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Cuba Journey

Cuba’s Artistic Pulse

Art lovers have the opportunity to gain new insights and fresh perspectives on art and culture around the globe.

Join us for the debut of MOA Journeys with a highly curated trip to Cuba.

Just weeks after the closing of our exhibition Without Masks: Contemporary Afro-Cuban Art, MOA members will embark on a journey to Cuba on November 20-30.

An experienced local guide will unveil mesmerizing Havana and the Cuba beyond. Meanwhile, Orlando Hernández, host and guest-curator of MOA’s exhibit Without Masks, will grant exclusive access to galleries, artists’ studios, marketplaces, and unparalleled cultural experiences.

This journey is no longer available. 

Breakfast and dinner daily (hotels and local restaurants). All transport, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as ‘visited’ in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

EXCLUSIONS

Tour Leader gratuity, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), departure taxes, domestic and international air taxes (if applicable). Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Museum membership fees. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs, shopping, and locally paid departure taxes.

SEASONALITY AND WEATHER

This tour is offered during the late northern autumn and outside of hurricane season. Conditions throughout will be warm and tropical with cooler conditions possible in the mountains.

TRANSPORT AND TRAVEL CONDITIONS

Road transport by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see ‘group size’). Numerous walking tours on uneven surfaces.

Please note that travel restrictions may apply for American travellers.

ACCOMMODATION

Well-located, heated / air-conditioned, mid-range (3 star) hotels with en suite toilet and bath throughout (probably shower only). Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than doubles. Porter service is sometimes available though you should be independent with your luggage, especially at airports.

STAFF AND SUPPORT

Tour Leader, driver & local guide.

Orlando Hernandez is the contact for MOA in Cuba and he’ll be hosting/accompanying the tour for 4 days while the tour is in Havana. Orlando is the former curator for the Havana Museum of Arts.

GROUP SIZE

15-30 plus Tour Leader & escortNovember 20- November 30, 2014 – Sold Out!

DAY 1 THURSDAY, 20 NOVEMBER ARRIVE IN HAVANA
Arrive in Havana at Jose Marti International Airport. Meet your guide then transfer to your 4-star hotel in the heart of the old city. All transport within Cuba is by private deluxe motor coach.

Upon arrival in the city, the vibrancy of the people is one of the first things you will notice. Also striking is the fact that, day or night, music can be heard and most evenings, somewhere in the city, people can be found dancing in the streets. The rich history of the island is apparent in the faces of the people. They are the descendants of the Spanish conquistadores who colonised the island in the sixteenth century and African slaves brought over to work on the tobacco and sugar plantations.

Tonight, you’ll enjoy a welcome dinner, meet your Adventures Abroad Tour Leader, mingle with the Museum of Anthropology representatives and other members, and enjoy an introductory presentation by Without Masks curator, Orlando Hernandez.

*subject to flight schedules

Overnight in Havana.
Meal plan: dinner

 

DAY 2 FRIDAY, 21 NOVEMBER HAVANA: CENTRE CITY TOUR
Cuba’s cosmopolitan capital was once one of the world’s most prosperous ports and the third most populous city in the Americas. As La Llave del Mundo (Key of the World), it saw riches from Mexico, Peru, and Manila pass through her sheltered harbour to Spain. Havana shows evidence of long neglect but her beauty shines through an amalgam of Spanish, African, colonial, communist, and capitalist influences.

Today we have a tour of Old Havana, including a stroll down Prado Avenue, for many years Havana’s most important and impressive avenue. Built in 1772 by the government of the Marquis de la Torre, it was originally known as Alameda de Extramuros. In 1928 the avenue was remodeled into its present form. This stately thoroughfare is home to the Capitolio Nacional, the Gran Teatro de la Habana, and the Parque Central (a favourite gathering place for Cubans). It’ll become evident why UNESCO declared this region a cultural and natural World Heritage Site in 1982.

Our walking tour takes us along the main streets of Old Havana to visit the Plaza de la Cathedral, the Plaza de Armas, the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis, and stroll the Calle Mercaderes to the Plaza Vieja. We also visit the Plaza de la Revolution and the Cabana Fortress, built after the British invasion of 1762.

After a break for lunch in Old Havana, we will explore the Fine Arts Museum with Orlando Hernandez, formerly a curator of the Museum. Witness works in this national gallery from artists you encountered in Without Masks.

Overnight in Havana.
Meal plan: breakfast, dinner

 

DAY 3 SATURDAY, 22 NOVEMBER HAVANA
Today we will further experience Havana from an insider’s view with Orlando Hernandez.

We’ll visit the Asociacion Yoruba and Africa’s House museums. Here you’ll learn all about the varied religions formed in Cuba through Cuba’s African descendants. We will visit a popular market where ritualistic crafts and objects are showcased and purchased, and experience carvers’ studios. Time permitting, we will also take in the works at a new gallery, Fabrica del arte.

We will take in the Sabados de Rumba show (Rumba Saturdays) today, presented by the Conjunto Foklorico Nacional in Vedado, for a taste of Cuba’s Afro-Cuban rhythms.

Tonight we’ll enjoy a performance in the National Theatre or another of Havana’s excellent music venues.

Overnight in Havana.
Meal plan: breakfast, dinner

 

DAY 4 SUNDAY, 23 NOVEMBER HAVANA – VINALES VALLEY
An early start has us leaving Havana and travelling west towards Vinales and its magnificent valley, partly reminiscent of Guilin in China because of the curious limestone mountains and rock outcroppings.

Along the way we stop in Las Terrazzas ecovillage, famous for artists’ studios and nature trails, or Soroa to visit a beautifully located orchid garden. We will have a chance to see a tobacco plantation where the tobacco leaf is sorted (despalillo), graded, even fermented and then stored until the time is right for the leaf to be rolled. In Pinar del Rio we visit a state run tobacco factory where such brands as Cohiba, Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta cigars are made. We will make a stop on this journey to enjoy a sip of the guayavitas liqueur, produced nowhere in the world but this valley. Continue to Vinales.

Overnight in Vinales.
Meal plan: breakfast, dinner

 

DAY 5 MONDAY, 24 NOVEMBER VINALES VALLEY – HAVANA
The Vinales Valley is considered a National Park and was recently proclaimed by UNESCO as a Natural World Heritage Site.

This morning we take a leisurely walk through the countryside passing by crops of tobacco, yucca and corn before joining up with our vehicle again. We may be able to visit a tobacco farmer’s house; the inhabitants of the valley will readily invite visitors in for a visit.

Later we’ll visit the Jardin Botanico de Caridad, the Botanical Gardens of Caridad, a local woman who started growing local tropical plants on her small property and now accepts visitors. Tamarinds, oranges, grapefruits, guava, starfruit, bananas, cocoa, lemons, cinnamon trees and a variety of decorative plants and ferns can be found in her gardens. After a guided tour of the garden, we have a chance to try some of the fruits in season.

We then go around the corner to the State-run rationing store where our guide will explain to us what the state supplies, how much, and how the system works.

We’ll also visit “La Cueva del Indio” where we will have an undeniably exciting experience to sail in traditional boats along an underground river that passes through the interior of some of the Haystack Hillock Mountains.

Return to Havana.

Overnight in Havana.
Meal plan: breakfast, dinner

 

DAY 6 TUESDAY, 25 NOVEMBER HAVANA – BAY OF PIGS – CIENFUEGOS
Today is a full day of travel, with some interesting things to see and do along the way. The Zapata Peninsula juts out into the Caribbean within a huge biosphere reserve, and is an idyllic playground for ecotourists and bird-watchers, and teeming with wildlife.

We travel via the Zapata swamp, named after the unfortunate first landholder to hold title to the area in the 1600s. This area was very poor before the revolution but has benefited greatly with the introduction of electricity, schools, roads, and clinics where none had existed before. Lake Tesoro is said to have gotten its name from the indigenous people who are said to have thrown all their treasures into the lake rather than give them up to the Spanish. Fidel Castro used to spend much of his vacation time here.

We continue after lunch to a stop at the cenote (limestone cave) just after Playa Larga. This is an inland sea-water aquarium with an amazing array of fishes that one can observe during a refreshing swim.

Also along our route are numerous stone markers, memorials to the people bombed on the road during the US invasion. The road was the only access to the beach, so most of those killed were approaching to either bring supplies or help in the fighting. We stop at the Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) Museum, where we will learn about the US/CIA involvement in the anti-Castro movement. Playa Giron was one of the two main landing beaches during the abortive US invasion.

We continue to Cienfuegos, affectionately known as La Perla del Sur (the Southern Pearl), an inviting port town settled by French colonists more than 150 years ago and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005.

Overnight in Cienfuegos.
Meal plan: breakfast, dinner

 

DAY 7 WEDNESDAY, 26 NOVEMBER CIENFUEGOS – SIERRA DE ESCAMBRAY – TRINIDAD
Today our journey takes us to Cuba’s second highest mountain range — the Sierra de Escambray, reaching 1100 m (3,700 feet) and home to small mountain villages. The Escambray is a delight for birders and walkers alike. Slopes are swathed in Caribbean pines, ancient tree ferns, bamboo, and eucalyptus. Upon arrival we take a 60-minute truck ride in Russian trucks through mountains, into the forest to begin a walk from La Codina, an old Spanish hacienda, once part of a large Spanish coffee plantation.

We begin our easy walk with a talk on the various plants in the area and their medicinal uses, originally used to treat the plantation’s slaves. We continue to the Orchid Loop, with over 25 endemic species, and then through a cave en route to La Cueva del Altar, with stunning views out over the mountains to the Caribbean Sea. We finish back at the Hacienda where we have lunch at La Codina House.

Later we continue to Trinidad and check in to our hotel, with some afternoon free time to enjoy Trinidad’s charms or its nearby beautiful beaches.

Overnight in Trinidad.
Meal plan: breakfast, lunch, dinner

 

DAY 8 THURSDAY, 27 NOVEMBER TRINIDAD: TOWN TOUR
This morning we tour colonial Trinidad (pop: 60,000). This is a perfect relic of the early days of the Spanish colony: beautifully-preserved streets and buildings and hardly a trace of the 20th century anywhere. It was founded in 1514 by Diego Velazquez as a base for expeditions into the New World and Hernan Cortes, conquistador of the Aztecs, set out from here for Mexico in 1518. The five main squares and four churches date from the 18th and 19th centuries and the whole city, with its fine palaces, cobbled streets and tiled roofs, is a national monument and since 1988 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1797 there were 56 sugar mills and 12,000 slaves imported to work in the sugar cane fields. With the Industrial Revolution and the increase in sugar grown in Europe, Trinidad went into decline in the second half of the 19th century.

On the Plaza Mayor is the cathedral; we will tour the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad, built between 1817 and 1892. It is the largest church in Cuba and is renowned for its acoustics. On the left of the altar is a crucifix of the Christ of Veracruz, who is the patron of Trinidad. We will also explore Trinidad’s Afro-Cuban religious culture at the Casa Templo de Santería Yemayá.

Today’s tour also includes visits to The Palacio Cantero / Romantico Museum, which depicts the lifestyle and architectural design of Trinidad’s colonial past, and La Canchanchara, an old house dating back to the 18th Century, where we can taste a unique Trinidad rum cocktail made with sugar cane juice.

This evening we will explore the music of Trinidad: Salsa, Son, Trova, and the Rumba, the percussion-driven, highly-charged dance that was practiced by African brotherhoods, which can be seen at the Palenque de los Congos Reales venue on Calle Echerri. We might take in perfomances at the Casa de la Musica or Casa de la Trova, based on availability.

Overnight in Trinidad.
Meal plan: breakfast, dinner

 

DAY 9 FRIDAY, 28 NOVEMBER TRINIDAD – HAVANA
After an early breakfast we drive back to Havana. On the journey back to the city, we’ll have the opportunity to explore Finca Vigia and Hemingway’s Country House.

Once back in Havana, you will have some free time. You might choose to visit the exceptional Cuban Museum of Dance, or the Museum of Rum. Perhaps you’ll take this opportunity to visit the Museum of the Revolution, located in Old Havana. The museum is housed in what was the Presidential Palace of all Cuban presidents from Mario Garcia Menocal to Fulgencio Batista. It became the Museum of the Revolution during the years following the Cuban Revolution. Portions of the museum are also devoted to pre-revolutionary Cuba, including its War of Independence waged against Spain.

We will meet again in the evening to enjoy one of Havana’s most welcoming restaurants for dinner.

Overnight in Havana.
Meal plan: breakfast, dinner

 

DAY 10 SATURDAY, 29 NOVEMBER INSTITUTO SUPERIOR DES ARTES
Today we visit the Instituto Superior des Artes for an exclusive look at arts education in Cuba and its artists of tomorrow. Orlando Hernandez will tour the group and provide privileged views into artists’ studios, familiar from the Without Masks exhibit.

We will then explore the neighborhood to the west of Havana’s centre, the beautiful Miramar and charming El Laguito. Other highlights include the University of Havana, the famous “Malecón” seawall promenade, Christopher Columbus Necropolis and the Vedado residential charm.

To celebrate the final night of our tour we’ll enjoy a farewell party with cocktails, dinner, and a final chance to say our goodbyes to the new friends we met on the tour. We will once more mingle with Orlando Hernandez and the other artists we have encountered.

Overnight in Havana.
Meal plan: breakfast, dinner

 

DAY 11 SUNDAY, 30 NOVEMBER DEPARTURE
After a final Cuba breakfast, we’ll return to Jose Marti International Airport for our departure back to Vancouver.

 

BUEN VIAJE!