Fly to Cuba – the Caribbean’s largest island – where you’ll be met and taken to your accommodation in the capital city of Havana. You’ll be staying in a completely refurbished 1880’s neo-classical mansion that echoes the charm of the period. And you’ll be close to everything: the quaint cobbled streets lined with faded-but-genteel old buildings featuring decorated arches, balconies with ornate ironwork and washed out pastel paintwork.
Classic 50s and 60s American cars, plazas with gushing fountains, Baroque churches and grand state buildings, salsa and mojitos are all part of the Havana experience. As are tours of the Cigar Factory, art studios and the Hemingway Museum in a classic Yank tank and visits to Old Havana’s four historic plazas.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe room at the Kempinksi – bed & breakfast
Say goodbye to Havana and head for the hills. A beautiful two hour drive brings you to the rolling countryside of Pinar de Rio. This is tobacco country so your tour will include harvesting an insight into the way tobacco is grown in the old fashioned way. Vinales itself is a spruce, traditional town with colourful houses and gardens full of farmyard animals.
Enjoy a full day private excursion to Vinales and numerous optional excursions including biking, picnic, swimming, trekking, horse-riding and Cayo Jutia. You’ll be able to see the countryside by bike, go on picnics, ride horses through the valley, investigate local caves as well as take mud therapies, bathe in geothermic springs and relax in sulphurous baths.
Stay: Three nights in a double room at Encanto Central – bed & breakfast
Today you will travel to Trinidad, stopping first to explore the town of Cienfuegos, dubbed the “pearl of the “south” with its beautiful colonial-era buildings and historic centre. You’ll take in the Parque Jose Marti, the Teatro Tomas Terry and the spectacular Palacio de Valle – an exquisite blend of Roman, gothic, Venetian and Moorish architectural styles.
You’ll then continue your journey to Trinidad, one of Cuba’s most charming towns with its characteristic painted houses and vast colonial mansions that once belonged to fabulously wealthy sugar plantation owners. You’ll be staying in a boutique hotel at the very heart of the city and right on the main square – admirably placed to enjoy a walking tour around the cobbled streets with an expert guide who will relate the region’s complex and highly colourful history.
You’ll also learn about the hardships and injustice of slavery when you tour a local sugar plantation. Then it’s time to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Topes de Collantes with its 200 sq km of phenomenal botanical, zoological and ecological features.
Stay: Three nights in a double room at the Iberostar Grand – bed & breakfast
Cayo Santa Maria
On your way to Cayo Santa Maria you’ll stop off to visit the Che Guevara Memorial at Santa Clara – scene of his epic struggle to liberate Cuba. Then you journey on to another Cuban ‘unmissable’ – the fantastic white beaches and welcoming Caribbean for which the island is famed. It’s chill out time in the most superb beach setting; at a hotel with exceptional suites, spa and swimming pool.
Not to mention evening entertainment, salsa and Spanish classes, aqua gym and eco-trips into the surrounding countryside.
Stay: Four nights in a junior suite ocean view room at the Melia Buenavista – full board
A scenic, five hour trip takes you back to magical Havana for a final evening in a city that parties to the rhythms of salsa, in any number of interesting bars and clubs.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at the Kempinksi – bed & breakfast
Today you’ll fly out of Havana in the evening, arriving back in London the following morning.
It was a complicated and very individual trip, and several changes were made by me during the planning. None of this seemed to worry Ayesha and everything went according to plan.- AM, India, 2014