• Explore the cultural heritage of Cuba, from the art and architecture of Havana to the natural beauty of the Viñales Valley
• Discover Cuba’s varied colonial history, including the lasting influences of both Spanish and French occupation
• Visit the Cueva de los Portales, Che Guevara’s headquarters during the Cuban Missile Crisis
Our unique cultural circuit of Cuba begins in Havana, glamorous and ramshackle in equal measure, a city where, according to Graham Greene, “anything is possible”. Founded and fortified by the Spanish in the early 16th century, the Cuban capital rose to prominence as one of the largest settlements in the Spanish empire. Over recent years, with the help of UNESCO, the Cuban capital has begun to recapture its former glory.
As well as admiring the city’s Baroque and neoclassical monuments and its old squares, we will visit important sites such as the Museum of the Revolution, occupying the former presidential palace.
Cienfuegos, ‘the southern pearl’, is situated on Cuba’s Caribbean coast and once lay at the heart of the sugar cane, tobacco and coffee trade. Colonised both by the Spanish and French, Cienfuegos’s UNESCO-designated buildings include the beautifully preserved Tomás Terry Theatre and the neoclassical Catedral de la Purísma Concepción.
The World Heritage city of Trinidad, squeezed between the wooded Sierra del Escambray and the Caribbean, is a maze of colonial mansions, cobbled streets and handsome squares, notably the neo-Baroque Plaza Mayor. The university town of Santa Clara pays homage to one of the great heroes of the Cuban revolution, Che Guevara.
We will spend time in the beautiful Viñales Valley in the eastern tobacco-growing part of the island, renowned for its bizarre limestone hillocks and magnificent scenery.
We will also follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, retracing his life at Finca La Vigía, the airy white villa where he lived from 1939 until 1960, and now the Museo Hemingway. In old Havana we will drop in at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Hemingway wrote the first chapters of For Whom the Bell Tolls.
We hope to enhance our stay in Havana further with a visit to the famous National Ballet School of Havana and a private reception at the British Embassy (subject to confirmation). We will also enjoy talks by guest speakers on the restoration of the old city, the performing arts, and the contemporary Cuban art scene.
On our first stay in Havana we will be based at the Iberostar Parque Central, located in the heart of the city. We will then continue to Trinidad, where the group will stay at Hostal Lola, a casa particular – a traditional family-run guesthouse that offers the unique experience of staying with local residents in a colonial building. We will then return to the Iberostar Parque Central in Havana, before spending the last two nights at the Hotel Central Viñales.
Please note that while we will endeavour to deliver the below itinerary, some elements may be subject to confirmation.
This tour will be led by Peter Higginson, PhD, expert in art history and consultant lecturer at Christie’s in London. Peter is a frequent visitor to Cuba, and will be accompanied by a local guide and interpreter.
expert in art history and consultant lecturer at Christie's, London
Depart London Gatwick 1130 on Virgin Atlantic, arriving Havana 1640. Transfer to Iberostar Parque Central for three nights.
Morning lecture: 'Cuban Architecture' followed by guided walk around Old Havana to include the Plaza San Francisco, Plaza de Armas, site of the Palace of the Captains General (former seat of Spanish governors) and cathedral. Afternoon: American taxi tour of city, including Malecón promenade, ending at the Hotel Nacional. Free evening.
Morning lecture: 'Cuban Art' followed by visit to Museum of the Revolution (former palace of President Batista). Afternoon: Cuban art collection in the National Museum of Fine Arts.
Depart for Cienfuegos via the Bay of Pigs: walking tour to include Parque José Martí, neoclassical Catedral de la Purísma Concepción and Tomás Terry Theatre. Continue to Trinidad for three nights at Casa Hostal Lola.
Visit to the restored sugar mill on Manaca-Iznaga estate with optional visit to craft market. Walking tour of old colonial town of Trinidad to include Museo Histórico Municipal (Casa Canteros), cathedral and 19th century Plaza Mayor.
Morning: nature walk in Park El Cubano in the Sierra del Escambray with a naturalist guide. Free afternoon.
Depart by coach via pretty town of Sancti Spíritus to Santa Clara (monument dedicated to Che Guevara). Return to Havana for three nights at Iberostar Parque Central. Free evening.
Morning: private visit to the National Ballet School. Afternoon: talk on the contemporary Cuban art scene at the Centro Wifredo Lam followed by optional visit to an artist’s studio. Reception at the British Embassy in elegant Miramar district (subject to confirmation) followed by free evening.
Morning lecture: 'Writing in Cuba – Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway' followed by morning in Old Havana: private on-site talk and guided tour by a specialist from the Historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana (the organisation devoted to the restoration of Old Havana). Continue to fishing village of Cojimar. Afternoon: excursion to small town of San Francisco de Paula to visit Finca La Vigía, home to Ernest Hemingway between 1939 and 1960. Brief visit to room 511 at Hotel Ambos Mundos (which Hemingway regularly booked in the 1930s) before early evening talk by guest speaker on Cuban performing arts.
Morning: brief stop to view Plaza de la Revolución and Memorial to José Martí en route to Pinar del Río. Visit to Orquideario in Soroa (orchid garden with over 700 species) before continuing to Viñales via Parque la Guira and visit to the Cueva de los Portales (headquarters of the Western army during the Cuban Missile Crisis). Visit to the mogotes viewpoint near Horizontes las Jazmines. Two nights at Hotel Central Viñales.
Morning walking tour in the mogotes countryside area. Afternoon: visit to the Héctor Luis Prieto tobacco plantation. Return to hotel via Pinar del Río and brief stop at the Palacio Guasch.
Travel by coach to Cuevas del Indio before stop in Viñales. Continue by coach to Havana for 2010 departure.