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22143
Cuba

The Best of Cuba: From Viñales Valley to Habana Vieja

From dominoes to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, experience all things Cuban on a learning adventure that explores the western regions of this fascinating island nation.
Rating (5)
Program No. 22143RJ
Length
12 days
Starts at
4,249
Cuba

The Best of Cuba: From Viñales Valley to Habana Vieja

From dominoes to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, experience all things Cuban on a learning adventure that explores the western regions of this fascinating island nation.
Length
12 days
Starts at
4,249
Length
12 days
Rating (5)
Starts at
4,249
Program No. 22143RJ

Your well-being is our #1 priority

To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

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Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
climate
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itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Oct 4 - Oct 15, 2022
Starting at
4,249
Oct 11 - Oct 22, 2022
Starting at
4,249
Nov 1 - Nov 12, 2022
Starting at
4,249
Nov 8 - Nov 19, 2022
Starting at
4,249
Dec 6 - Dec 17, 2022
Starting at
4,249
Jan 10 - Jan 21, 2023
Starting at
4,399
Jan 17 - Jan 28, 2023
Starting at
4,399
Feb 7 - Feb 18, 2023
Starting at
4,399
Feb 14 - Feb 25, 2023
Starting at
4,399
Itinerary Note

Friends of Julie Paik

Mar 7 - Mar 18, 2023
Starting at
4,399
Mar 14 - Mar 25, 2023
Starting at
4,399
Apr 4 - Apr 15, 2023
Starting at
4,399
Apr 11 - Apr 22, 2023
Starting at
4,399
May 16 - May 27, 2023
Starting at
4,399
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Oct 4 - Oct 15, 2022
Starting at
4,679
Oct 11 - Oct 22, 2022
Starting at
4,679
Nov 1 - Nov 12, 2022
Starting at
4,679
Nov 8 - Nov 19, 2022
Starting at
4,679
Dec 6 - Dec 17, 2022
Starting at
4,679
Jan 10 - Jan 21, 2023
Starting at
4,829
Jan 17 - Jan 28, 2023
Starting at
4,829
Feb 7 - Feb 18, 2023
Starting at
4,829
Feb 14 - Feb 25, 2023
Starting at
4,829
Itinerary Note

Friends of Julie Paik

Mar 7 - Mar 18, 2023
Starting at
4,829
Mar 14 - Mar 25, 2023
Starting at
4,829
Apr 4 - Apr 15, 2023
Starting at
4,829
Apr 11 - Apr 22, 2023
Starting at
4,829
May 16 - May 27, 2023
Starting at
4,829

At a Glance

Join local experts in Cuba’s western cities for an immersive look at this island nation’s people, natural spaces and cultural treasures. Journey through Havana, Viñales, Camagüey, Matanzas and Cienfuegos to meet local residents who share with you their way of life, their arts and community organizations dedicated to giving back to their people. Gain insight into Cuba’s natural resources during field trips to Las Terrazas — a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — Casa de Caridad Botanical Garden, and local tobacco and organic farms. Enjoy meals at local paladares, immerse yourself in Havana’s Fine Arts Museum, and discover captivating plazas that invoke the colorful culture and powerful history that makes Cuba, Cuba.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to two miles a day on a combination of cobblestone streets and dirt paths. Getting on and off of a motorcoach. Navigating high curbs, uneven steps, and stairs without railings. Travel in a tropical climate.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Learn about local crops during a field trip to an organic farm where you will enjoy a home-cooked lunch with fresh ingredients from the farm.
  • Engage with local Cubans as you learn to play dominoes with members of a local club.
  • Explore Las Terrazas, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that began as a reforestation project in the 1960s.

General Notes

Note: Round-trip charter flight from Miami to Havana is included. Road Scholar offers opportunities to travel legally to Cuba under the new OFAC Regulations published June 5, 2019. Following the General License category “Support for the Cuban People,” Road Scholar programs include activities intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Each day's program promotes independence for the Cuban people and results in meaningful interactions with the Cuban people. Questions about traveling to Cuba? Road Scholar has your answers. Learn more: https://www.roadscholar.org/travel-tips/cuba/.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Marta Nunez Sarmiento
Marta Núñez Sarmiento is a retired professor at the University of Havana where she taught methodology and gender studies. Her research has concentrated on women and employment in Cuba, gender studies in Cuba, images of women in Cuban mass media, and transition projects for Cuba proposed by Cuban American and U.S. scholars. She holds a master’s in sociology and a PhD in economics. She has been a visiting professor at universities around the world and a consultant on gender for the UN and other NGOs.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Marta Nunez Sarmiento
Marta Nunez Sarmiento View biography
Marta Núñez Sarmiento is a retired professor at the University of Havana where she taught methodology and gender studies. Her research has concentrated on women and employment in Cuba, gender studies in Cuba, images of women in Cuban mass media, and transition projects for Cuba proposed by Cuban American and U.S. scholars. She holds a master’s in sociology and a PhD in economics. She has been a visiting professor at universities around the world and a consultant on gender for the UN and other NGOs.
Profile Image of Camilo Garcia Lopez Trigo
Camilo Garcia Lopez Trigo View biography
Camilo García Lopez Trigo has represented Cuba at its Embassy in Canada, the United Nations in the Netherlands, and in Washington DC. He also is involved in the National Center for Sex Education (Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual, or CENESEX. He shares his experiences representing Cuba in both friendly and adversarial nations, and his views on the current and future state of US-Cuba relations. Dr. García is a professor at the University of Havana International Relations School and an expert in US political studies.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Sugar King of Havana
by John Paul Rathbone
John Paul Rathbone recounts "elegant, decadent and whirligig years" of pre-revolutionary Havana and the dramatic life of Julio Lobo, the richest man in Cuba (until Castro’s revolution did away with such men). Surviving assassin's bullets and making and losing two fortunes, Cuba's last tycoon went from glittering man about town in pre-Revolutionary Havana -- and one of the world's richest men -- to solitary exile in Spain. With a mother that traveled in those same circles in Havana, Rathbone brings depth and the perspective of an insider to this fantastic story.
Cuba, Art and History from 1868 to Today
by Natha Bondil (Editor)
With ravishing color reproductions of murals, posters, paintings and photographs, this magnificent book documents the history of art in Cuba from independence.
Cuba, What Everyone Needs to Know
by Julia Sweig
Director for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Sweig traces the geography, history and identity of Cuba in this admirably succinct history of the island nation and its role in world affairs.
Cuba Map
by Borch Maps
A detailed, double-sided laminated map at a scale of 1:1,000,000.
Havana, A Cultural and Literary Companion
by Claudia Lightfoot
An illuminating guide to the city, its history and geography, as the inspiration for writers, artists, musicians and intellectuals.
The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics
by Aviva Chomsky (Editor), Barry Carr (Editor), Pamela Maria Smorkaloff (Editor)
Organized chronologically, this multi-faceted portrait of a nation, with most of the selections by Cuban writers, includes not only history, journalism and literature but also songs, paintings, poems and cartoons and speeches.
Trading with the Enemy
by Tom Miller
Miller captures the openness, sensuality and pride of Cuba and the Cubans in this eloquent account of entertaining travels in Fidel's Cuba.
Our Man in Havana
by Graham Greene
The classic story of a British vacuum cleaner salesman who gets accidentally drawn into cold war espionage with disastrous results.
Cuba
by Pierre Hausherr (Photographer), Francois Missen
With full-page photographs, introductory essays on history, architecture, music, food and more, this oversized, illustrated paperback by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Francois Missen and photographer Pierre Hausherr captures the spirit of Cuba, its people, nature and culture.
Culture Smart! Cuba
by Mandy Macdonald
A concise, well-illustrated and practical guide to local customs, etiquette and culture.
This is Cuba
by Ben Corbett
Corbett interviews everyday people living on the fringe's of Castro's official Cuba for this account, both a stinging indictment of government policy and a testimony to the Cuban spirit.
Cuba, A Traveler's Literary Companion
by Ann Louise Bardach
Bardach (Without Fidel) samples terrific contemporary writers for this anthology, organized geographically.
The Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway's brief story of a fisherman who after 84 days with no luck finally makes a big catch is also an affectionate portrait of life in Cuba. It won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Moon Handbook Cuba
by Christopher P. Baker
Baker's comprehensive, indispensable guide leaves no stone unturned, covering the natural, cultural and political life of the island with style.
Teachings of the Santeria Gods, The Spirit of the Odu
by Ocha'Ni Lele
Ocha'Ni recounts 100 sacred stories of Santeria, collected from the oral tradition of the African diaspora, ranging from creation myths, to love stories and share the wisdom and spirituality of Yoruba people.
Dreaming in Cuban
by Cristina Garcia
A short, poetic novel of three generations of Cuban women, their reaction to the revolution and the complex relation between those who remained in Cuba and those who settled in the United States. Excellent reading.
Without Fidel
by Ann Louise Bardach
A PEN award-winning journalist who has covered Cuba for 15 years, Bardach (Cuba Confidential) brings knowledge, tenacity and verve to this report on the future of the country.
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12 days
11 nights
26 meals
11 B 8 L 7 D
DAY
1
In Transit, Arrive Miami, Check-in
Miami
DoubleTree Hotel Miami Airport

Activity note: This daily schedule is a representative guide. Program elements in Cuba are controlled by the Cuban government and are subject to change on short notice, as are flight times. Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Arrive to DoubleTree Hotel Miami Airport. Courtesy shuttles are available from the Miami International Airport. Check-in, relax and prepare for your flight the following day to Havana. Remember to bring your name tag (sent previously).

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to have what you like depending on what time you arrive in Miami.

DAY
2
Orientation. Flight to Havana, Havana Vieja
Havana
B,L,D
Hotel Valentin Quinta Avenida Habana

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach: hotel shuttle to airport approx. 15 min.; flight time 1 hour; driving 20 miles, approx. 1 hour riding time.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will review COVID-19 and will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. Our accommodations in Cuba feature clean, comfortable rooms with private baths and standard amenities. Cuban hotel standards may not equal their American or European counterparts. Improvements are ongoing, and we hope that any potential glitch in service or amenities is a minor trade-off for the authentic connections and enrichment we will experience. Meals will be in paladares: privately owned and operated family restaurants. Periods in the schedule designated as “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. The Group Leader will organize shuttles from the hotel to the Miami International Airport. You will have the opportunity to purchase your Visa in Miami.

Lunch: At a privately owned Paladar.

Afternoon: Arrival at Aeropuerto José Martí — José Martí International Airport (HAV), about 14 miles from the hotel. We will make a stop in La Habana Vieja en route to our hotel and walk through historic Cathedral Square and visit a local artist’s studio. Afternoon arrival in the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Prepare for early morning check-out and transfer to Cienfuegos.

DAY
3
Cienfuegos, Musical Performance, Trinidad
Trinidad
B,L,D
Hotel La Ronda

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving 150 miles to Cienfuegos, approximately 3 hours riding time; driving 70 miles to Trinidad, approximately 1-1.5 hours riding time. Walking up to 1 mile on uneven, paved, and cobblestone streets/sidewalks, unpaved ground.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: This morning we will check out of the hotel, board our motorcoach, and begin the journey to Cienfuegos on the southern part of the island. The drive through the countryside will be a fascinating experience as we observe the forms of transportation available to Cubans, including an abundance of horse drawn carriages. We will attend a rehearsal of a local music group, with an opportunity to interact with the musicians.

Lunch: At a local paladar.

Afternoon: We will continue our drive to Trinidad for a late afternoon check-in at the hotel.

Dinner: At a local paladar.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Trinidad, Sugar Mill Valley
Trinidad
B,D
Hotel La Ronda

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Strenuous walking up to 2.5 miles and standing outdoors; very uneven cobblestone streets; sunny conditions, limited shade. The historic center of Trinidad is not accessible to motorcoaches and can only be reached on foot.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Trinidad is one of the original Spanish Settlements and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 1514, this time capsule of a city is a mix of historic landmarks and majestic natural beauty. We’ll set out walking with our Cuban host to Plaza Mayor where we will see historically and architecturally significant landmarks of this colonial town. We will visit the workshops of several local artisans including basket makers, embroiderers, and toymakers. We’ll also have a visit with a local artisan who uses abandoned wood from houses to create one-of-a-kind sculptured portraits.

Afternoon: We will board the motorcoach and drive into the Valle de los Ingenios (Sugar Mill Valley). Along with Trinidad, the Valley was home to a flourishing sugar industry between the late 18th and late 19th centuries. Per UNESCO, which designated this as a World Heritage Site in 1988, “The Valley de los Ingenios is a remarkable testimony to the development of the sugar industry. A living museum of Cuban sugar production, it includes the sites of 75 former cane sugar mills, plantation houses, barracks and other facilities related to this vulnerable industry, which has witnessed a gradual and progressive decline.” We’ll then visit artisans at the San Isidro de los Destiladeros, a former sugar mill that now serves as an archeological site. We’ll then return to Trinidad in time for dinner.

Dinner: At a paladar.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer to Matanzas in the morning.

DAY
5
Transfer to Matanzas, Community Projects, Dance Performance
Matanzas
B,L,D
Casa Particular

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 180 miles, approximately 4 hours riding time. Walking up to 1 mile and standing indoors and out for up to two hours. Cobblestones, high curbs, sunny conditions with limited shade.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will set off by motorcoach for Matanzas. Founded in 1693, Matanzas has been called a hidden gem and even the “Athens of Cuba” for its architectural, historical, and cultural heritage. With our Cuban host and Group Leader, we will set out on a walking field trip through city plazas. Next, by motorcoach, we'll visit a project run by independent artists and discuss their work in the community. We’ll also visit a local community project to learn about the services they provide to the people of Matanzas.

Lunch: At a local paladar.

Afternoon: We'll enjoy a performance by a local independent Afro-Cuban dance company at their rehearsal space, and engage in discussions with the dancers about their work. Afterwards, we'll transfer back to our Casas.

Dinner: At a local paladar.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Community Project, Organic Farm
Matanzas
B,L
Casa Particular

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 180 miles, approximately 4 hours riding time with stops. Walking up to one mile and standing indoors and out for up to two hours. Cobblestones, high curbs, sunny conditions with limited shade.

Breakfast: In the Casa.

Morning: We will ride on the motorcoach to a nearby community project where we will interact with and support local weavers at the Seminario Evangelico de Matanzas. Next, we will stop at a local organic farm. We will take a walk around the farm with the owner to learn about what is grown and produced there and to see unique artwork dotted throughout the property.

Lunch: At the farm.

Afternoon: We'll return to the Casa in the mid-afternoon and break for the remainder of the day.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. You might like to try one of the many paladares in Matanzas. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for transfer to Viñales in the morning.

DAY
7
Transfer to Viñales, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Viñales
B,L,D
Casa Particular Vinales

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving 115 miles, approximately 2.5 hours riding time with stop en route. Walking up to 1 mile and standing indoors and out up to 2 hours. Cobblestones, high curbs, sunny conditions, limited shade.

Breakfast: In the Casa.

Morning: We will begin our journey to Viñales, a beautiful valley in the Pinar del Rio province of Cuba in the Sierra de Los Organos. This area – designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 – is rich with lush landscapes, tobacco farms, and limestone karst hills, called mogotes in Cuba. On the way, we will stop at Las Terrazas, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that began as a reforestation project in the 1960s. Here, we will meet with local business owners and explore the reserve.

Lunch: At the restaurant at Las Terrazas.

Afternoon: Next, we'll continue our drive to Viñales. After checking into the Casas, we'll explore Viñales on foot with our Cuban host before returning to our Casas in the early evening.

Dinner: At a paladar with many fresh ingredients from nearby farms.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Botanical Garden, Tobacco Farm, Community Project
Viñales
B,L
Casa Particular Vinales

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to 1 mile and standing indoors and out up to 2 hours. Cobblestones, high curbs, sunny conditions, limited shade.

Breakfast: In the Casa.

Morning: We will transfer by motorcoach to the Casa de Caridad Botanical Garden, where we'll discuss the impact of climate change on the 190 species of plants grown here, and the steps which must be taken by all of us to reverse the trend. Next, we will drive to a local tobacco farm. Here, we will hear a presentation by the proprietor about the farm and the interesting process of growing and treating tobacco.

Lunch: At the farm's restaurant.

Afternoon: Following lunch, we'll return to the Casa in the mid-afternoon and adjourn for the day.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. You might like to try one of the many paladares in Viñales. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out in the morning.

DAY
9
Mural, Community Project, Transfer to Havana
Havana
B,L,D
Hotel Valentin Quinta Avenida Habana

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 110 miles, approximately 4 hours riding time with a stop en route. Walking up to 1 mile and standing indoors and out for up to 2 hours; sunny conditions, limited shade. Paved and unpaved roads, high curbs.

Breakfast: In the Casa.

Morning: Aboard our motorcoach, we'll head out to see the Mural de la Prehistoria, a modern mural depicting world history and evolution. Painted onto a rock wall in 1961 by the former Director of Mapping at the Cuban Academy of Sciences, Leovigildo González Morillo, we'll learn about the efforts of the local community to maintain the mural. Next, we'll board our motorcoach to visit an organic farm. Here, we'll go on a walking exploration of the farm to learn about what they grow and organic farming methods.

Lunch: At the farm's restaurant.

Afternoon: We will visit a local community project run by the artist Mario Pelegrin, which includes a library of children’s books, a private art gallery, and a pottery studio. Next, we'll board our motorcoach to transfer to Havana and check in at our hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
10
Women in Cuba, Old Havana, Dance Rehearsal
Havana
B,L
Hotel Valentin Quinta Avenida Habana

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking and standing approximately 2 hours through old Havana. Cobblestone streets, uneven terrain. Walking and standing for up to 2 hours in the museum. Some steps and no elevator.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: At the hotel, we’ll be joined by an expert in gender studies and sociology for a presentation on women in Cuba that will provide perspectives on women in today’s Cuban society. Next, we'll head to Old Havana by motorcoach and discover two of the four historic plazas of Old Havana on foot. Each square has its own unique features. Our last stop before lunch is a visit to the Museum Nacional de Bellas Arts — the Fine Arts Museum of Havana — where a private curator will lead our exploration. Cuban art is renowned worldwide. We’ll delve into the stories of how various works of art relate and what they say about politics, culture, and society.

Lunch: At a paladar.

Afternoon: We’ll attend a performance by one of Cuba's preeminent dance companies, then engage in one-on-one discussions with members of the company about their lives and profession. We’ll then return to the hotel by motorcoach and break for the day.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. You might like to try one of the many paladares in Havana. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
The New Cuban Constitution, Old Havana, Dominoes
Havana
B,D
Hotel Valentin Quinta Avenida Habana

Activity note: Walking and standing for approximately 2 hours in old Havana; cobblestone streets, uneven terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: At the hotel, we’ll have a presentation by a Cuban academic on the new Cuban Constitution, which was adopted in 2019. We’ll learn about the role of private enterprise in Cuba’s evolving society, followed by open discussion. We’ll then board a motorcoach and depart for Old Havana to explore the historic plazas with our Cuban host on foot while we visit the private shops of artisans, jewelry makers, and weavers.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. You might like to try one of the many paladares in Havana. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: Dominoes – Cuba’s national game – has its own set of rules, and is played enthusiastically in private and public. More than competition and skill, it is a greatly enjoyed social activity. We’ll meet members of a local dominoes league, learn the Cuban rules, and then play with club members. Teams will rotate and each American will play with one Cuban, presenting an opportunity to practice a few words in Spanish.

Dinner: At a paladar. Share favorite experiences and enjoy camaraderie with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning. The Group Leader will announce check-out time and the time of our transfer to the airport in the morning.

DAY
12
Return Flight to Miami, Program Concludes
Depart Havana
B

Activity note: The Group Leader will announce airport transfer time based on flight schedule.

Breakfast: At the hotel or boxed breakfast depending on flight times.

Morning: Group transfer to the Havana airport. Flight times are always subject to changes made by the airline. Please do not schedule connecting flights within 3 - 4 hours of arrival in Miami due to possible delays, schedule changes and airport security (PLEASE NOTE: The flight time is subject to change.) This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.