Cuba: Crossroads of the Americas

Detailed Itinerary

Friday, November 7, 2014: Miami, FL, U.S. | Holguin, Cuba | Baracoa
Take a direct charter flight this morning from Miami, Florida, to Holguin, Cuba. Upon arrival, we will transfer to Baracoa with a stop en route at Banes to visit the Indocubano Bani Museum. The Museum houses Cuba’s most important archaeological collection, including indigenous tools, cooking utensils made from shells, jewelry, and ceramics. After lunch, we take a scenic, 4-hour drive along small provincial roads to Baracoa. Christopher Columbus arrived in Baracoa on November 27, 1492. Baracoa was the first of the seven cities founded by Diego Velasquez and, as such, is considered the oldest colonial city in the Americas. Dinner is at our hotel this evening. Overnight at the Hotel Castillo for two nights. (L,D)
Saturday, November 8: Baracoa | Duaba River | Guirito | Baracoa
Meet this morning with Alejandro Hartmann, an historian and Taino expert. The Taino were an indigenous group that once thrived in this remote region of eastern Cuba, and the island is still home to eleven million of their descendants. Walk to the Taino Museum and meet with anthropologist Roberto Orduñez, Director of the Museum. Although the Taino left no large monuments, they built canals for channeling water, caves for storing food during drought, and a network of stone footpaths for travel and to escape a raiding tribe known as the Carib. The museum is set in a hillside cave and displays jewelry and other pre-Columbian artifacts made of shells and other materials. Continue on to the town’s early 19th-century Cathedral (currently under renovation), which was built on the site of an earlier church that pirates destroyed in 1652. Explore the charming Plaza Martí, surrounded by colonial houses and a tobacco factory (located in a small blue house). Drive a few miles outside of town to take a short boat ride on the Duaba River through lush landscapes and forests, where the air is filled with the sounds of more than 100 different bird species. After lunch at the Finca Toa, beneath the shade of palms and plantains, our final stop of the day will be at the village of Guirito, where local farmers will perform adaptations of Cuban dance known as el nengen and el kiriba. Have dinner this evening at a wonderful paladar (a small, family-run restaurant). (B,L,D)
Sunday, November 9: Baracoa | Santiago
Enjoy a morning drive from Baracoa to Santiago, catching glimpses of Guantanamo U.S. Naval Base along the east side of Guantanamo Bay (for security reasons it is not possible to stop in the area). After lunch at a local restaurant in Santiago, take a city orientation tour including the Moncada Barracks where, on 26 July 1953, Fidel Castro and 79 soldiers dressed in Cuban Army uniforms stormed the barracks. Today the former barracks building houses a superb museum about the attack, the Revolution, and subsequent history. Drive by the Plaza de la Revolucion, and end the day at the important Cementario Santa Ifigenia, which has been in use since 1868. Among the many notable figures buried here are Emilio Bacardi and Cuba’s national hero, Jose Martí. Nearby is the original Bacardi Factory (founded 1838). The rum produced at this factory is now sold as “Havana Club,” and although the factory is closed to visitors there is a small shop where we can sample some rum. Return to our hotel for dinner. Overnight at the Melia Santiago Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)
Monday, November 10: Santiago
Today is dedicated to further exploring Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city and former capital. Begin the day at the Museo de Arte Colonial, located in what is said to be the oldest house in Cuba. It was built in 1516 as the home of Cuba’s conqueror, Diego Velasquez. Continue on to the Carnival Museum. Santiago’s annual Carnival is the most famous in Cuba, and this small museum is in one of the oldest houses on Calle Heredia. It displays old costumes, percussion instruments, black-and-white photographs, huge papier-mâché masks, and more. Stroll to Plaza Dolores, perhaps Santiago’s most charming square, surrounded by quaint colonial buildings. Stop at Jesuit Dolores College, where Fidel Castro was educated as a youth. For lunch we drive south of the city to a clifftop restaurant called El Morro, offering fabulous views along the coast. Then visit the 17th-century Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca (also known as Morro Castle), a UNESCO World Heritage site that is a masterpiece of Caribbean military architecture. Today it houses the Museo de la Pirateria, an exhibition about pirates during the colonial and modern eras. Return to Plaza Dolores for dinner at Café Matamoros. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, November 11: Santiago | Camaguey
Bid farewell to Dr. Scarpaci this morning, and depart Santiago for a drive to Camaguey, stopping en route at the city of Las Tunas to visit the Museo Provincial General Vicente García. The building sits on the location of this settlement’s first house, and includes exhibits on numismatics, decorative arts, and natural sciences. After lunch we continue on to Camaguey where, before dinner, we can work up an appetite at a private Salsa dance class. Overnight at the Gran Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, November 12: Camaguey
Enjoy a morning walking/pedicab tour of the large colonial core of Camaguey. It is a national monument and UNESCO World Heritage site, with more old buildings than any other Cuban city save Havana. Along the way, visit the Casa Natal de Ignacio Agramonte (birthplace of the patriotic hero and his family’s long-time mansion), now a house museum preserving its original furniture and accoutrements. After lunch we drive to Rancho King which was, at one time, the largest ranch in the U.S. The ranch has been kept intact and now offers a glimpse into the holdings that the U.S. once had in this area and how the land is being used today. We will meet the land manager, Vicente, and attend a special rodeo showcasing the skills of local horsemen. Vicente will then accompany us on a short walk to the village of Cafetal, where we visit the Pablo Miguel Napoles elementary school and a traditional home. Enjoy drinks on the Rancho King porch, with its sweeping vistas, before returning to Camaguey for dinner. (B,L,D)
Thursday, November 13: Camaguey | Ciego de Avila | Chambas | Cienfuegos
Before departing Camaguey, make a special visit to the main theater, home to the Ballet of Camaguey, the most respected Cuban dance group after the Ballet Nacional. En route to Cienfuegos we visit Ciego de Avila, a small city that is the most modern of Cuba’s provincial capitals. There we meet with Adrian Garcia, director of the Office of Monuments, Sites and Historical Centers from the Provincial Heritage Department. Dr. Garcia and AIA study leader David Pendergast worked together at Los Buchillones archaeological site, and Dr. Garcia will give a presentation on Los Buchillones. The site was declared a National Monument in 2011 because of the importance the remains of a Taino village found there. The site raises new questions about the lives of indigenous people in Cuba and the Caribbean. After lunch we drive to the town of Chambas for a visit, accompanied by Dr. Garcia (schedule permitting), to the museum that houses the artifacts from Los Buchillones. Continue on to Cienfuegos, where this evening (or tomorrow, if our schedule requires) we attend a performance by the Cienfuegos choir. Dinner will be at Jardin de los Laureles. Overnight at Hotel Jagua for two nights. (B,L,D)
Friday, November 14: Cienfuegos | Trinidad | Cienfuegos
Take a day trip to Trinidad, founded in 1514 by Diego Velasquez as a base for expeditions into the “New World.” Today it is a national monument and is maintained as a living museum—the crown jewel of Cuba’s colonial cities. Much of the architecture is neo-classical and baroque, with a Moorish flavor reflecting the town’s heritage of conquistadores. Begin our city tour at the Plaza Mayor and explore the 19th-century Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad, the largest church in Cuba. Then, visit the nearby Archaeological Museum and meet with its Director, Gloria Arrechea, who will tell us about the museum’s recent re-opening (after a ten-year closure). Its collection includes artifacts from Cuba’s indigenous ancestors and more recent times, such as those found in the Valle de Los Ingenios, which together with Trinidad comprises a UNESCO Word Heritage site. After lunch at one of Trinidad’s most popular paladares, Sol Ananda, we meet with its owner, Lazaro Orellana, and then set off to explore the Valle de Los Ingenios. It is a living museum of the sugar industry, featuring 75 ruined sugar mills, summer mansions, barracks, and other facilities. Also visit an archaeological site, Finca Guachinango, which is currently being excavated. Return to Cienfuegos in late afternoon and attend a performance of Cantores de Cienfuegos, a versatile, 23-member choral group, at the Museo Historico Provincial. Dinner will be at a paladar this evening. (B,L,D)
Saturday, November 15: Cienfuegos | Havana
The urban historic center of Cienfuegos is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and this morning we take a walking tour of the famous Parque Martí, admire the lavish Cathedral, and stop in at the magnificent 19th-century Tomas Terry Theater (if renovation is complete). Also visit the Taller Grafico cooperative of young Cuban artists who can be found working on their lithographs over stone matrices. Depart Cienfuegos for Havana, stopping along the way at the Bay of Pigs where, in 1961, about 1,300 heavily armed, CIA-trained Cuban exiles came ashore equipped to provoke a counterrevolution to topple the Castro regime. Arrive in Havana in mid-afternoon and check in to our hotel, where we have dinner and drinks on the roof this evening. Overnight at the Saratoga Hotel for four nights. (B,L,D)
Sunday, November 16: Havana
Take a morning walking tour of Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site and also Cuba’s capital since 1519. Of all the capital cities in the Caribbean, Havana has the reputation of being the most splendid and the finest example of a Spanish colonial city in the Americas. Walk to the center of old Havana to view a scale model of the old city, which serves as an excellent introduction to the city’s layout. Nearby is the Plaza de Armas, center of the original city, where the first government buildings were located, including the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (now the City Museum). Admire the Cathedral of Saint Christopher on the cobbled Plaza de la Catedral, surrounded by some of Havana’s oldest buildings, and end the morning at the stunningly beautiful Plaza Vieja. After lunch in a restaurant with local music and a chance to interact with local dancers, take an afternoon city orientation tour by motor coach, including an inside visit to the wonderful, recently restored Riviera Hotel which, when it opened in 1958, was considered a marvel of modern design. End the day at the Museo Antropológico Montané on the University of Havana campus. The museum has an interesting collection of pre-Columbian artifacts including the wooden, 10th-century Ídolo del Tabaco. This evening have dinner at Café Oriente. (B,L,D)
Monday, November 17: Havana
This morning we meet with Dr. Ricardo Torres, Professor at the University of Havana’s Center for the Cuban Economy, who will speak on “The Changing Faces of Cuba’s Economic Structure.” Continue on to the new Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes to view its Arte Cubano (Cuban Collection) on a tour with a contemporary art curator. After a traditional Cuban lunch at El Ajibe, attend an afternoon briefing at the U.S. Interest Section in Havana (pending availability). Our last visit of the day will be the home of contemporary art curator Milagros Borges Gomez, with a chance to admire the works of various Cuban artists. Dinner is at leisure this evening. (B,L)
Tuesday, November 18: Havana
After breakfast, enjoy a roundtable discussion on “U.S.-Cuban Relations” with Raúl Rodríguez, a professor and researcher at the University of Havana’s Center for the Study of the Hemisphere and the U.S. Drive to the National Theater to watch a dance class at the Danza Contemporánea de Cuba. This extraordinary dance group blends the techniques of classical ballet, American modern dance, traditional or folkloric Afro-Cuban dance, Cuban rumba, and Spanish flamenco. After lunch we visit Vivero Alamar, a state-owned research garden, to learn about urban gardening, ranging from private gardens (huertos privados) to state-owned research gardens (organicopónicos). We will learn how produce is grown and distributed, and meet with manager Miguel Angelo Salcines and other staff. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner at La Guarida. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, November 19: Havana | Miami, FL, U.S. | Home
Depart Havana this morning on our charter flight to Miami, connecting with independent flights homeward. (B)

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