• 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
• Enjoy an extended stay in the Viñales Valley including visits to tobacco plantations and the Cueva de los Portales, Che Guevara’s headquarters during the Cuban Missile Crisis
Our unique cultural circuit of Cuba begins and ends 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’ UNESCO-designated buildings include the beautifully preserved Teatro Tomás Terry.
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.
There will be two full days spent 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, 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.
Our stay in Havana will be further enhanced by a visit to the famous National Ballet School of Havana, a private reception at the British Embassy and dinner at La Guarida, one of Cuba’s most famous paladars. We will also enjoy talks by guest speakers on the restoration of the old city, the performing arts, and the contemporary Cuban art scene.
The first of our stays in Havana is at the impressive Hotel Parque Central, located in the heart of the city. In Trinidad, the group will be split between two casas particulares, staying with local residence in beautiful colonial buildings. On our return to Havana, we will also stay in casas particulares, to gain a unique impression of Cuban life. Our last two nights are spent in the Hotel Rancho San Vicente, located in the spectacular Viñales Valley.
The tour will be led by Peter Higginson, PhD, expert in art history and a frequent visitor to Cuba. Peter will be accompanied by a local guide and interpreter.
Peter Higginson, PhD
expert in art history and consultant lecturer at Christie's, London
Depart Gatwick 1130 on Virgin Atlantic for Havana, arriving 1640. Transfer to Hotel Parque Central for three nights.
Morning lecture: Cuban Architecture and Restoration, followed by a guided walk around Old Havana to include the Plaza San Francisco, the Plaza de Armas, site of the Palace of the Captains General (former seat of Spanish governors) and the cathedral. Afternoon: American taxi tour of more main sites of the city, including the Malecón promenade, and ending at the Hotel Nacional. Free evening.
Morning lecture: Cuban Art, followed by visit to Cuban art collection in the National Museum of Fine Arts. Afternoon: the Museum of the Revolution (former palace of President Batista).
Depart for Cienfuegos: Moorish Palacio de Valle, lunch at Marina Club, walking tour: Parque José Martí, neoclassical Catedral de la Purísima Concepción, Tomás Terry Theatre. Continue to Trinidad for three nights at Casa Hostal Lola and Hostal Vivian y Pablo.
Visit to the restored sugar mill on Manaca-Iznaga estate, followed by a walk around the old colonial town of Trinidad, to include the 19th century Plaza Mayor, Museo Histórico Municipal (Casa Canteros), the cathedral and optional visit to the craft market. Evening: optional visit to the music venue Casa de la Trova.
Morning: nature walk in Park El Cubano in the Sierra del Escambray, with a naturalist guide. Afternoon: Museo Romántico (furniture and fine decoration in Palacio Brunet).
Travel by coach via the pretty town of Sancti Spíritus to Santa Clara (impressive museum and monument dedicated to Che Guevara). Return to Havana and check in for three nights stay at casas particulares. 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 artist studio. Reception at the British Embassy, in elegant Miramar district followed by free evening.
Morning lecture: Writing in Cuba – Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway. Morning in Old Havana: a private, on-site talk and guided tour by a specialist from the Historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana (the organisation devoted to restoration of old Havana). Afternoon: depart by coach for the small town of San Francisco de Paula to visit Finca La Vigía, the home of Ernest Hemingway from 1939 to 1960, before continuing to the fishing village of Cojimar. Hotel Ambos Mundos for a brief visit to room 511 (which Hemingway regularly booked in the 1930s) before an early evening talk by a guest speaker on Cuban performing arts.
Morning: brief stop to view Plaza de la Revolución and Memorial y Museo 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 the Cueva de los Portales (headquarters of the Western Army during the Cuban Missile Crisis). Afternoon: visit to the mogotes viewpoint near the Horizontes las Jazmines. Two nights at Rancho San Vicente, Viñales.
Morning walking tour in the mogotes countryside area with a specialised guide. Afternoon: Héctor Luis Prieto tobacco plantation with lunch on site. Return to hotel via Pinar del Rio and a brief stop at the Palacio Guasch.
Travel by coach to Cuevas del Indio before a market stop in Viñales. Continue by coach to Havana for 2010 departure.