps from the famous Malecón seafront boulevard in one of the most elegant areas of New Havana. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 10:

Havana

This morning, enjoy an overview of the city from San Felipe Castle, the stalwart fortress built to protect Havana from sea raiders. Vantage Cares: We'll then visit the Sister Teresa Vaz center, our Vantage Cares site in Cuba. The center's dedicated staff provides day care and other programs and services to the underserved youth of Havana. In addition to supporting the day care center, Vantage provides uniforms for the center's youth soccer program. Afterwards, continue to explore Habana Vieja (Old Havana) on a walking tour that takes you among the four main squares dating from the colonial era, including the beautifully restored Plaza de Armas and the Plaza de Catedral, with its gem of a cathedral. You’ll also be able to see for yourself the changes that are taking place in Havana, from the restoration of colonial façades to the opening of shiny new shops and restaurants. Cultural Discovery: We’ll also drop into a silk-screening studio, where you can meet the artists. Afterwards, enjoy lunch at a noted Havana paladar. In the afternoon visit New Havana and the vast Plaza de la Revolución. The great paved expanse is where Fidel would address huge rallies and where Pope Francis recently said mass before tens of thousands.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 11:

Havana

Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway loved Cuba and the feeling is mutual — he’s considered national hero to this day. Following breakfast, we’ll take a motorcoach ride to Finca Vigia, the beloved home that Ernest Hemingway acquired in 1939 and where he worked on some of his most famous novels, including “The Old Man and the Sea” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Cultural Discovery: A different kind of artist becomes the focus of our next visit, as we continue to Jaimanita to view the mind-boggling ceramic and sculptural artwork of José Fuster. He’s transformed an entire neighborhood into a vivid alternative reality known as “Fusterlandia.” You’ll have the remainder of the day free, perhaps to do some last-minute souvenir shopping in Habana Vieja. Then, we gather once again, this time to say goodbye to Cuba at our Farewell Dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 12:

Havana / Return to USA

Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the U.S.

Included Meals:

Breakfast

Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.

Please Note: The hotels listed are preliminary and subject to change. Although we contract our hotels a year in advance, unforeseen situations do occasionally occur. Should it be necessary to change a hotel, one of equal quality and value will be substituted. You will receive verified hotel information with your final itinerary. That hotel ratings are based on the Hotel and a leading travel industry authority on hotels throughout the world.

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