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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
11 days
Starts at
3,399
Special Offer
Click on Dates & Prices below to see special offer details.
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
11 days
Starts at
3,399
Special Offer
Click on Dates & Prices below to see special offer details.
Program No. 22143 RJ
Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
climate
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Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Oct 6 - Oct 16, 2021
Starting at
3,399
Special Offer

No extra cost for single rooms! Free singles sell out quickly, so be sure to enroll early.

Nov 3 - Nov 13, 2021
Starting at
3,499
Special Offer

No extra cost for single rooms! Free singles sell out quickly, so be sure to enroll early.

Nov 10 - Nov 20, 2021
Starting at
3,499
Special Offer

No extra cost for single rooms! Free singles sell out quickly, so be sure to enroll early.

Dec 1 - Dec 11, 2021
Starting at
3,499
Special Offer

No extra cost for single rooms! Free singles sell out quickly, so be sure to enroll early.

Dec 8 - Dec 18, 2021
Starting at
3,499
Special Offer

No extra cost for single rooms! Free singles sell out quickly, so be sure to enroll early.

Jan 5 - Jan 15, 2022
Starting at
3,599
Jan 19 - Jan 29, 2022
Starting at
3,599
Feb 2 - Feb 12, 2022
Starting at
3,599
Feb 9 - Feb 19, 2022
Starting at
3,599
Feb 16 - Feb 26, 2022
Starting at
3,599
Mar 2 - Mar 12, 2022
Starting at
3,599
Mar 9 - Mar 19, 2022
Starting at
3,599
Apr 6 - Apr 16, 2022
Starting at
3,599
May 4 - May 14, 2022
Starting at
3,399
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Oct 6 - Oct 16, 2021
Starting at
3,399
Special Offer

No extra cost for single rooms! Free singles sell out quickly, so be sure to enroll early.

Nov 3 - Nov 13, 2021
Starting at
3,499
Special Offer

No extra cost for single rooms! Free singles sell out quickly, so be sure to enroll early.

Nov 10 - Nov 20, 2021
Starting at
3,499
Special Offer

No extra cost for single rooms! Free singles sell out quickly, so be sure to enroll early.

Dec 1 - Dec 11, 2021
Starting at
3,499
Special Offer

No extra cost for single rooms! Free singles sell out quickly, so be sure to enroll early.

Dec 8 - Dec 18, 2021
Starting at
3,499
Special Offer

No extra cost for single rooms! Free singles sell out quickly, so be sure to enroll early.

Jan 5 - Jan 15, 2022
Starting at
3,959
Jan 19 - Jan 29, 2022
Starting at
3,959
Feb 2 - Feb 12, 2022
Starting at
3,959
Feb 9 - Feb 19, 2022
Starting at
3,959
Feb 16 - Feb 26, 2022
Starting at
3,959
Mar 2 - Mar 12, 2022
Starting at
3,959
Mar 9 - Mar 19, 2022
Starting at
3,959
Apr 6 - Apr 16, 2022
Starting at
3,959
May 4 - May 14, 2022
Starting at
3,749

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 10 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

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: www.roadscholar.org/cubafaqs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cuba, A Traveler's Literary Companion
by Ann Louise Bardach
Bardach (Without Fidel) samples terrific contemporary writers for this anthology, organized geographically.
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.
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
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.
Cuba Map
by Borch Maps
A detailed, double-sided laminated map at a scale of 1:1,000,000.
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.
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.
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.
Culture Smart! Cuba
by Mandy Macdonald
A concise, well-illustrated and practical guide to local customs, etiquette and culture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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11 days
10 nights
25 meals
10 B 8 L 7 D
DAY
1
In Transit, Arrive Havana, Check-in, Welcome Dinner
Havana
D
Hotel Nacional de Cuba

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 4:00 p.m.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a meal with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

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.

DAY
2
Orientation, Transfer to Viñales, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Viñales
B,L,D
Hotel Horizontes Los Jazmines

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

Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant, have what you like from the extensive buffet with a variety of hot and cold choices and beverages.

Morning: Orientation: 8:30 a.m. 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. 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. Some 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. 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 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, we will enjoy a family-style meal.

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

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Botanical Garden, Tobacco Farm
Viñales
B,L
Hotel Horizontes Los Jazmines

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving approximately 10 miles throughout the day. Walking up to 1 mile and standing indoors and out up to 2 hours. Cobblestones, high curbs, sunny conditions, limited shade.

Breakfast: In the hotel.

Morning: We will transfer to the Casa de Caridad Botanical Garden by motorcoach, where we'll learn about the history of the garden and some of the 190 species of plants grown here. Next, we will drive to a local tobacco farm. Here, we will have a presentation on the complex and interesting process of growing and treating tobacco.

Lunch: After learning about the growing and drying process, we'll enjoy lunch at the farm's restaurant on site.

Afternoon: We'll board our motorcoach to visit a despalillo house, where we'll learn about the next step in the process of preparing tobacco for cigars. This is where veins are stripped from the tobacco leaves. We'll then return to the hotel in the mid-afternoon.

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
4
Mural, Community Project, Transfer to Matanzas
Matanzas
B,L,D
Hotel El Louvre

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 4 hours with stop en route, 180 miles. Walking up to 1 mile and standing indoors and out up to 2 hours. Cobblestones, high curbs, sunny conditions, limited shade.

Breakfast: In the hotel.

Morning: Aboard our motorcoach we'll head to the UNESCO Mural de la Prehistoria, a modern mural depicting world history and evolution. Painted onto a rock wall 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 have a walking exploration of the farm to learn about what they grow and organic farming methods.

Lunch: We'll enjoy lunch at the farm's restaurant on site.

Afternoon: We'll ride to a local project where we'll learn about how they support and contribute to the community. Next, we'll board our motorcoach to transfer to Matanzas, arriving in the early evening.

Dinner: In the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Explore Matanzas, Community Projects
Matanzas
B,L
Hotel El Louvre

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving up to 10 miles throughout the day. Walking up to 3 miles; uneven, paved, and cobblestone streets/sidewalks, unpaved ground.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Matanzas, founded in 1693, 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. We’ll engage in discussions with the dancers about their work. Afterwards, we'll transfer back to the hotel.

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 check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
6
Community Project, Organic Farm, Transfer to Cienfuegos
Cienfuegos
B,L,D
Hotel San Carlos

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 3 hours, approximately 110 miles with stop en route. Walking up to 2 miles and standing up to 2 hours; uneven sidewalks/pavement, dirt/gravel/grass paths at farm.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After check-out from the hotel, we will ride to a nearby community project where we will interact with and support local weavers at the Seminario Evangelico de Matanzas. Next, en route to Cienfuegos, 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, we will have a homemade meal featuring fresh, organic ingredients.

Afternoon: We'll then continue our transfer to Cienfuegos, with a late afternoon check-in at the hotel.

Dinner: We will enjoy a buffet dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
City of Cienfuegos, Musical Performance
Cienfuegos
B,L,D
Hotel San Carlos

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach. Driving 1 hour, 15 miles total. Walking and standing on pavement up to 2 hours, up to 2 miles at a time.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will enjoy a buffet featuring a variety of options. Water, juice, coffee included.

Morning: We'll begin our exploration of Cienfuegos on foot with our Cuban Host. We'll stop at Plaza Jose Marti, the main square in Cienfuegos, and talk briefly about the square's history. We will observe local life and the beautiful buildings that surround it, including the Tomas Terry Theater. Afterward, we’ll enjoy a performance by one of Cienfuegos’ talented musical groups and discuss their musical careers, how they studied their art, and their typical days.

Lunch: At a paladar in Cienfuegos.

Afternoon: We will drive to the community of Pepito Tey. Now named for a slain revolutionary, the town was founded by Boston Brahmin Edwin Atkins as a sugar plantation and was later nationalized in Castro’s revolution. We’ll see vestiges of the past—like the bare steel remnants of a former sugar plantation and the ruins of Atkins’ house—as well as windows into current day, visiting a schoolhouse. We will then return to the hotel in the mid-afternoon.

Dinner: At a paladar in Cienfuegos.

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

DAY
8
Transfer to Havana, Revolution Square, Community Project
Havana
B,L,D
Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 150 miles, approximately 3 hours with stops en route. Walking up to 1 mile on uneven, paved, and cobblestone streets/sidewalks, unpaved ground.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel, board our motorcoach, and begin our drive to Havana.

Lunch: Upon arrival in Havana, we'll have lunch at a local paladar.

Afternoon: After a short ride on our motorcoach, we will visit the beautiful Sephardic Synagogue and the Holocaust Museum housed inside. We’ll also interact with artisans who utilize the services operated by the synagogue. After, we'll stop at the famous Revolution Square for a quick stop and photo opportunity before visiting a community project that helps showcase artists from difficult backgrounds. We’ll then have a late afternoon check-in at the hotel.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Women in Cuba, Old Havana, Dance Rehearsal
Havana
B,L
Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; minimal driving. 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: Hotel buffet.

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 transfer 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 museum 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.

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
10
U.S. – Cuba Relations, Old Havana, Dominoes
Havana
B,D
Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Activity note: Walking and standing approximately 2 hours through old Havana. Cobblestone streets, uneven terrain.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: At the hotel, we’ll have a presentation on the history of U.S. – Cuba relations with an expert in the field. We’ll gain an understanding of Cuban perspectives on the tumultuous relationship between the two countries, followed by open discussion. We’ll then board a motorcoach and depart for Old Havana to explore the second two plazas with our Cuban host on foot.

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, 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, then play with club members. Teams will rotate and each American will play with one Cuban, an opportunity to practice a few words in Spanish.

Dinner: At a paladar. Share favorite experiences 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
11
Program Concludes
Depart Havana
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out 12:00 Noon. See your program’s Transportation Information regarding transfers.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet or boxed breakfast depending on flight times. This concludes our program.

Morning: 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!






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