June 4, 2015

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Havana  -  Bay of Pigs  -  Cienaga de Zapata  -  Trinidad

For those who want to dedicate time to an in-depth cultural experience, we will observe the changing tide of Cuba, as new resources in Cuba are allowing for renovations of centuries-old architecture and we will be among the first sets of eyes to witness the rebuilding of Cuba’s infrastructure. We will be dining in the finest restaurants that Cuba has to offer, and we will have the opportunity to meet and connect with Cuban friends and informal cultural ambassadors. As we stroll the cobblestone streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Havana Vieja, we will be regaled by some amazing musicians - Cuba’s university for the arts produces world-renowned masters who earn a government salary as well as tips performing in public spaces. We will visit some of Cuba’s famous community projects, and will take in some of the island’s fine musical offerings by night. We will also visit various sites within the lush UNESCO biosphere reserve of Cienaga de Zapata, where a local biologist will demonstrate the flora and fauna that are endemic to Cuba. The winding cobblestone streets of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site nestled in a historical sugar-growing region on the coast, will offer another side of the designs that the colonial era inspired. A historian will provide an in-depth presentation at a colonial sugar mill that is currently being restored. On our return to Havana we will be greeted with tapas on the rooftop of Cuba’s most famous restaurant, and we close our trip with a deeper look at the juxtaposition of Cuba’s visual arts and freedom of expression before we say our farewells.

We may personalize each trip itinerary based on how you answer your Participant Information Form.  Additionally, know that while we do our best to adhere to our planned itineraries, traveling in Cuba requires flexibility, and changes to our scheduled activities may occur.

Day 1: Welcome to culturally-rich Cuba. We have taken care of you reservations, and we will greet you at the airport upon your arrival. We will assist you in checking in to your casa particular (bed-and-breakfast), where you can refresh. For convenience, all of our casas will be within a block of each other, and near internet access, just in case you need it. After a brief orientation we will take a walk down the famous Obispo Street in Havana Vieja followed by traditional Cuban dinner overlooking the city at one of Cuba’s finest restaurants.

Day 2: Explore Habana Vieja. After a generous breakfast on the terrace of your casa, we will begin our walking tour of the old Spanish colonial city, guided by our Cuban expert in the history of Havana. As we learn about Cuba’s centuries of rich history through our walking tour, we will also visit some of it’s current residents, who have offered to show us how they live. Tonight we dine with a few Cuban professionals who will further inform our perspective of modern Cuba.

Day 3: Community Project and the outer city.  During the poverty-stricken “Special Period” that Cuba suffered through after the Soviet Union collapsed, localized community projects were organized, many of which were created to teach children art and music in order to lift people’s spirits.  We will spend this morning and tomorrow morning visiting projects that we have helped support over the years.

Muraleando (Mural Land) was created by a few artists living in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana.  They decorated the streets with inspiring murals and began teaching art to children in the neighborhood, and eventually surrounding areas.  The activists in Muraleando have created an inspiring wonderland out of what was once literally a trash heap.

This afternoon we will visit sites in outer Havana, including the memorial to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the museums around La Cabaña Fortress, built in the mid-1700’s as protection against the British pirates.  After dinner at the fortress we will witness the 9pm historic ceremonia del cañonazo (ceremony of the cannon shot), which traditionally signaled the closing of the city gates.

Day 4: Cuban Community Project and volunteer day.  Mailan’s Children's Choir was recognized more than a decade ago by Fidel Castro himself as one of the most promising and talented community projects in the country.  They have invited us to visit them as they rehearse in the Jose Marti Monument, located in the Revolutionary Plaza, the seat of Cuban government.  In the afternoon we will give back to the people of Cuba through an hour of optional volunteer service, followed by free time or a siesta, as you wish. This evening will feature another of Cuba’s finest culinary establishments, shared with Cuban friends. An optional salsa dance lesson will accompany live traditional Cuban music.

Day 5: Art and Nature. Tour of Bellas Artes Museum of Cuba’s historical collection of art with our art expert, an aspiring young film maker. After lunch we depart for the Cienaga de Zapata biosphere preserve, near the Bay of Pigs. We will dine on the beach to live Cuban music.

Day 6: Wildlife and 500-year-old streets. Early morning birding expedition, lunch, and a visit to a crocodile preserve. After that we depart for beautifully preserved Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Located just off of the pristine waters of the Caribbean Sea, Trinidad has managed to preserve their colonial charm.  After checking in to our casas, we will take a brief walking tour around the beautifully restored Plaza Mayor before dinner and then a live musical performance at the Casa de Musica.

Day 7: Sugar cane and ceramics. We will visit a small colonial-era sugar plantation that the Cuban government is currently restoring in the rolling hills of the Valle de los Ingenios. Through a local Cuban guide, learn about early methods of sugar production juxtaposed against the history of slavery in Cuba. After that we will visit a small family-run ceramics studio that has been carrying their Spanish pottery making tradition for several generations. Lunch, and then free time with options provided.

Day 8: Return to bustling Havana. Feel free to explore the culturally-rich winding streets of Trinidad before meeting for our late-morning return to Havana. Tonight we will have tapas with Cuban friends on the rooftop terrace of La Guarida, a culturally significant and internationally recognized gourmet restaurant.

Day 9: Doctors and writers. Visit a neighborhood clinic to learn a bit about the Cuban healthcare system. Next we visit Cuba Libro, a community space/cultural melting pot created by the New York Times’ former Cuba correspondent. There we will help Cuban youth practice their English as we learn about the perspective of Cuba’s youth. Our farewell party will be tonight, and we will say our reluctant goodbyes to some of the amazing cultural ambassadors we have had the fortune to meet.

Day 10: Safely home.  After breakfast, we will deliver you to the airport with ample time to comfortably check in for your flight. We will provide you with travel documents verifying that you visited Cuba legally. Know that US Customs law recently changed so that you may bring back to the US up to $400 worth of Cuban goods, including up to $100 in cigars and rum, but you will find this to be nothing compared to the lifetime of memories that you will have acquired.

What’s included?

Accommodations, all group meals, museum/club entry fees, expert guides, ground transportation, bottled drinking water, and other group costs are covered. Additionally, gratuities for restaurant service, drivers, and general group activities is included (travelers may tip guides and musicians as you deem appropriate based on your satisfaction). We will connect you with our experienced travel agent to arrange transportation to/from Havana, Cuba, or you may research your own flight to Cuba. Upon registration, we will send you a pre-trip information packet to help inform you and prepare you for an amazing cross-cultural experience. We take care of as much as possible so that you can relax. Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $550.

We limit each trip to a maximum of 10 travelers (for comparison, most other Cuba tour companies cap groups at 20 people). We prefer to keep group numbers small in order to ensure an authentic cultural experience. You will thank us.

Soltura is a Spanish word that loosely translated means with confidence, fluently, with ease. We pride ourselves on leading culturally-immersive tours with a focus on the arts and culture of Cuba, going above and beyond to ensure that our travelers have comfortable, yet truly enriching cultural experiences. Along the way, we will introduce you to some interesting people who will help inform your experiences in Cuba. You may create some lasting friendships on this journey, and you will certainly create a lifetime of memories.

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