March 16 – 19, 2021
For those who think 9 days in Cuba is not enough, we are offering a four-day extension to the beautiful Viñales National Park, via Las Terrazas. We’re not sure, yet, whether this will be offered at the beginning or end of our 9-day itinerary, but wanted to let everyone see what an extra few days in Cuba might look like.
Day 1 – Havana – Las Terrazas – Viñales
After breakfast in Havana, we will travel west to Las Terrazas, a self-sustained community located in the Sierra del Rosario, known for the diversity of its natural beauty with lush woods, rivers, low waterfalls, orchids and ferns. In 1967, it became the site of a huge (5,000 hectares) reforestation program. Terraces built along the slopes of the mountains were planted with thousands of mahogany, cedar, pine, teak and carob trees. At the same time the living conditions of local farmers were dramatically improved by the establishment of a rural community called Las Terrazas.
We will have lunch at “Las Terrazas” then visit the community and former home of local country musician (and national idol) Polo Montañez. His band still plays for locals and visitors and there may be an opportunity to catch one of their performances while we are there. If there’s time, we may even take in one or two of the local trails for walking and hiking.
From Las Terrazas we will continue on to the Viñales Valley and check in to our casa particulare, our home for two nights. After dinner we’ll have the opportunity to enjoy some Cuban music and dancing. (We might even be able to join in.)
Day 2 – Viñales Valley
After breakfast we will go to Viñales National Park, a UNESCO designated World Heritage site. This is one of Cuba’s most captivating landscapes, woven together with lush landscapes, tobacco plants, and towering mogotes. Mogotes are isolated, steep-sided hills — composed mostly of limestone — the products of erosion across the millennia. Mogotes are common throughout the Caribbean, but none are quite as fantastic as those in the Viñales.
Another striking feature of the area is the red-tainted soil, perfect for growing. Indeed, Cuba’s finest hand-rolled cigars come from Pinar del Rio province, where Viñales is located. Naturally, we will visit a tobacco farm and learn from a local farmer how tobacco is grown and dried, still using traditional methods, and how it is rolled into cigars. (Please note, as of this writing, it is still illegal to bring Cuban Cigars back to the United States.)
But agriculture in Viñales is not just about the tobacco. The red, nutrient-rich soil also supports plentiful patches of delicious bananas, oranges, limes, and pineapples. We’ll have lunch at Finca Agroecológica El Paraíso, a noted hill-top farm/restaurant overlooking the 8.9 hectare farm with more than 200 vegetable beds.
Day 3 – Viñales Valley – Havana
After breakfast we’ll have the option to go horseback riding to enjoy this stunning landscape one more time as the sun rises at dawn. We head back to Havana after breakfast where additional opportunities abound. Perhaps a visit to Clandestina, the first urban clothing brand, “99% Cuban design and 1% sugarcane,” homegrown in Cuba? Or a haircut by Gilberto “Papito” Valladares, who, since opening his salon/museum Artecorte in 1999, has become one of Havana’s most recognized civic and entrepreneurial figures? We might even be able to track down and learn some moves from the grey-haired Santa Amalia Dancers.
Our last dinner together will be at La Guarida, one of Cuba’s top restaurants for Cuban and international cuisine. The location itself is stunning – a grand mansion with a stunning exterior façade, grand marble stairwell entrance, highly decorated interior, and roof-top bar.
Day 4 – Havana & Home
After breakfast at our casa particular, we will be transported to the airport to catch our flights home.