Begin your day with a visit to a cigar factory and engage with tobacco rollers to learn about the importance of tobacco, both culturally and commercially, for Cuba. Then continue with a trip back in time and walk in the shoes of one of the world’s greatest writers as you drive ten miles east of Havana towards the small, working-class town of San Francisco de Paula to visit Hemingway’s legendary farm house, Finca Vigia. The Cuban people have always respected the famous writer’s choice to live in a modest town, amongst the people he fished with. Next, visit the small fishing village of Cojimar, which served as the inspiration of the aforementioned The Old Man and the Sea, where you will take in the town from a stunning panoramic overlook. Enjoy lunch at the local Ajiaco Café, which features Cuban specialties peppered with Spanish and Italian influences. Return to your hotel and enjoy the evening at leisure. Overnight at the MELIA HABANA HOTEL.
Following breakfast at your hotel, head to Las Terrazas, a community in Mayabeque Province just 45 minutes from Havana. Las Terrazas National Park is a paradise for nature lovers, where habaneros head for a breath of fresh mountain air. As you drive toward Las Terrazas you will see the landscape quickly transform from the urban Havana to lush green countryside, dotted with brightly colored houses, toiling farmers and grazing cows. Hiking trails, small lakes, waterfalls, sulfurous springs and colonial-era coffee estates await exploration. Visit the former coffee plantations, reminders of the once flourishing coffee trade in the area. You will gain an insight into how the Cuban farmers were able to produce coffee in spite of only having very basic tools. You will have time for a walk around the town to meet the friendly locals and visit the woodwork and pottery studios that are open to the public. Visit the community center. Las Terrazas Community was founded in 1971 and it is sustained by the tourist activity trough Las Terrazas Complex and it is located in Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve. You will have some free time to explore the area before heading back to Havana in the late afternoon feeling truly inspired. Dinner is on your own. Overnight at the MELIA HABANA HOTEL.
On your panoramic tour of modern Havana, stops may include: Nacional Hotel (1930), the Riviera Hotel (1957), originally owned by infamous mobster Meyer Lansky; the Catalina Lasa House (1927) 5th Avenue and Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), Cuba’s leading art school. Enjoy a cultural visit to the Gaudi inspired neighborhood of a mosaic tile artist Jose Rodriguez Fuster. His work has been exhibited all over the world, so it is a wonderful privilege to visit the extraordinary home of the “Picasso of the Caribbean” and see his work. He has turned his entire neighborhood in a fantasy land “Fusterlandia”. After lunch at El Aljibe experience Afro Cuban culture and take in the “preservation of local traditions at a community level “through Art. Your first stop today is Callejón de Hamel (Hamel’s Alley) the place that Salvador González Escalona, calls home. This tiny but famous alley is a testament to a community’s creativity, because the majority of sculpture and murals here are the work of people who live in the alley and outlying neighborhood. Afterwards, stop for a picture from the outside of the Morro Castle that has been guarding the entrance to Havana Bay since the 16th century. Perched on a promontory opposite Old Havana, the castle is a major landmark and can be viewed from miles around. Return to Havana to freshen up for dinner. Transfer to the Moneda Cubana Paladar in style, as you will enjoy a ride in one of the antique American cars! Overnight at the MELIA HABANA HOTEL.
Bid Havana a fond adios and drive to Matanzas, the City of Bridges, located on the northern shore of the island on the Bay of Matanzas, the capital of the western province of Matanzas. After lunch at the Mallorca paladar, you will continue to delve into the culture of Matanzas with a stop at the Callejon de las Tradiciones. Located in Pueblo Nuevo, the Callejon is an outdoor urban collective of artists who are dedicated to preserving the traditions imported with the slaves and incorporated into Cuban society. After an intensely educational day, head towards Varadero. Tonight, settle in at Melia Varadero, an all-inclusive five-star beach resort, situated just of the beaches of the Caribbean Ocean. The resort has excellent facilities and stunning sea views. The rooms feature the colors of the Caribbean, complemented by the tropical surroundings. They come with finishing touches like flat-screen TVs, mini -bar, tea/coffee maker, hairdryer, safe and iron and board. Not only does the hotel offer luxury accommodation and amenities galore, there’s lots to enjoy and explore in the surrounding area too, with a promenade just out front and a lively marina with shops, cafés, bars and restaurants — ideal for relaxing a while and watching the beautiful people go by. Overnight at the MELIA VARADERO.
Today’s drive takes you southeast of Varadero to the city of Cardenas, a peaceful, friendly, history-rich city, known in Cuba as the Ciudad Bandera (Flagship City), Ciudad de las Primicias (City of Firsts) and Perla del Norte (Pearl of the North). Cardenas is where the current Cuban national flag was first flown in 1850. Cardenas is also known for its famous Havana Club rum. By the middle of the 19th century, Cardenas produced more than 50% of all the sugar made in the island and had the country’s greatest concentration of sugar mills. Here you will visit the old sugar mill “Jose Smith Comas” and taste the popular Cuban drink “Guarapo”, made of the juice of the sugar cane bearing the same name. Learn about the history of the sugar cane industry in Cuba as you tour around this old sugar mill turned into a museum.
Enjoy a panoramic tour in a train pulled by a steam locomotive from the beginning of the 20th century and then learn all about this peaceful, friendly, and history-rich city. The city of crabs” is an amazing colonial destination of Cuba. Learn about how life in the island was at that time and see the significant cultural and economic influence the U.S. had on Cuba, even prior to their intervention in the Spanish-Cuban war. Get to meet authentic people who, unlike many others in the island, truly represent the real Cuban character in its most genuine version.
Visit the eco-cultural project Finca Coincidencia, tour the pottery workshop, and interact with the family of the farm. Have lunch at Finca Coincidencia and then return to your hotel where you will have some time to relax before your salsa lesson.
In the evening, share your favorite stories while attending your farewell dinner at the hotel Overnight at the MELIA VARADERO.
Today, it’s time to return to the USA, as you will be transferred to the airport for your return flight home, carrying with you many fond memories of your Cuban adventure.
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