Private Journeys

Active Cuba: Bike, hike, kayak

14 days from £1,948pp

Cuba

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Havana. Transfer to hotel in the historic centre.

Transfer to your hotel on a lively corner of the Parque Central,  the historic heart of Havana. The streets of La Habana Vieja were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, and the subsequent restoration of this part of town has transformed it into arguably Latin America's finest colonial quarter, in marked contrast to the rambling, potholed streets and crumbling façades around it.

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Day 2

Guided cycling tour of Old Havana.

Your introduction to the city is a guided cycling tour of Old Havana. Ride along the cobbles, between grand, pastel-hued mansions and bustling street life. Music seeps out of every doorway and the narrow streets are clogged with gargantuan, crumbling  American cars. This leisurely tour takes you around the Cuban capital, stopping to view key attractions. Witness scenes of everyday Cuban life as you pedal along the picturesque streets. Starting from outside your hotel, you'll be guided through the working class neighbourhood of Centro Habana, downtown Vedado and the commercial centre of Miramar, then finally continue on to the Port of Havana to view the remains of the city fortifications.

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Day 3

By bus to colonial Trinidad.

Travel by bus to Trinidad, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Its popularity has not affected its colonial charm and unhurried atmosphere.  You’ll be staying in a family residence here for 2 nights. There’s a feast of terracotta-tiled roofs, cobbled streets and pastel-coloured buildings. Founded in 1514, the town was originally used as a base for expeditions into the 'New World'; its squares and churches date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The town has hardly changed in a century, no suburbs creep out from its historic centre and no high-rise buildings obscure the view to the sea. Home-grown talent fills the squares and music venues in the evenings, when the town comes alive with dancing and the sound of salsa. Evening entertainment continues into the early hours with dancing and music each night.

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Day 4

Hiking in Topes de Collantes mountains.

You'll set off on a guided hike in Topes de Collantes National Park.  The park is in the Escambray mountains, which compose the backdrop to Trinidad and have an exquisite landscape of forests, waterfalls, deep valleys and lakes, perfect for hiking along visible trails.  On arrival you'll trek along winding paths up to the highest point (1,140m) and a spectacular look-out point. This area takes pride in being one of the healthiest climatic regions in Cuba. We recommend you take binoculars to make the most of the wide variety of tropical birds found within this enchanting natural environment. 

After the hike you'll enjoy lunch in a well-known paladar - a small family-run restaurant that serves delicious home-cooked food. You'll have the chance to bask in a tranquil pool en route.

 

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Day 5

At leisure in Trinidad.

You can explore the lovely city Trinidad under your own steam, exploring all the little nooks and crannies of this exquisite colonial city, or opt for a guided city tour better to understand its rich history. You’ll be shown around the highlights and then venture into the surrounding countryside, the Valle de los Ingenios (Sugar Mill Valley). In the 18th and 19th centuries, this region was one of the wealthiest as a result of its participation in the sugar boom. Visit the Manaca-Iznaga tower, climb to the top and enjoy some of the best views in Cuba. From here, the plantation owner kept a watchful eye on the slaves working in the fields below. The views across the valleys of sugar cane fields are breath-taking in the late afternoon light.

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Day 6

By road from Trinidad to Cienfuegos.

You'll be driven to Cienfuegos, which has a very different style and vibe from Trinidad. The elegant city is an important port town founded by French settlers from Louisiana in 1819. Its French founders left their mark in broad neoclassical boulevards, art deco façades and blond inhabitants but there’s also a strong Afro-Caribbean presence. This is a seafaring city with salt in the air; it’s the world’s primary sugar port. The ambiance and architectural style is distinct from that of the rest of the island. Explore independently, or ask us to book you a guided walking tour. 

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Day 7

Tour Cienfuegos Bay by kayak to survey the huge colonial fortress El Jagua.

Cienfuegos Bay is a bowl of calm, sheltered waters where the only access from the sea is a narrow strait, guaranteeing tranquility. It's a perfect place for exploration by kayak, and this five hour adventure discovers the shores of this channel, which is guarded by the Spanish colonial Jagua Fortress, built following the instructions of King Felipe V in 1742. You shadow the eastern shore of the channel before crossing to the fortress, where you will have a guided tour. Afterwards, paddle along the western shore in front of fishermen's communities and sunken ships to cross back to have lunch at the Rancho Cristal restaurant at Punta Milpa. The trip is accompanied by a professional kayaking guide and before you set off you will have an introductory briefing before you set off.

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Day 8

Drive to Las Terrazas.

Drive through the central heartland of Cuba, a transition zone between the prosperous pre-Revolutionary plantations of the west and the cattle pasture of the poorer east, heading to the community project of Las Terrazas in the Sierra del Rosario UNESCO biosphere reserve. This is Cuba's premier centre for ecotourism, which offers the opportunity to get close to the local community, whose members coexist harmoniously with their surroundings. Stay at the much admired La Moka Eco-resort.

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Day 9

Walk to Taburete Hill and coffee plantations.

Today's a day to stretch your legs with a guided countryside walk. The 8km hike starts with a winding path up El Taburete hill at the top of which you will be rewarded with spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. Later you'll visit to the ruins of the 19th century French coffee plantations, San Idelfonso and El Contento. The plantations were established by French refugees and their slaves from neighbouring Haiti, who had fled during uprisings in the late 18th Century. Afterwards, enjoy a well deserved dip in the Río San Juan baths. 

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Day 10

By private transfer to Viñales in the west.

You'll have a private road transfer to Viñales, a small, bucolic town tucked away in the Sierra de los Órganos. The shady high street is lined with trees, wooden colonnades and single-storey, red-roofed houses. Horse and carts clatter along the main road and local children play baseball with sticks and stones outside the dilapidated whitewashed church in the main square. There is a splendid old chemist's shop and a few other bare-shelved stores, as well as a couple of salsa bars that attract a lively crowd in the evening.

You are staying about 5km from Viñales  at Rancho San Vicente in the lush San Vicente valley, which is punctuated with the lumpy limestone magotes for which the region is famous.  There is a large open air swimming pool with sun loungers where you can relax after your explorations during the day, a restaurant, bar and terrace. The main building is colonial ranch style while accommodation is in simple cabins scattered around the grounds.. 

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Day 11

Explore the fertile valley by bike.

Today you'll be taken on a guided cycling tour of the countryside. The valley has a distinctive landscape, with the limestone mountains, known as mogotes,  jutting into the sky from a lush, fertile plain. Using oxen and carts, local farmers cultivate the red soil of the valley floor for fruit, vegetables and tobacco, and the countryside is peppered with thatched curing barns for drying the tobacco leaves. The bike tour takes you to view a prehistoric mural. You’ll also visit a tobacco farm to learn about the growing process of this high-value crop, stop at El Palenque and continue to enjoy a boat trip along a subterranean river inside the cave Cueva del Indio.

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Day 12

Optional horse riding or guided walking.

You have a free day in this gorgeous valley. You might like to get into a different kind of saddle - that of a horse. Riding along rural footpaths, with a local guide accompanying you, is one of the best ways to travel through the Viñales valley, offering you the opportunity to discover the region's flora and fauna. Along the way, you'll view tobacco plantations and caves - there may even be an opportunity to take a dip. If you prefer to explore on foot, there's also the choice of going for a leisurely hike where you will meet farmers from the region and visit a tobacco farm to learn about the production of what is still an important crop for the local economy.

If you'd like to know more about tobacco cultivation, you might take a tour dedicated to the plant. Cuba is of course famous for its high quality cigar: the habano. But how exactly is it made? While you are in the Viñales valley, where conditions are ideal for the cultivation of the tobacco plant, your guided tour unfolds a fascinating narrative of the process, starting with the planting of the seeds, following through to harvesting, the classification of the leaves, fermentation process, rolling of the cigars and marketing of the 28 brands. You'll visit the cigar factory and the Casa del Habano, where you will learn how to choose a good cigar by its size and shape.

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Day 13

By road back to Havana.

You'll be driven back to Havana. Enjoy your last night with a meal at one of the city's growing choice of good restaurants, and/or take take a sunset stroll along the city's vibrant seaside promenade, the malécon, Overnight. 

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Day 14

Transfer to airport for your international flight home.

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