THE BEST OF CUBA
For years, talk of Cuba has been focused around how you must visit now before it changes forever and five-star hotels spring up to replace the dilapidated, pastel-hued buildings that define Havana. But with a new president in power, never before has this felt so much like a country on the cusp. Kick off three nights in the capital with a Hemingway tour in a classic Fifties car, a visit to a food market with a chef and a traditional lunch in a paladar (privately run) restaurant. Then it's onto a tobacco plantation in Viñales, where you can learn to roll cigars, and Cienfuegos on the south coast, which is renowned for its Spanish-colonial architecture. Next is Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with cobblestone streets, bands playing Spanish-African Son Cubano music and salsa dancing till the early hours. Finally, take a four-wheel-drive safari to the Escambray mountains and trek through the jungle-covered Topes de Collantes nature reserve to cool off in a secret swimming spot. A week-long adventure that captures the spirit of this unique Caribbean island.
Complimentary city tour of Havana
Free Hemingway tour in a classic American car
Free food tour and lunch at Grados restaurant
E-bike tour of Havana
Tobacco plantation visit in Vinales
Free Cienfuegos walking tour
Complimentary Trinidad city tour
Jeep safari to Topes de Collantes
- International return flights
- Private transfers
- Seven nights' accommodation
- Breakfast throughout and selected lunches
- Guided excursions
- Jeep safari
ALL TRIPS CAN BE TAILOR-MADE TO ADD IN EXTRA NIGHTS OR EXPERIENCES ALONG THE WAY
Day1Fly to HavanaHavana, Cuba
Fly from London on an Air Europa flight (via Madrid) to Havana. On arrival, check into La Reserva, a colonial mansion in the Vedado neighbourhood with a gorgeous leafy courtyard garden, contemporary Cuban art and nine retro-chic rooms.
From the funkiest bands busking outside restaurants in the Old Town to crowd-packed jazz performances on Friday nights at art gallery and club Fabrica de Arte Cubano, music is such a part of life in Havana and gives the city a real buzz.
Emma Love, Conde Nast Traveller Contributing Editor
Day2Hemingway’s HavanaHavana, Cuba
Set off on a two-hour walking tour that ticks off the four key squares of Old Havana - Plaza de Armas, Plaza San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja, and the Plaza de la Cathedral - with an expert guide who will offer insights into the city's fascinating history along the way.
In the afternoon, hop in a classic 1950s car for the Hemingway Tour. Begin on the outskirts of Havana at Hemingway's villa which is exactly as the American writer left it almost sixty years ago. Although you're not allowed to enter the house itself, there is plenty to see: peek through the open doors and windows at his personal belongings and glimpse the boat he used for fishing.
On the way back into the city, your guide will make a stop at Cojimar fishing village, which inspired Hemingway to write the novel 'The Old Man and the Sea', and whose protagonist fishermen he dedicated his Nobel Prize to. The final stop is El Morro fort, across the harbour from Havana from where there are spectacular views of the city.
Day3Food markets and e-bikesHavana, Cuba
Visit a produce market and a ration card store on a tour with local chef Raulito to learn about the different ways Cubans have access to food. Then lunch at his old-school paladar restaurant Grados, where he will cook up favourite pre-revolution recipes from his childhood such as lamb slow-cooked in pru (an eastern Cuban herbal drink) or farm eggs on a bed of maize. Afterwards, go on an off-grid guided e-bike tour of Havana that veers away from the typical tourist trail to spots such as Jardines de Tropical or Playa Baracoa for a swim.
Day4Tobacco tour in VinalesVinales, Cuba
This morning your driver will take you to Vinales. Visit the tobacco plantations where farmers still plough with oxen and you can see the famous drying houses (ask to be shown how to roll a cigar). Horse riding in the Vinales Valley, framed by the Mogotes mountains and limestone rocks, is a thrilling optional extra this afternoon. Check in at Casa MogoteArt, set on an organic farm three kilometres from downtown Vinales.
Day5Cienfuegos sceneTrinidad, Cuba
Transfer to Trinidad via Cienfuegos by car. In the afternoon, check in to Las Casona before going on a guided walking tour of the city. It includes a visit to Jose Marti Park, dedicated to the Cuban National Hero; the 19th-century Tomas Terry Theatre which draws its architectural style from classical French and Italian influences; and the Spanish-Moorish style Palacio del Valle.
Day6Salsa in TrinidadTrinidad, Cuba
Kick off the day with a walking tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site Trinidad. Your guide will take you through the cobblestone streets, pointing out architectural highlights and sharing stories about the history of the town during the colonial era and the years after the Revolution.
Two of the top live music venues in Trinidad are colonial Casa de La Trova for Tova and traditional Son Cubano (until 9pm) and later, nearby Casa de La Musica for salsa dancing.
Day7Jeeps and jungleGuanayara National Park, Cuba
Go on a jeep safari to the Escambray mountains and Guanayara national park before trekking through the Tope de Collantes forest to swim at the waterfall.
Day8Fly homeHavana, Cuba
Fly back from Havana on an Air Europa flight (via Madrid) to London.
LA RESERVA VEDADO
Retro-chic bolt hole in historic Havana
This colonial-style mansion in the Vedado neighbourhood has been recently renovated and now has nine, retro-chic bedrooms with tiled floors, wooden shutters at the windows and mid-century statement design pieces such as leather butterfly chairs and teak sideboards. There's a leafy garden out the back with a bar, sofas for lounging and bistro tables that are laid up for breakfast. It's an easy stroll to the Malecon road where you can hop in a taxi to the city centre.
Rural farmstay with unbeatable views
In the middle of a farm in the Viñales National Park, this house comes with great views over the valley's Mogotes (karst mountains), an organic vegetable patch, orchard and gardens. It's simple, which fittingly reflects the back-to-nature way of life here. The owner Luis is a young writer who spent many years living in Madrid before returning to Cuba and he is hugely knowledgeable about the area.
Hidden hacienda with 19th-century roots
One of the oldest houses in Trinidad, 19th-century La Casona (otherwise known as Finca Kenia, after the owner) is on the edge of the Santa Rosa Valley. It has eight simple rooms, each with its own living area and outdoor terrace; a large garden, flanked by stables, and overlooking the ruins of a colonial fort; a pool; and a restaurant for breakfast (lunch and dinner can also be made to order).