2019 marked the 500th birthday of Havana and sixty years since Fidel Castro swept into Havana to claim the island. The revolution has left an indelible impression on every walk of life in Cuba that remains in a socialist time warp having existed in relative isolation for over half a century.
We can’t imagine a more exciting time to come exploring Cuba with Art of Living. The place is exploding with youthful creativity in dance, music and art. Grand colonial buildings undergoing restoration sit alongside still crumbling mansions and soviet era ‘brutalist’ highrise. Car journeys on good roads are like travelling in a surreal Hollywood movie, they are so quiet, almost empty of traffic and billboards.
This is a beguiling mix of European, American and African influences.
Don’t come with food expectations but do come expecting to be enamoured with Cuba’s beautiful, resourceful, resilient people who despite their long and tumultuous history exude warmth and generosity that belies what sometimes seems so frugal compared with our Western excesses and abundance.
Here time becomes slippery. American Plymouths from the 1950s, Soviet Ladas from the 1970s, Polski Fiats from the 1980s, donkey carts, farmer’s drays, the odd Peugeot – It is as if every moment that came before is also present now.
Private enterprise is making its mark creating elegant boutique hotels and more diverse dining options and Cuba is drenched in music Unpacking and understanding the time warp that is Cuba is a generational conversation and we have found the best guides – highly educated engineers, architects, physicists, art historians and lawyers who work in tourism for the simple fact it is more remunerative than staying in their original professions. They share their expertise with passion and refreshing openness.
• in Havana meet gifted artists in their studios
• witness the talent of young contemporary dancers
• listen to enlivening music while sipping a mojito
• stay in chic boutique accommodation
• trek the beautiful valley of Viñales
• the charming colonial outposts of Cienfuegos + Trinidad
AT A GLANCE
LENGTH: 10 Days
ACTIVITY LEVEL: Moderate
TYPE: Small Group Tour | AoL Escorted | Bespoke
STYLE: culture | arts | architecture | heritage | adventure | music
START/FINISH: Havana | Havana
All meals, entrance fees, guide, porterage
Deluxe Boutique | Classy hotels
Luxury mini coach
12 – 20 April 2021
10 days from USD $7155 twin | double share
On arrival transfer to your VIP boutique hotel in the centre of captivating , very safe and pedestrian friendly Old Havana – walking distance from major historic sites, with lively music all around.
This morning walk with an expert around the old city to understand how Havana became such a wealthy and beautiful city. Enjoy a panoramic tour of the city riding in an open topped classic vehicle to visit the mosaic wonderland of Fuster.
Pause at the famed Hotel Nacional for a Cuba Libre on the terrace overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
This morning become enthralled by the stupendous talent of the dancers at one of the world’s leading contemporary dance companies during a practice class.
After a survey of modern Cuban art with your curator at the Museum, visit the studios of some of Cuba’s leading contemporary artists.
Take a private curated visit to The Fabrica de Arte Cubano – a labyrinth of artistic creation, the kind of place that can only really happen in Cuba – a repurposed former oil mill, this ‘art factory’ is a “hybrid project that defies categorisation; part business, part community project, part art gallery, part nightclub, part theatre and part cinema”.
Later – the option to learn salsa, a bespoke shopping spree or scout for terrific modern art at affordable prices.
After an early lunch travel west through the rolling green hills of Pinar de Rio. The valley of Viñales is spiked with dramatic karst limestone peaks interspersed with tobacco fields and colourful drying sheds. A gentle walk to see how the famous Cuban cigars are made from growing the leaves to rolling the finished product.
An early start this morning for a glorious uphill trek – the last bastion of Los Aquaticos (the Water People) – a mountain community founded in 1943 by followers of visionary Antoñica Izquierdo. Later drive to Cienfuegos.
With you local expert take a walking tour of this gracious city, a nautical city founded in 1819 by French émigrés, whose homogeneous grid of elegant classical architecture earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site listing in 2005.
Visit the studios of local artisans then arrive in Trinidad in time for a seafood lunch.
Trinidad is a perfectly preserved Spanish colonial settlement where huge sugar fortunes were made in the 19thC and where the clocks stopped in 1850 and – and apart from tourists – have yet to restart.
Early this morning, to beat the possible crowds and the heat, set off to explore Topes de Collantes, a beautiful nature reserve. Wander along its hiking trails taking in caves, rivers, canyons and natural pools and learn about the scientific value it holds for Cuban botany, zoology and ecology. The walk ends in refreshing waterfalls for those who wish to take a swim.
Return to Havana via Santa Clara to pay homage to the revolutionary Che Guevara at a memorial marking the site of the Battle of Santa Clara victory. Wander through the mausoleum which houses the remains of the revolutionary hero and twenty-nine of his fellow combatants killed in 1967 in Bolivia.
Last minute browsing, shopping, wandering, or relaxing before your transfer to the international airport.
Spend some extra days in the alluring city of Havana with treasures in every nook and cranny and some great museums.
Allow 5 | 6 days to explore Eastern Cuba and the ambient towns of Camagüey, Bayamo, Baracoa and Santiago de Cuba.
Take a seaside break by the crystalline waters.
Your Tour Leader, Marieke Brugman is an avid global traveller/foodie/yogi who has been leading luxury groups of discerning travellers throughout the world from Europe to Asia for twenty-five years. Whilst the sub continent is her most passionate ‘subject’, Morocco is not only easy to fall in love with but also gets under your skin and leaves lasting memories. There is such a sweep of history such a melting pot of cultures, such beautiful Islamic architecture and crafts, such exciting food and such hospitable people, it makes in her view, an exquisite mélange of experience. For those who may be keen, she also offers yoga each morning as a brilliant way to start the day.
BOOKINGS & ENQUIRIES
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