Cuba tailor made holiday, nature and culture
Description of Cuba tailor made holiday, nature and culture
This tailor made Cuba holiday itinerary has been carefully crafted by local experts to include a wide array of both cultural and natural heritage. Starting with the unique UNESCO-recognised wonders of Havana, where the vibrant atmosphere is world renowned and where you can hop in a car and go cruising down the Malecón or enjoy a night out at the Buena Vista Social Club. Whichever way you start your trip to Cuba, Havana is always hopping.
In contrast, the rural town of Viñales is surrounded by "sugarloaf" limestone mountains, and you can enjoy both the town and countryside with a guided walk around the luscious hills. More rural bliss follows at Las Terrazas in the Sierra del Rosario UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where an exemplary eco community is a wonderful place to stay, go bird watching, hiking or wild swimming.
City visits on this holiday are varied and all wonderful in their own way. Trinidad for its faded colonial splendour, Cienfuegos for its port life and Afrocaribbean culture, and Santa Clara for its revolutionary history and final resting place of Che Guevara.
Everywhere you go, you will be charmed and inspired by the vibrancy and warmth of local people, who have that Caribbean spirit which simply oozes with joie de vivre. Nowhere better to celebrate that than at the beach, with visits to coastal gems such as Cayo Santa María, one of several Cuban coral cayes, making this the perfect farewell to a wonderful two weeks in Cuba.
PlanetTravel and tourism can both benefit and damage the environment, the economy, the social structure, culture and communities in any country. We know how mass tourism, unrestricted hotel building, poorly devised tours and environmentally destructive activities can bring money flooding in and governments have, in a spirit of short termism, been tempted to accept them. But experience teaches us that in the long term this sort of uncontrolled activity can be detrimental to the country's development, and we endeavour to do nothing to encourage it.
Cuba has been on the tourist map for some decades now, and many of the trips offered there are package holidays where visitors stay in fully inclusive hotels, often owned by multinationals. These do provide employment but much of the profit is syphoned off back to the chain’s home country and does not filter down to the community. The buildings are also frequently huge edifices designed without any reference to the natural or urban environment and without demonstrating any attempt to complement the landscape. The popular beach resort of Varadero was for many years virtually off-limits to Cubans, and tourists inhabited a sterilised ghetto. You don’t stay there on this holiday.
While it is true that your inclusive hotel on Cayo Santa Maria is one of the Spanish Melia chain, this hotel group takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. In November 2009, the Institute of Responsible Tourism, endorsed by UNESCO, granted Meliá Hotels International certification as a Biosphere Hotel Company. This status is granted to companies which foster the social, cultural, economic and environmental development of the regions where they operate.
Other accommodation we have chosen for this economical holiday is locally run and has plenty of character; the Palacio del Marques de San Felipe in Havana is a refurbished historical property rescued from a neglected state, and the Hotel la Union in Cienfuegos has been transformed from a dilapidated mansion to a boutique-style hotel.
You will stay at La Moka Eco Lodge in Las Terrazas, which has developed as a self-sustainable community project to include one of the nicest lodges in Cuba. Rather than change the ethos of the project, the establishment of the lodge has given the residents more resources to enhance and grow the experiment. Complejo Turistico Las Terrazas is located in an area of 5,000ha, in which a plan for sustainable rural economy is being developed based on the rational use of natural resources for tourism. The buildings of Las Terrazas Community have been designed to blend with their surroundings. You will be benefitting them by staying there and even more so if you treat yourself to their coffee and contract their local guides.
You will visit the wildlife-packed Serra del Rosario Biosphere reserve and the Rancho Curujey where you will learn about the area’s sustainable development project.
Consistent with our aim of providing you with a street-level, nose-to-the-ground holiday you explore Havana’s and Cienfuegos’s historical centres on foot, and you’ll cycle through the Viñales Valley, thereby helping to conserve Cuba’s limited energy resources. You spend a couple of days based at Trinidad, Cuba’s well conserved UNESCO World Heritage Site, to give you a greater understanding of Cuba’s history.
PeopleStandard package holidays suit some tastes but we prefer to encourage you to enjoy a more authentic experience. This is especially valid in the case of Cuba, with its unique and fragile society, nowadays in flux, always in danger of unpredictable transformation. Go now, and you will be able to evaluate close up this extraordinary socio-politico-economic situation your selves. We have no idea how long it will last.
Many companies offering tourist services in Cuba are established in and work out of Havana. Not only are they less familiar with other parts of the islands, they send their guides and transport out from the capital. Our operator has close connections with local communities, and recruit guides and other staff within the towns and regions which you will visit. This has the added advantage of helping in a small way to put a brake on the flight of talent to Havana, means that much needed revenues stay in situ, and breadwinners can stay close to their families. A further beneficial result is that we are able to offer a broader range of excursions and activities outside the capital, which is very innovative.
Cubans are friendly and curious, most speaking at least a little English, and interacting with them is most rewarding. Our walking tour in Havana and cycling tour in Viñales open up the opportunity to converse with local people as well as to get to know your Cuban guide, who will give you interesting insights into daily life in Cuba as well as its revolutionary history
We also encourage you to eat in paladares, family run restaurants in private homes, where happily the standard of cuisine will often be higher than at a formal restaurant.
Many of the guides contracted by our local operator are supplementing income they are earning as workers in the Arts sector. Our salsa guide in Santiago gives lessons to help supplement her Cuban income. In addition to this she will introduce you to the best local places to dance and listen to Cuban music.
Guides may take you to visit small retail outlets and workshops where you can buy items with Cuban pesos, rather than mass produced items restricted to the tourist currency CUC and dollar sector.