Special Programs

  • Look here for upcoming Special Events, Special Tours to join, and Special Pricing





  • 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.

Gardens of Eastern Cuba - 1 Week

Day 1 – Arrival Day

On arrival in you will be met in Santiago de Cuba by our friendly staff and taken directly to your homestay. All our homestays are government licensed and carefully selected with your comfort in mind. (If you are arriving at another airport we will have you met – all transfers can be arranged)

Dinner in your homestay

Day 2 – Ferns and Orchids

After breakfast we start our tour with a spectacular garden. Jardin de los Helechos is a unique setting for an internationally important collection of tropical ferns (2) (3) bromeliads and orchids. This outstanding collection of over 3000 ferns and more than 300 orchids is the most complete in the Americas and is the life work of the Director, acknowledged around the world for his contributions to the world of ferns and gardens and the discoverer of several indigenous species.   As well as a marvelous garden, Jardin de los Helechos is a research establishment carrying out research into the intimate lives of ferns, their preservation and propagation.

Fern and orchid propagation and care. A short technical lecture and demonstration (for garden groups and aficionados).

Take home a unique memento of this beautiful garden.

Lunch in the garden
Dinner in your homestay.

Optional evening visit to local Trova – this is where the musical traditions of the island are preserved.

Day 3 – Drylands, Cactus and Musical Instruments

An early start will take us out of Santiago for a day on the narrow desert-like coastal strip between the Caribbean Sea and the Sierra Maestras.

The drive takes you past fields of sugar cane and elephant grass, small holdings, and gardens, with many stops to enjoy the scenery, explore the diverse woodlands and countryside, and see some of Cuba’s unique flora. Did you know that Cubans grow some of their musical instruments?

 The internationally acclaimed cactus expert of the Jardin Botanico de Santiago will be your lecturer at the Cactus garden, which is his work and his passion. This large garden is home to both indigenous cacti and those from around the world (2).

Cactus propagation and care A short technical lecture and demonstration (for garden groups and aficionados). For lunch we visit an artisans’ colony (2) with time to stroll and visit their homes and studios. A great place for something unique to take home.

On returning to Santiago we visit the personal cactus collection of our expert. 

Dinner in your homestay.

Day 4 – Clouds, Ferns, and Birds of Paradise

An early start will take us passed large state farms, through peaceful villages and onto the slopes of the Gran Piedra. We make several stops on the climb to the summit as we pass through plantations of coffee, and bananas, orange and mango groves. Every turn in the climb brings with it changing climates and plants.

Our first stop is a visit to a special private garden. With many exotic species, this small sloping garden is a delight. The work of a mother and daughter team, this garden is off a side road, across a river, and through a pasture.

Volcanic soil is the perfect medium for growing Arabica coffees beneath the tall flamboyante (flame) trees. Coffee has been grown on these slopes since the early 19th century. French Haitians, escaping the violence of the revolution fled to Cuba bringing with them new technologies, new methods of planting and processing coffee, and their slaves. We make a visit to a peaceful cafetal and its knowledgeable hostess. Nothing beats fresh coffee, made from beans toasted right where they were grown


Amid a cloud forest of giant ferns and orchids, our expert will open your eyes to some of Cuba’s tiniest ferns and orchids, bromeliads, and other beautiful plants.

At the top of the mountain, o
ur tour takes us to a commercial high altitude garden with a Bird of Paradise nursery. Fragrant hedges circle beds of roses, gladioli and camellias. Every path provides a vista of mountains and plains.

We finish our time on the mountain with a visit to a restored French Haitian style cafetal. Established in the early 19th century, this house and grounds are now a UNESCO museum including some of the exotic plants which the settlers brought with them

Lunch is on the coast with time for a bathe, or time just to sit and enjoy the peace and natural beauty around you.

Dinner in your homestays.

Day 5 – Urban Agriculture

Our lecturer today will introduce you to some of the geography, geology and hydrology of Cuba. Learn a little about the soil, the climate, and the various problems which confront agriculture on this island.

A visit to one of the many organoponico gardens which this year are expected to grow over 5 million tons of produce throughout the island. Started 20 years ago these gardens make a significant and essential contribution to the diet and health of everyone.   These gardens take many forms: major gardens attached to housing areas,  tiny garden areas which serve a few streets, farmers’ plots which bring food into the city, gardens at army barracks and police stations and in school playgrounds.

The garden serves part of a large population living in low rise apartments on the edge of the city. Like most of these gardens it has a sales point where is sells not just fresh fruit and vegetables, but also herbs, seasoning, and other garden products.

Our next stop is a local market selling fruit, vegetables, meat, and grains. Most people shop either daily or every couple of days, enjoying vegetables and fruit in their season. Much of the fruit and vegetables comes from major farms surrounding the city. Some comes from more specialized farms in nearby provinces.

From the market we go outside the city to visit a private small holding. Lunch features fruits and vegetables from the farm – you may get to pick your own lettuce!


For those of you who really want to experience hands on agriculture, we offer the option of going directly to the farm to spend the morning working with the farmer and understanding his problems and triumphs first hand. 

Dinner in your homestay.

Day 6 – Where sugar once was king, now vegetables, fruits, and rice grow.

After breakfast an early start will put us on the road to an eco-resort on the north side of the Sierras.

An hour’s drive takes us over the Sierra Maestras and onto the central plain.  This was once an immense forest, cut and burned when sugar became the most important crop.  From 1850 to 1990 sugar was the major foreign exchange earner in Cuba.  Cane fields stretched as far as the eye could see, punctuated by groves of oranges, avocados and mangos, and banana plantations Today we pass sugar fields planted with new crops, and sugar towns with factories for new industries.

The government of Cuba gives every incentive to individuals, collectives, and cooperatives for growing food. Its goal is self sufficiency in all of the vital staples, import substitution where possible, with a final goal of food exports.

Two stops; both gardens are noted for their excellence and are called national reference gardens.

The first garden, which is more like a small and expanding market garden, is termed a patio garden, but has little in common with your herb planters tucked between the deck chairs. Started on waste land between two apartment buildings it now covers about 5 ha (about 25 acres). It produces sufficient vegetables for many blocks of apartments, together with tilapia for the neighbours and rabbits for family meat. Inter planting and judicious use of flowers makes for good insect control, while the leftovers from the sugar mills provide the material for earth worm beds and compost.

Our second visit is to a medicinal herb garden. This garden and its maker have been recognized for their excellence and their contribution to the field of urban agriculture and the health of the population. Every square inch of garden and now the roof and stairs is under cultivation. The garden is staffed by local volunteers, who take their pay in trips to various gardens and workshops.

Lunch is in an artist cooperative studio – this group of Art Naif artists have shown their work in New York, Habana and Santiago; many works are in major collections. Enjoy the small galleries, chat with the artists, and enjoy a stroll in this friendly little town, dominated by the sugar mill and the huge reservoir which supplies much of the provinces fish rations.

From here we head into the mountains to an Eco-Resort for a break and to see more mountain plants.

Situated in a lush tropical valley this pretty wooden hotel provides an wonderful change from the bustle and sun of the city.  A natural pool below the waterfall tempts all swimmers, and the stones of the gentle river provide pleasant spots to relax. A trained masseuse is available for the ultimate pleasure of a relaxing massage

Dinner in the hotel

Day 7 – Mountain Walk

A guided early morning walk takes us above the resort through the alpine like meadows of peaceful farms. See cocoa on the tree, coffee growing in the shelter of forest canopy, peacocks strutting across the meadow, and children on their way to school. The plants, birds, and butterflies of the high mountains are fascinating in their diversity. 

Early lunch departure for


The nearby Jardin Botanico is 30 years new, but boasts an outstanding collection of palms, cactus, and most importantly plants endemic to the northern slopes of the Sierra Maestras. Here you can also find one of the larger collections of fruit trees – many of which were unknown and underused a few years ago, but are now front and centre in health magazines around the world.


The Serpentine Forest, is a unique area of vegetation growing on heavy metal soils. The brilliant colours and strange flowers are the product of long adaption to the poisonous environment. Not all plants have been investigated and described, and the area holds treasures in waiting.

Dinner in your homestay

FOR GROUPS ONLY A farewell dinner, with entertainment, will provide you with a splendid end to your time in Santiago and give you time to talk to the friends you have made.

Day 8 – Free Day

Free time to visit the city’s craftspeople and art galleries. This will be a fine time to finish buying those little gifts for home. Want to buy something big and have no room in your suitcase – we will arrange shipment for you.

It is possible to organize an extra tour for this day.

A meal in your homestay before your flight – lunch or dinner – depending on the time of your flight

You will be picked up at your homestay and transferred to the airport for your flight home or to other destinations.

Tour Details

Tour availability

Small groups, individuals – continuously available – CONTACT US FOR PRICES

  • February 2nd week
  • March 2nd week
  • April 2nd week

See below for further information for Garden Groups

Tour Includes:

  • Accommodation
  • Homestays in Santiago generally with private bathroom, air conditioning and/or fan
  • Mountain resort – 3 Star Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Breakfasts and Lunches as specified
  • Dinners as specified
  • Other
  • All transfers within Santiago
  • Air-conditioned transportation
  • Expert lecturers
  • Translator where required
  • All entrance fees

Deposit $500.00 Canadian non-refundable

Not Included

  • Flights
  • Personal expenditures
  • Tips
  • Additional beverages
  • Evening entertainment

Garden Groups (minimum 6 people traveling together)

  • Deposit $250.00 Cdn – on booking – NON REFUNDABLE
  • 90 days prior 50% of total
  • 60 days prior balance
  • Welcome dinner in Eco resort
  • Gala dinner in Santiago
  • Bilingual tour co-coordinator
  • Security