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Signature Cuba: Complete Cuba

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This holiday puts together the top sights of Cuba, creating a narrative of the country’s history while you enjoy incursions into glorious countryside and less developed stretches of the rugged coastline. Explore the principal cities with insightful guided walking tours, and stretch your legs further with hikes to a couple of the country’s bucolic locations. It’s not a beach holiday but you could extend your trip to soak up the rays at one of the delightful eastern coves if you wish. Cuba’s vibrancy and friendly people will make a lasting impression.

The trip begins in Havana, Cuba's inimitable capital, with its faded grandeur – gradually being restored - and pulsating rhythms.  Visit forested Las Terrazas, an eco-experiment which works, from where you head west to stroll around Viñales, a fertile valley with a fairy-tale limestone landscape composing the tobacco-growing region. You’ll step into four of the country’s principal cities, Cienfuegos, colonial Trinidad, Camaguey and Santiago, each with a story to tell. Visit the thickly wooded Sierra Maestra, Fidel Castro’s revolutionary hideout. Lingering in the less visited east of the country, you call in at Baracoa, and Gibara, a pretty port on the craggy northeast coast.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Transfer to your accommodation in the centre of Havana.

Day 2

Guided walking tour of Old Havana.

Day 3

Transfer to Las Terrazas.

Day 4

Excursion to Viñales and Pinar del Rio.

Day 5

Morning at leisure at las Terrazas; continue to Cienfuegos.

Day 6

Guided tour of Cienfuegos.

Day 7

Guided tour of Trinidad and the Sugar Mill Valley.

Day 8

By road to Camagüey via Sancti Spiritus.

day 9

Guided walking tour of Camagüey.

Day 10

Hike to Fidel’s hideout (optional).

Day 11

By road to Santiago de Cuba.

Day 12

Guided tour of Santiago.

Day 13

Transfer from Santiago to Baracoa.

Day 14

Optional hike up El Yunque mountain.

Day 15

By road to Holguin.

Day 16

Transfer to Gibara on the north-east coast.

Day 17

At leisure in Gibara.

Day 18

Transfer to Holguin airport for your departure flight.

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What our experts say

This is our classic highlights of Cuba holiday and so makes for a fantastic introduction to the country for first-timers who would like to explore beyond the island’s famous Caribbean, white-sand beaches – but don’t worry, we’ve made sure that there’s plenty of time for that too!

Ben Line

Ben Line

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Signature Cuba: Complete Cuba

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Havana
Havana is one of Latin America’s most evocative and intriguing cities - famously stuck in a time warp, with crumbling façades and junk shop furnishings, it streets choked with one-gear bikes and classic American cars. Technology-free, it embodies 1950s nostalgia. Nowadays a lot is being done to restore the baroque colonial buildings and squares, there are new restaurants and smart hotels, and local people are more involved in the modern economy. But the place hasn’t lost its romance, its colour, its spontaneity, or the ever-present reminders of its unique modern history. Just shut your eyes and listen to the music...
When's the best time to visit Havana?
The high season for visitors is Dec - Apr when the weather is usually sunny, mostly dry and not too humid, though there can be cool days. Hurricane and tropical storms are possible Aug - Nov.
What's the official language in Havana?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Havana?
You can purchase Cuban Convertible Pesos at the airport or in banks or money exchanges (cadecas). US dollars are not accepted so you need to take cash in sterling. Euros are also accepted but the rate may not be as favourable.There are some ATM machines which supposedly accept debit cards but they are not always reliable. You can also get cash with a credit or debit card (not issued by a US bank). You can change surplus money back to convertible currencies at the airport at the end of your trip.
What's the time difference between Havana and UK?

GMT -5 hours; usually there is daylight saving in the summer but it is a moveable feast.

What places combine well with Havana?

Anywhere in Cuba, transport links are improving all the time, there are tourist bus services and internal flights as well as car hire; Mexico’s Yucatán, with flights from Cancún to Havana, 1 hour 15mins.

How do I get to Havana?

9 hours 45mins on a direct flight.

What are the festivals, sport and cultural events in Havana?
Carnival: Havana’s carnival moves around date-wise ear upon year, but is always accompanied by parades, music, drumming and dancing.
International Jazz Festival: Havana, Dec.  Workshops and concerts. One of the world’s best.
There are many other cultural festivals in Havana most months throughout the year: dance, ballet, theatre, cinema, fishing and sailing.
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Las Terrazas
Las Terrazas
Once a deforested landscape of scrubby grassland in western Cuba, just 74km from Havana, Las Terrazas was chosen by Castro as the site for an experiment in re-establishing the original lush tropical vegetation. The project was a success and UNESCO designated the community and its land a biosphere reserve in 1985. Now it is testament to the robust vibrancy of nature, with a rich variety of flora and fauna, silvery lakes, rushing streams and winding walking trails. It’s a popular tourist attraction, and visitors flock here to relax in the cool climate or take part in outdoor activities such as horse riding swimming, biking and canyoning.
When's the best time to visit Las Terrazas?
The high season for visitors is Dec - Apr when the weather is usually sunny, mostly dry and not too humid, though there can be cool days. Hurricane and tropical storms are possible Aug - Nov and this is when most rain falls. Rainfall and cloud is more frequent than the areas to the east, because of the altitude and attracted by the mountains.
What's the official language in Las Terrazas?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Las Terrazas?

Bring your local currency needs (Cuban Convertible Pesos) with you from Havana or another large town where there are banks and money exchanges (cadecas).

NB: The more valuable convertible peso (CUC) has been reserved for use in the tourism sector and foreign trade. In October 2013, as part of a package of economic reforms its value will be gradually unified with the lower-value CUP, ending a system resented by ordinary Cubans.
What's the time difference between Las Terrazas and UK?

GMT -5 hours; usually there is daylight saving in the summer but it is a moveable feast.

What places combine well with Las Terrazas?

A visit to the Viñales Valley, further west (132 km). 

How do I get to Las Terrazas?

A scenic journey by winding road from Havana (74 km) takes up to 2 hours.

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Vinales and the Sierra de los Organos
Vinales and the Sierra de los Organos
Pinar del Rio, the western province embracing the Sierra de los Órganos and the Viñales valley has a gorgeous fertile landscape straight out of a fairy-tale or fantasy film. It’s not just misty pine forest-shrouded mountains, hidden caves and secret rivers, battalions of palms and fertile tobacco plantations which greet the eye. The countryside is dotted with huge vertical limestone outcrops, or mogotes, which give it the unique identity recognised by UNESCO as a World Cultural Landscape. The little town of Viñales, set in the shadow of the mogotes, is a popular base for visits and walks.
When's the best time to visit Vinales?
The high season for visitors is Dec - Apr when the weather is usually sunny, mostly dry and not too humid, though there can be cool days. Hurricane and tropical storms are possible Aug - Nov and this is when most rain falls. Rainfall and cloud, attracted by the mountains, is more frequent here than in the areas to the east.
What's the official language in Vinales?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Vinales?
You can use sterling cash to purchase Cuban Convertible Pesos at a couple of banks and money exchanges (cadecas) in Viñales and Pinar del Rio but you might be better off getting them in advance in Havana. The rate of exchange for euros tends to be less favourable.

The more valuable convertible peso (CUC) has been reserved for use in the tourism sector and foreign trade. In October 2013, as part of a package of economic reforms its value will be gradually unified with the lower-value CUP, ending a system resented by ordinary Cubans.

What's the time difference between Vinales and UK?

GMT -5 hours; usually there is daylight saving in the summer but it is a moveable feast.

What places combine well with Vinales?

Beach time on Cayo Levisa, a white sand beach-fringed island off the north coast with excellent diving and snorkelling.

How do I get to Vinales?

A journey by road from Havana to Pinar del Rio or Viñales (185 km) takes up to 2.5 hours.

What are the festivals, sport and cultural events in Vinales?
Carnival:  Viñales, March. 4 days in the middle of the month.
Beauty pageant: Viñales. Complete with parades and other festivities.
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Cienfuegos and Bay of Pigs
Cienfuegos and the Bay of Pigs
The central heartland of Cuba transitions between the pre-Revolutionary prosperous western plantations and the cattle pasture of the poorer east.  There’s loads of history here, reflected in the racial mix and architecture of the port of Cienfuegos, Pearl of the South. 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 town is often visited in tandem with a stop at the Bay of Pigs, site of the ill-fated CIA-inspired invasion of 1961.
When's the best time to visit Cienfuegos?

Cienfuegos has a hot, steamy city but the drier season for visitors is Nov-Apr when the weather is usually sunny, mostly dry and less humid. Hurricane and tropical storms are possible Aug-Nov.

What's the official language in Cienfuegos?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Cienfuegos?

You can use sterling cash or a credit card to purchase Cuban Convertible Pesos at banks in Cienfuegos. There are also casas de cambio (cadecas) for cash transactions. The rate of exchange for euros tends to be less favourable.

The more valuable convertible peso (CUC) has been reserved for use in the tourism sector and foreign trade. In October 2013, as part of a package of economic reforms its value will be gradually unified with the lower-value CUP, ending a system resented by ordinary Cubans.

What's the time difference between Cienfuegos and UK?

GMT -5 hours; usually there is daylight saving in the summer but it is a moveable feast.

What places combine well with Cienfuegos?
Sancti Spíritus (106km) small, unspoilt colonial town; Trinidad (61km) the best preserved colonial town.
How do I get to Cienfuegos?

Cienfuegos is 270km by road from Havana, 56km from Santa Clara, 61km from Trinidad.

What are the festivals, sport and cultural events in Cienfuegos?

Fiesta de los Amigos del Mar: Cienfuegos, first week of July, sailing regatta and demonstrations of a medley of watersports.

Carnival: Cienfuegos, July-Aug.

Festival Internacional Benny Moré: Cienfuegos, Sept; celebrating the city’s most famous son, the internationally respected singer Benny Moré.

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Trinidad and the Escambray Mountains
Trinidad
Southeast of Havana, wedged between the south coast and the Escambray Mountains lies Trinidad, Cuba’s most graceful and cultured city, a UNESCO Word Heritage Site with a vibrant music scene.  For decades isolated from the rest of the country, this colonial treasure bypassed the 20th century, and is in its organic whole one of the best preserved baroque works of art on the continent, with delightful cobbled streets, palaces and museums. Not far away are sugar-white beaches, and the city has a backdrop of chunky mountains draped in woodland and studded with jade green lakes, a popular leisure area.
When's the best time to visit Trinidad?
The high season for visitors is Dec - Apr when the weather is usually sunny, mostly dry and not too humid, though there can be cool days. Hurricane and tropical storms are possible Aug - Nov.
What's the official language in Trinidad?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Trinidad?
You can use sterling cash to purchase Cuban Convertible Pesos at banks and money exchanges (cadecas) in Trinidad - the rate of exchange for euros tends to be less favourable.

The more valuable convertible peso (CUC) has been reserved for use in the tourism sector and foreign trade. In October 2013, as part of a package of economic reforms its value will be gradually unified with the lower-value CUP, ending a system resented by ordinary Cubans.

What's the time difference between Trinidad and UK?

GMT -5 hours; usually there is daylight saving in the summer but it is a moveable feast.

What places combine well with Trinidad?
Sancti Spíritus (55 km) small, unspoilt colonial town; Cienfuegos (61 km) the Pearl of the South. Beach time on one of the mangrove-fringed sandy cayes off the north coast – Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Ensenachos.
How do I get to Trinidad?

A journey by road from Havana (375 km) takes up to 6 hours.

What are the festivals, sport and cultural events in Trinidad?
Semana de la Cultura, Trinidad, second week of Jan. Live music, dancing and exhibitions.
Carnival:  Trinidad, Jun. Complete with carnival queen and other festivities.
Semana Santa: Trinidad; processions and Easter celebrations, one of only a few religious festivals in Cuba.
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The attractive colonial city of Camagüey, historically significant with revolutionary fervour running through its veins, is also renowned for its cultural life, with a highly respected ballet company. The beautiful Spanish core (a UNESCO World Heritage Site and currently being restored) sits in a labyrinth of serpentine streets so built to confuse attackers. There is an 18th century cathedral with an unusual Moorish roof and a cloistered hospital transformed into a hotel. Picturesque Plaza San Juan is graced by the national theatre and paved with original cobbles.
When's the best time to visit Camaguey?

Camagüey is hot all the year around. The drier season for visitors is Nov-Apr when the weather is usually sunny, mostly dry and less humid. Hurricane and tropical storms are possible Aug-Nov.

What's the official language in Camaguey?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Camaguey?

You can use sterling cash or a credit card to purchase Cuban Convertible Pesos at banks in Camagüey and there is an (untested) ATM. There are also money exchanges (cadecas) for cash transactions. The rate of exchange for euros tends to be less favourable.

What's the time difference between Camaguey and UK?

GMT -5 hours; usually there is daylight saving in the summer but it is a moveable feast.

What places combine well with Baracoa?

Sancti Spíritus (168km) small, unspoilt colonial town; Trinidad (61km) the best preserved colonial town; the beach at Guardalavaca (217km); Santa Lucia resort and Playa Los Cocos for beach time, (112km).

How do I get to Camaguey?

Camagüey is 530km by road from Havana (6 hours) or 1 hour by air, 168km from Sancti Spíritus, 205km from Bayamo (2 hours 45mins).

What are the festivals, sport and cultural events in Camaguey?

City foundation: Camagüey first week of Feb; street parties.

Carnival: Camagüey, 24-29 Jun.

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Sierra Maestra
Sierra Maestra
At the eastern end of the island are the wilderness mountain ranges of the Sierra Maestra.  Little visited and unspoilt, the isolated environment shelters a remarkable range of flora and fauna and the highest peak on Cuba, Pico Turquino (1,972m). The region’s inaccessibility has been the attraction for rebellious groups since colonial times. The area was the heart of the insurrectionary movement against Spain, and became part of contemporary Cuban lore when the Castro brothers and a handful of comrades took refuge in the lush greenery to plot their revolution. Nowadays it is a peaceful environment in which to hike, with some glorious viewpoints over the island and the Caribbean Sea.
When's the best time to visit Sierra Maestra?

The Sierra Maestra is hot all the year around but especially in summer when there is little breeze to relieve the high temperatures. If hiking, best to avoid the hottest and most humid weather Jun - Sep. Hurricane and tropical storms are possible Aug - Nov.

What's the official language in Sierra Maestra?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Sierra Maestra?
Acquire Cuban Convertible Pesos at banks or in money exchanges (cadecas) in a large city before heading off to the Sierra Maestra. US dollars are not accepted so you need to take cash in euros or sterling. There are some ATM machines in Santiago (the nearest large city) which supposedly accept debit cards but they are not always reliable. You can also get cash with a credit or debit card (not issued by a US bank).

The more valuable convertible peso (CUC) has been reserved for use in the tourism sector and foreign trade. In October 2013, as part of a package of economic reforms its value will be gradually unified with the lower-value CUP, ending a system resented by ordinary Cubans.

What's the time difference between Sierra Maestra and UK?

GMT -5 hours; usually there is daylight saving in the summer but it is a moveable feast.

What places combine well with Sierra Maestra?
Baracoa, a small, unspoilt colonial coastal town; the city of Santiago de Cuba; the beach at Guardalavaca (174 km).
How do I get to Sierra Maestra?

The Sierra Maestra is 150 km from Santiago (2 hours 10mins by road).


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Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba
Cuba’s second city, at the eastern end of the island, has a different ambience from the capital. Open to influences from other parts of the Caribbean and with a notable African presence, it has a vibrant tradition of music and dance drawing on all these cultures. The centre reflects this diversity, with a chaos of architectural styles, including art deco. Elsewhere the Spanish colonial influence dominates, with squat pastel houses shaded by palms and fruit trees. The city’s history and geography is interwoven with that of the Castro Revolution and is known as the Ciudad Héroe.
When's the best time to visit Santiago?
Santiago is hot all the year around but especially in summer when there is little breeze to relieve the high temperatures (Carnival, Jul, is a strong draw though). Oct is the rainiest month but there is plenty of sun all year around. Hurricane and tropical storms are possible Aug - Nov.
What's the official language in Santiago?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Santiago?

You can purchase Cuban Convertible Pesos at banks or in money exchanges (cadecas). US dollars are not accepted so you need to take cash in sterling. Euros are also accepted but the rate may not be as favourable. There are some ATM machines which supposedly accept debit cards but they are not always reliable. You can also get cash with a credit or debit card (not issued by a US bank).

The more valuable convertible peso (CUC) has been reserved for use in the tourism sector and foreign trade. In October 2013, as part of a package of economic reforms its value will be gradually unified with the lower-value CUP, ending a system resented by ordinary Cubans.
What's the time difference between Santiago and UK?

GMT -5 hours; usually there is daylight saving in the summer but it is a moveable feast.

What places combine well with Santiago?
Baracoa, (234 km) small, unspoilt colonial coastal town; Camagüey (327 km); Trinidad (581 km) the most well preserved colonial town; the beach at Guardalavaca (174 km).
How do I get to Santiago?

Santiago is 861 km by road from Havana (10+ hours) or 2 hours by air; 138 km from Holguin airport.

What are the festivals, sport and cultural events in Santiago?
Festival de Baile: Santiago, 15-19 May. 
A street dance festival.Carnival: Santiago, 18-27 Jul. The biggest and best Carnival in Cuba, incorporating the celebrations of the revolutionaries’ attack on Moncada Barracks on 26 Jul. Buildings are adorned with lights and there are parades and floats.
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Baracoa
This alluring historical town is found off the beaten track on Cuba's south-eastern tip.  Columbus was charmed by the area's beauty when he arrived here in 1492 and it became the island's first colonial settlement twenty years later.

It's a lively place - full of local atmosphere and character. The surrounding countryside is verdant and tropical, and dominated by the tabletop mountain of El Yunque.
When's the best time to visit Baracoa?

The high season for visitors is Dec - Apr when the weather is usually sunny, mostly dry and not too humid, though there can be cool days. Hurricanes and tropical storms are possible Aug - Nov. The sea is calmer in winter on the south and west coasts (Nov - Apr) and in summer on the north coast (May - Sep).

What's the official language in Baracoa?

Language.

How do I get local currency in Baracoa?

You can use sterling cash to purchase Cuban Convertible Pesos at banks and money exchanges (cadecas) in Trinidad - the rate of exchange for euros tends to be less favourable.

N.B: The more valuable convertible person (CUC)  has been reserved for use in the tourism sector and foreign trade. In October 2013, as part of a package of economic reforms its value will be gradually unified with the lower-value CUP, ending a system resented by ordinary Cubans. 

What's the time difference between Baracoa and UK?

GMT -5 hours; usually there is daylight saving in the summer but it is a moveable feast.

What places combine well with Baracoa?
From the northern Cayes: Sancti Spíritus (89 km) small, unspoilt colonial town; Cienfuegos (177 km) the Pearl of the South; Trinidad, Cuba’s best preserved colonial city, (198 km).
How do I get to Baracoa?

A journey by road from Havana (375 km) takes up to 6 hours, by air to Santa Maria is 1 hour, by air to Holguin (for Guardalavaca) is 1.5 hours.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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