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Signature Cuba: The best of the highlights

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This holiday includes the main highlights of Cuba but you’ll dig deeper, with walks and private excursions to help you to understand how this country really ticks. Cuba is unique and inspiring; a socialist stronghold, with a rebellious history, colonial splendour in many of the towns, spectacular countryside and a Caribbean heart. Its vibrancy and friendly people will make a lasting impression. 

The trip begins in Havana, Cuba's inimitable capital, with its faded grandeur and pulsating rhythms. Head west to stroll around Viñales, a fertile valley with limestone mountains in the tobacco-growing region.  After a visit to forested Las Terrazas, an eco-experiment that really works, you’ll visit three of the country’s contrasting cities, Cienfuegos, colonial Trinidad and Santa Clara, each with a story to tell. There’s time to absorb it all on a sugar-white beach on one of the loveliest Caribbean cays, Santa María. 

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

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

Day 2

Guided walking tour of Old Havana. Evening meal at a Cuban family home.

Day 3

By road to Viñales, western Cuba. 2 nights.

Day 4

Half day guided walking in Viñales Valley.

Day 5

Transfer to rural Las Terrazas. 2 nights.

Day 6

At leisure in forested countryside.

Day 7

By road to Cienfuegos port, Pearl of the South. Overnight.

Day 8

Guided walking city tour. By road to colonial Trinidad. 2 nights.

Day 9

Guided tour of the city and Sugar Mill Valley.

Day 10

By road to Santa Clara, guided city tour, continue to island Cayo Santa María

Days 11-13

At leisure on the beach.

Days 13

Transfer to Las Brujas and continue to Havana overland. Overnight.

Day 14

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

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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: The best of the highlights

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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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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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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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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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Caribbean Cayes and Coast
Cayo Santa Maria Cuba
Cuba’s exquisite beaches are famous for their unpolluted sugar-white sands and warm, turquoise waters, safe for swimming and water sports. Some beaches have large all-inclusive resort hotels offering only a glimpse of the life led by most Cubans, but there’s also a growing number of secluded, first class properties. Elsewhere there are small cliff-defined coves with pocket-sized beaches hosting smaller hotels. Off the coast, coral atoll islands have been left in their natural state offering a more intimate, private beach experience. The remote western and eastern tips of the island, Pinar del Rio and Baracoa harbour some of the loveliest unspoilt beaches, with a rural backdrop of craggy hills sheltering quaint colonial villages.
When's the best time to visit Cuba's Caribbean beaches?
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 on Cuba's Caribbean coast?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency on Cuba's Caribbean coast?

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. 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 Cuba's Caribbean coast and UK?

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

What places combine well with Cuba's Caribbean coast?
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 Cuba's Caribbean coast?

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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Signature Cuba: The best of the highlights

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