Private Journeys

Self-drive Cuba: Best of the west

13 days from £1,956pp

Cuba

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Havana. Transfer to hotel on the waterfront close to the historic centre.

Private transport to your modern hotel close to the seafront promenade (Malecón) in to the lively historic centre of Havana. 

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Day 2

Guided walking tour of Old Havana.

Your introduction to the city is a guided walking tour of Old 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.

Stroll 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 1950s American cars, which you will have the option of hopping into and cruising down the Malecón. You'll have trouble keeping your camera by your side as iconic images flash before you round each and every corner.

 

 

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Day 3

Collect hire car.

Collect your hire car, a Seat Althea or equivalent. Rest of the day at leisure.

Day 4

Drive to Viñales, western Cuba. 2 nights.

Drive 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 one-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.

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Day 5

At leisure to explore the Viñales Valley.

The valley has a distinctive landscape, with dramatic limestone mountains, known as mogotes, which jut 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.

If you don’t want to drive around, you might take an optional guided walk through this beautiful valley; the trail passes alongside fields being tilled by straw-hatted farmers driving their oxen, and you may have the opportunity to visit members of a campesino family in their home, where they'll brew you up a coffee, roll a cigar and talk to you about life on the land.

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Day 6

Drive to rural Las Terrazas. 2 nights.

Drive 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, who coexist harmoniously with their surroundings. Stay at the much admired La Moka Eco-resort.

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Day 7

At leisure in forested countryside.

At leisure at Las Terrazas. Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve sits on an impressive mountain range of tropical and semi-deciduous forest within the coffee-producing region of Pinar del Rio. The reserve is rich in flora and fauna and offers some the island's best bird-watching. Other notable wildlife includes bats, frogs and lizards. You have time to choose between optional activities such as hiking the trails, admiring the waterfalls, bird watching or visiting an orchid farm or old coffee plantation.
 

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Day 8

Drive to Cienfuegos port, Pearl of the South. Overnight.

Today you head to Cienfuegos through the central heartland of Cuba, a transition between the pre-Revolutionary prosperous western plantations and the cattle pasture of the poorer east.  The elegant city of Cienfuegos 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 ambience and architectural style is distinct from that of the rest of the island. 

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Day 9

Drive to Trinidad. 3 nights

Drive on to the city of Trinidad. Trinidad was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Its popularity has not affected its colonial charm and unhurried atmosphere.

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 5 main squares and 4 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 10-11

Explore the area by road and/or on foot.

Drive on to the city of Trinidad. Trinidad was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Its popularity has not affected its colonial charm and unhurried atmosphere.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 5 main squares and 4 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.

Two old Cuban cars at the beach

Day 12

Drive back to Havana; drop off car. Overnight

Drive back to Havana and drop off your car.

Day 13

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

View Extraordinary Inspiration

Real Latin America Experts

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Consultant

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.

  • Evie Oswald
    Evie Oswald - Travel Consultant

    It’s hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

  • Jamie Swan
    Jamie Swan - Travel Consultant

    Jamie backpacked across Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil before joining us; he has a degree in politics and is also a keen sportsman..

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

Meet the team