Special Programs

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  • A great month for gardens, celebrations, and all of our tours

November 2013

  • Bi-annual International Choral Festival. Calling all choristers and music lovers – international choirs invited. Non-competitive festival.

Havana, Santiago & Baracoa

Experience the culture and history of this wonderful island through the eyes of internationally acclaimed experts. Walk the streets of ancient capitals, follow the birth of a nation, and glory in its rich history. We take you on extra-ordinary walks amid trees which existed at the time of the dinosaurs, high amid the clouds you discover an ancient and fragile world of orchids and mysterious ferns. From the bay where Columbus first set foot and declared this to be “the most beautiful island”, through colonial squares and transforming countryside, we emerge finally in the glory of Habana.

Cuba is the land of perpetual summer, join us any time for festivals, music, dance and laughter.

Arrival Day

Arrive in Santiago de Cuba. However you arrive in Santiago de Cuba you will be met by our friendly staff and taken to your Casa Particular (Cuba’s equivalent of Bed and Breakfasts) Your homestay is located in the centre of the city – close to music, art, and great people watching places. Depending on your time of arrival you will have dinner or a snack.

Day 1 Architectural Walk

Santiago de Cuba was once the Capital of Cuba . One of the first seven towns built by the Spanish in the early 16th century its history is told through its architecture. An early start will take you on a walking tour through three interesting neighbourhoods in this Colonial city. Your lecturer is a conservation architect. We start in the oldest part of the city, exploring the vibrant streets and the tranquil, elegant squares, Colonial streetscapes are being restored to their former glories, but often to new uses. (In case you wonder how the colours of the city work so well together – ask your lecturer – he chooses them!) A walk through the city takes us to one of the elegant pre-revolutionary neighbourhoods where palaces now house community centres and exclusive clubs play host to school children of all ages. We’ll take time to drop by one of the city’s markets and enjoy a delightful lunch in one of those restored buildings. Dinner in your homestay.

Day 2 Tropical Gardens and Cloud Forests

After an early breakfast we’ll collect our botanist lecturer in his fabulous fern garden. Home to a collection of more than 3000 tropical ferns (some named after him) and a growing collection of orchids. We’ll travel east of the city to the Gran Piedra. This magnificent outlier of the Sierra Maestras often disappears into the clouds. As we travel from the coastal plain to the summit cloud forest we’ll stop to enjoy the changing vegetation. There is an easy climb to the summit with native orchids and ferns in great abundance. By lunchtime the forest is full of butterflies. After the climb to the summit we’ll explore the 19c Haitian style Cafetal which has been recently restored and is now a UNESCO museum. We’ll visit the large commercial garden where beds of bird of paradise flowers, gladioli, roses and many native plants are surrounded by fragrant hedges, and where every corner affords a new vista of mountains and plains. Late lunch in a local paladar with visits to Artisan Studios. Dinner in your homestay.

It is possible to substitute the Eco –Tour – Wetlands Birding – with arrangement with the other participants.

Day 3 History of Cuba – Pre-Columbian to Independence

We begin the day with a short orientation to the history of this island. We start our walk at the “oldest house” in the Americas, tour the Emilio Barcardi Museum with its treasure trove of artifacts. Jumping ahead in time we will visit the famous San Juan Hill and the tree under which the Cuban Spanish American war finally ended. “El Morro” the 17th century castle built to protect the city against the privateers and pirates like Henry Morgan who sought to relieve Spain of the wealth of Latin America guards the magnificent bay which has provided safe harbour for galleons and oil tankers, yachts and men-‘o-war. The little launch which circles the bay will take us to one of the main islands for lunch and an afternoon stroll in this friendly community. Dinner in your homestay.

It is possible to substitute the History of Cuba – Independence to Revolutionary Triumph – a Century of Turmoil – with arrangement with the other participants.

Evening meal and Afro-Cuban entertainment – groups of 4 or more

Day 4 From Santiago de Cuba to Baracoa

Early start for Baracoa – magnificent drive along the coast and through the mountains. This jewel of a historical town is between the Atlantic and Caribbean. Accessible by sea only until the late 1960’s, this town ‘s history is rich in aboriginal life, and successive waves of boom and bust economics. The surrounding mountains are clothed in forests with many plants seen only in its micro-ecosystems. Your accommodation will be in Casa Particulars (Cuba’s B&B’s) in the centre of the city. Dinner in your homestay and stroll around the town to various music venues and art galleries.

Day 5 Eco – Hike of El Yunque

Early morning start to climb slopes of El Yunque. The slopes of El Yunque tower above the town and were described in the diary of Christopher Columbus from his first landing in the bay. This old eroded mesa is a bio-preserve of second-growth forest and unique eco-systems which arbour birds, orchids, frogs and trees not found elsewhere in Cuba. . Guided hike with naturalist. Our expert lecturer will be either a botanist or ornithologist – depending on the group’s interests. . Lunch at an eco-reserve, after lunch walk and exploration of the area. Dinner and stroll around the town to various music venues.

Day 6 Historic Baracoa

Historical walk of the town of Baracoa. We will visit the famous forts which protected this outpost against pirates, and the navies of Britain and France. This was the first town of the Spanish, and the site of their first and almost only conflict with the aboriginal inhabitants. With the burning of their leaders, resistance disappeared, and by 1522 the aboriginal population had been decimated by disease, overwork and hunger. The local church houses one of the crosses brought by the Spanish. You’ll learn the history of the triangular squares, and the economic booms which brought so much prosperous housing to Baracoa in the early part of the 20th century. Visit to an archeological dig. Lunch on a farm. Dinner in your homestay

Day 7 Travel to Habana

Travel to Habana will be either direct by air (available 2 days per week only) or return to Santiago and an evening flight to Habana.

Day 8 Habana – Arts Tour

Habana is home to a passionate and prolific arts scene. Painters, sculptors , craftspeople and photographers display their work in impromtu sidewalk collections, vying for your attention with established galleries, small and large museums. This tour takes you from the gem of the Belles Artes Museum and its major collections, to galleries and to private collections and studios. Led by the director of one of Habana’s most prestigious galleries , this unique tour will introduce you to the place of Cuban Art and its inherent symbolisms. Lunch during the tour will give you time to explore your questions and enjoy the passing scene.

Day 9 Habana Vieja – Walking Tour

Walking Tour of Old Havana. Famous for its elegant squares, this tour will take you to three of the most famous. We will make our start at Havana’s famous Cathedral, visit the home of the Captains General (now the city’s museum), walk on to the splendid church of San Francisco, and complete our tour in Plaza Vieja amid the craftsmen and galleries. On the way we’ll find time to stop for gallery or studio visits, and sometimes explore a side street. Your tour is led by one of Havana’s leading architects who is intimately involved in the restoration of Old Havana, he’ll take you to see some of the restorations and rebuilding on which he has worked, explain to you how the projects are managed, and answer your many questions.

We’ll take a break for lunch and enjoy some people watching. At the end of our tour we’ll leave time to explore the craft market, which is a jumble of colour and excitement near the Cathedral square.

Day 10 Departure

This tour includes

  1. Airport Pickup and transfers on arrival in Santiago, Baracoa and Habana as part of the tour
  2. B&B style Accommodation including breakfast and dinner
  3. Tours including expert lecturers, translators, transportation, and lunches
  4. Entrances and photography fees at all sites visited
  5. Airconditioned transportation – private bus or inter-city bus link

This tour does not include

  1. Flights and expenses associated with entering or leaving the country
  2. Personal expenditures including snacks, alcohol, film development, upgraded accommodation, additional meals.
  3. Transportation prior to start or after conclusion of tour
  4. Evening entertainment except where specified


Prices and Availability

Available Anytime

2 People $2600/per person
4 people $1950/per person