DAY 1 | Nov. 10. Gibara
Depart on a mid‐afternoon flight from Miami to Holguin and continue a short distance by a scenic road that undulates through eye‐catching villages to the small, intimate town of Gibara. This is an independent‐spirited, coastal fishing village of charming squares and run‐down Spanish‐era buildings on a cobalt bay. The saddle‐shaped Silla de Gibara that so capivated Columbus creates a wild, scenic backdrop.
Overnight at the charming Hotel Ordoño Encanto, a 27‐room colonial gem with a two‐floor roof terrace, original cornicing, and a beautiful, frescoed lobby.
DAY 2 | Nov. 11. Gibara
Accompanied by Ernesto Blanco, a professor at the University of Holguin, spend the day exploring Gibara and its environs. Admire the town’s old buildings with their larger than life sized peeling wooden shutters, stained glass windows and fading pastel colored walls. Walk past the town’s church, and the miniature Statue of Liberty monument replica.
Enjoy lunch at Playa de Caletones. Afer lunch, stop by at the Jiba movie theater that plays host to the Low Budget Film Festival (Festival del Cine Pobre) every year. Its beautifully ramshackle lobby overlooking the Calixto Garcia Park is papered with old posters for long‐forgotten movies. Enjoy a private performance of the superb Gibara Dance company followed by dinner at La Culinaria, where chef Alberto Ronda serves wonderful Cuban food every evening.
DAY 3 | Nov. 12. Santiago
Morning drive to Santiago, the second largest city in Cuba and its former capital. The rich racial mixture of this city has produced some of the most exciting music, art, and architecture in the Caribbean. This port city is also an industrial city and the distilleries of the original Bacardi rum are here. Upon arrival, visit the Morro Castle originally built in 1640 to ward off pirate attacks. Enjoy a traditional lunch in a restaurant set atop the cliffs with fabulous views along the coast. After checking into the Hotel Melia, enjoy drinks at the hotel before enjoying dinner at a private restaurant.
DAY 4 | Nov. 13. Santiago
Take a full day to explore Santiago. Stop at the Museo de Arte Colonial, built in 1516 and said to be the oldest house in Cuba and the Carnival Museum. Santiago’s annual carnival is a major event and has been part of the city’s traditions since 1669.
Enjoy lunch at Café Matamoros on the Plaza Dolores before visiting the Jesuit Dolores College where Fidel Castro was educated as a youth.
After lunch, drive to the Basilica del Cobre. The church – Cuba’s only basilica – is known for its offerings and as the shrine to La Virgen de la Caridad (Virgin of Charity). Hemingway dedicated his Nobel Prize for Literature to the Virgin.
Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
DAY 5 | Nov. 14
Morning flight to Havana. Upon arrival continue along a spectacular coastal road to Matanzas which began to flourish after large sugar mills were established in the region between 1817 and 1827.
Stop for lunch at the Matanzas Seminary which was founded in 1946 by the Cuban Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal Churches. A?er lunch, enjoy a performance in the chapel by the Matanzas Chamber Choir.
Stop at the Ediciones Vigia which was founded in 1985 and produces hand‐made first edi?on books on a range of topics. Drive a short distance to Jibacoa and the Memories Hotel. Coco palms, cactuses, flowering bushes and plants flourish in the hotel grounds which are set against sparkling blue water and a lush landscape.
DAY 6 | Nov. 15. Jibacoa
Located close to Jibacoa is the town of Hershey, part of the American Hershey Corporation chocolate empire’s subsidiary property in Cuba. Explore the ruins of the sugar mill and the beautifully maintained Hershey Gardens before returning to the hotel for lunch beach‐side. This afternoon enjoy a snorkeling expedition on the resorts private coral reef.
DAY 7 | Nov. 16. Vinales
Depart to the west part of Cuba, with its jungle‐covered summits dropping down limestone cliffs to verdant valleys. Stop en route at the Orchid Farm at Soroa which houses over 800 species of plants.
Visit a small tobacco farm to learn more about the growing of tobacco and the economics of the tobacco industry in Cuba followed by lunch at a beautiful private farm overlooking the valley. It is really possible from here to appreciate the valley’s distinctive landscape, with its steep‐sided limestone mountains called mogotes rising dramatically from fertile flat‐floored valleys where farmers cultivate the red soil for tobacco, fruits and vegetables.
Check into Hotel La Ermita which offers sweeping views and wonderful Cuban food.
DAY 8 | Nov. 17. Havana
Morning drive to Havana. Drive straight to El Divino for a delicious lunch. Set in the middle of La Yoandra ranch, Divino restaurant is a unique place where culinary traditions take center stage amidst music and art.
After lunch proceed to the Callejon de Hamel, the site of a huge multi‐dimensional Afro‐Cuban mural. Here there will be a chance to learn more about the Santeria religion where we meet with a Santeria practioner, Elias Aseff.
Check‐into the Parque Central. Before dinner, meet with Dr. Rena Pérez, formerly with the Ministry of Agriculture and now an advisor to the Ministry of Sugar. Dr. Perez’s discussion, documented with slides, will address “Living in Cuba Today.”
Enjoy cocktails and dinner on the roof‐top.
DAY 9 | Nov. 18. Havana
Morning meeting with Norma Guillard, who is featured in the documentary film La Maestra. View the documentary which tells the personal stories of the literacy campaign Fidel arranged in the early days of the Revolution.
Continue on to attend a rehearsal of the Camerata Romeu. This is an all‐women group of musicians, who play stringed instruments. The Camerata Romeu was founded in 1993 by director Zenaida Romeu. Her goal is to select music from both Cuba and different parts of the world. Composers chosen range from Leo Brouwer and Esteban Salas to Bach and Mozart.
Enjoy lunch at the home of curator Milagros Borges Gomez. Admire her lovely home and the works of many different Cuban artists. After lunch enjoy a private performance of the dance/musical group Havana Compass. The troupe has created an exciting, diverse performance with traces of Spanish dance form, African‐Cuban Jazz rhythm and modern dance.
Farewell dinner this evening with chef Niuris Higuera at her elegant restaurant – Atelier.
DAY 10 | Nov. 19. Return flight from Havana to Los Angeles.