Cuba & Columbia Tour
Apr 25th – May 13th 2023
CUBA AND COLOMBIA
This Is Travelling!
Visit Cuba during one of its most recognised and cultural national holdiays
Cuba – Havana Cienfuegos Trinidad Santa Clara Havana Colombia – Bogotá Sierra Nevada National Park Cartagena El Peñol Medellin
Real, authentic and bold – see Colombia and Cuba, the Global Village way!
Cuba – our tour begins in Old Havana, one of the best-preserved colonial cities in all of the Americas. What you will see around you is a Cuban city that was once incredibly rich, as is still evident in its now faded art deco and internationally influenced design – none of which has lost its appeal. Many buildings are now being restored and a stroll around Havana when you arrive for the first day of your tour is a sensory overload. As the tour group will arrive into Havana at different times today, we recommend you sample some Moros y Cristianos (Rice & Beans) or a Cuban espresso with the locals, if you find yourself at a loose end.
Cuban food sometimes gets a bad rap, and perhaps deservedly so if you remain inside the confines of a tourist resort in and around Havana without the insider knowledge of our guides and our commitment to show you only the best and most authentic, on all of our Cuba tours. So across the five cities you will visit in Cuba, expect handpicked local places that are off the tourist trail not just in terms of food, but nightlife too – with Trinidad being a particular highlight.
Cuba is, of course, the birthplace of the Mojito and you haven’t really tried one unless it’s been made with the world’s best rum made with locally grown mint and raw cane sugar, while cooling off in the Caribbean sunshine with pastel colours bouncing off the wallsChe Guevara, his life and his influence on Cuba is a major theme of this trip. With our own A/C tour bus for the duration of the tour, it means lots of flexibility and opportunities to get off the beaten track. For example, as part of our trip around the Bay of Pigs, close to the UNESCO city of Cienfuegos and where a US-backed land invasion was attempted, there are a few beautiful swimming spots along the route that we can check out including a sinkhole that resembles a tropical fish tank! Visiting Santa Clara, you will see the giant statue of Che Guevara, sitting atop the mausoleum where he is buried. You will see a lot of unique places on our Cuba tour, that are again, off the well-worn tourist trail. If you are looking for a Cuban resort stay – our tours won’t be that interesting for you. But, if you feel more comfortable seeing a secret bunker where the Soviet Union stored their nuclear weapons that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis followed by a freshly prepared lunch on a farm in Vinales with a tour group of like-minded travellers, this is most definitely up your street.
DISCOVER COLOMBIA LIKE NO-ONE ELSE
Next up is Colombia! From its ancient Andean archaeological ruins to more recent and still vibrant colonial towns, between snow tipped mountain peaks, vast jungle and incredible beaches along its coast, our tour of Colombia encapsulates much of what makes this one of the best places to visit in South America.
To get started, the Colombia tour takes in much of the best things to do in and around Bogotá, a colourful and historic city that hovers between upmarket, hip districts and barrios of the less well off. Throughout the tour we will hear about the chequered past of Colombia in regard to the conflict between government and FARC forces, with a peace agreement finally being reached in 2016.
During the tour, you will learn much about the countries difficult history in conflict between government forces and marxist rebels as well as real insight into the explosion in narco trafficking activity during the 1980’s and 1990’s.
If Colombia was put in the spotlight by the Netflix series Narcos, so too was the beautiful city of Medellin. Once one of the world’s cocaine capitals, the city is a feature of our Colombia tour, a favourite of our own Global Village Tours staff and now a mecca for international remote workers. It’s skyhigh, slim apartment buildings against a backdrop of mountain peaks, electric nightlife and endless cafe culture are just part of what makes people want to stay.
We will also take a trip outside of Medellin to La Manuela estate, Pablo Escobar’s ranch. Our Colombia tour takes in some incredible landscapes including Tayrona National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountain range including some time spent with the Wiwa indigenous people and a night in an eco resort for some R&R after some amazing hiking and little known swimming spots.
Monday 25th April – Havana
- Group arrive at own leisure and transfer from Jose Martí International Airport to the Vedado part of Havana.
- An official taxi from the airport is CUC$25. Alternatively, we can arrange meet-and-greet pickup in an old 1950s American car for $50, or arrive in real style in a classic convertible for $95.
- On arrival at the casa, your guide will show you to your homestay (all have A/C and hot shower), where you will be free to relax or meet up with other group members to drink some cool beers.
- The group assembles at around 8:00pm for our introduction into the contemporary night scene of modern Havana.
- We head for dinner at Cafe Laurent, one of the oldest, and we feel best private restaurants, with a range of options to fit all budgets
- We finish the night in classic Cuban style by grabbing a carton (or two) of rum, and going to people watch on the Malecón – Havana’s famous seawall, known as the “sofa of the city”
- Overnight in Vedado
Tuesday 26th April – Cienfuego
- Early morning the group departs for the historic city of Cienfuegos
- On the way to Cienfuegos we stop off at a few places of interest such as the Australia Sugar Mill which is where Fidel commanding activities during the Bay of Pigs invasion.
- Depending on timing we take a stop at a famous crocodile farm which a chance to feed the friendly reptiles and even have photos with them (optional extra charge)
- Once reaching the Caribbean coast we travel along the picturesque Bay of Pigs past the site where the landing of counter-revolutionary exile militia occurred in 1961.
- Today we visit the museum here that recounts the events of this conflict which resulted in the first defeat of a US-backed takeover in Latin America. There are some beautiful places to stop for a swim along the way including a sinkhole which resembles a huge natural tropical fish tank, so make sure to pack your swimwear. SCUBA diving and snorkelling are optional activities here.
- We take our lunch Cuban style by the beach, before carrying on the journey
- On arrival you in with your host family, we will then have an opportunity to have a walking tour of the city. Cubans are known to be very proud people, and the citizens of Cienfuegos call their town La Perla del Sur (the pearl of the south). Founded by the French, Cienfuegos’ appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial hub, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades, and there is an ambience to inspire Cuba’s most celebrated Son singer to write the words “Cienfuegos is the city I like best”.
- We head for dinner at a very famous Cuban family restaurant that is very unpretentious and serves great food
- Night out drinking in the bars of Cienfuegos, with clubs available for the truly thirsty ones.
Wednesday 27th April – Cienfuegos/Trinidad
- Depart Cienfuegos for Trinidad which is a short 90 minute, or so journey
- The beautiful colonial city of Trinidad is home to numerous churches and many beautiful colonial buildings. On arrival here we stop for lunch at renowned pizza restaurant whilst your guides arrange our casa in the city
- After checking-in to our rooms in old part of the town we head out for a walking tour of the historic city of Trinidad, including the old town centre, an official cigar shop, and a slightly dodgy back alley one where cheap cigars are available. We finish off with another classic revolutionary museum before heading for some refreshments, which consists of the local Trinidad cocktail.
- We take some time to relax and get changed before heading out for the evening
- We head to a restaurant called La Redacción which serves contemporary fusion cuisine
- The nightlife in Trinidad is probably the most accessible and intense in all of Cuba, with numerous live music venues and many dance performances every day of the week, all amongst the enchanting setting of old colonial buildings and cobblestone streets.
- Overnight in homestay
Thursday 28th April – Trinidad
- In the morning we head to the Valle de Los Ingenios, the valley of the sugar mills, where the wealth of Trinidad came from in the 1800s.
- In the afternoon we offer a number of optional activities such as horse riding to a waterfall, salsa lessons, or free time to explore Trinidad at your own leisure.
- After a hard day in the sun, we offer a few hours to relax before again hitting the town
- There are a number of options for dinner depending on the hunger and mood of the group
- At night we head to one of our favourite places in the world, the infamous Cave Nightclub (one of the most legendary in Cuba) for a night of debauchery.
- Overnight in Trinidad
Friday 29th April – Santa Clara
- Today we travel to the city of Santa Clara, which was a key city in the triumph of the Revolution (3-hour drive)
- Depending on road conditions we can take a number of different routes around or through the Sierra del Escambray perhaps making a few stops along the way.
- We stop at a genuine tobacco farm to see the process of how farmers make the worlds most famous cigars, and for the adventurous try a little of the produce ourselves. This is a very uniquely Cuban experience
- Upon entering Santa Clara there is a huge statue of Ernesto Che Guevara, beneath which is the mausoleum where his remains are buried, as well as seeing the museum that is dedicated to “Che” the most iconic of all revolutionary figures
- We stop at one of the highlights of Santa Clara, the train that Che derailed during the revolution, which not only makes for a great picture stop but if you like Che hats and t-shirts this is tac heaven.
- Santa Clara is a nice town to spend the evening in, so after dinner, we head to El Mejumje, which is a famous local cultural centre with live music, comedy, and cabaret that very few foreigners visit.
- Overnight in Santa Clara
Saturday 30th April – Havana
- We head back to Havana in the morning, stopping at the open air October Crisis museum overlooking Havana bay, featuring Soviet nuclear missiles (thankfully now inert!) of the period in 1962 when the world came closer than ever to the brink of nuclear war.
- Lunch in city
- In the afternoon we have a city tour of Havana, encompassing the Plaza de las Armas, complete with a statue of Manuel de Cespedes, one of the leaders of the independence movement. We pass the spot where the city of Havana was founded almost 500 years ago. We visit the famous Museo de la Revolución to learn more about the revolution and its history.
- Visit to the Havana Club Museum of Rum! Free samples optional
- We head back to our casa for s freshen up for our last night in Havana
- For dinner we get ourselves all Presidential by heading to one of the restaurants where the Obamas dined. We will be taking a leisurely one hour stroll to the restaurant, or for those wanting to pimp it up a bit we offer optional hire of a Soviet-era limousine.
- Farewell drinks in the old town, with optional nightclub activities for those with the energy
- Overnight in homestay
Sunday 1st May – Havana – International Workers’ Day
- Trip Highlight – It’s party time, so we have breakfast at 6 am before leaving at 6.30am sharp!
- We head to the outskirts of the Plaza De Revolución where the festivities will be starting to begin to soak up some atmosphere and get ready for the start of the parade
- The actual parade starts at around 7.30 am, where we will join around a million Cubans parading through the plaza in a quintessentially Cuban fusion of fiesta and old-school communist procession. We’ll get a wave from the top leadership of Cuba, including outgoing president Raúl Castro.
- We end proceedings at the baseball stadium (previously visited by Obama) where we will be met by our bus for the drive to Old Havana
- Lunch in old Havana
- We head for a relaxed walking tour of Old Havana which includes various churches and some of the best Spanish colonial era architecture available anywhere in the world, including our favourite the Bacardi building!
- No trip to Old Havana would be complete without a bucket list trip to Hemingway’s favourite bar, the birthplace of the daiquiri cocktail.
- We head back to the casa for some rest and a change after the early start, or for those not so tired some beers on the Malecón
- In the evening we head for dinner at the famous Soviet-Cuban fusion restaurant, one of the legacies of Cuba’s cold war past complete with borsch, perogi and more Soviet propaganda than you can shake a stick at
- Drinks in Havana
Monday 2nd May – Viñales
- Depart at 11.00 am for Viñales, depending on Cuban bureaucracy! Our first stop is Lenin Hill, which is where the first ever statue of Lenin was erected following his death, this is very derelict and not at all touristy!
- Lunch at a Cuban style street restaurant
- We now visit the incredibly secret bunker where the Soviet Union stored the nuclear weapons that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis. This site is of extreme historical significance and was only recently discovered. This is not on the tourist trail!
- We now visit the former Soviet embassy, a huge example of socialist architecture, as well as some other Soviet-era tower blocks for some great fusion photos of Havana’s rich history
- We now take the 2-3 hour scenic drive to Viñales. On arrival, we check into our casa before heading out for dinner and drinks in this formerly sleepy town that whilst still relaxing now has a bustling nightlife.
- Overnight in Viñales
Tuesday 3rd May – Viñales
- In the morning we head to the prehistoric wall for some amusing photos before heading over to a tobacco farm for a chance to see the process of cigar making, as well as have a try of the produce
- Another great reason to come to this farm is for the stunning views of the surrounding rolling hills that you get from here
- Lunch at farm accompanied by great views
- Viñales is famous for its stunning caves, with a number being big tourist attractions, we avoid them like the plague grab our local guide and head to a cave that is (currently) relatively unknown. It takes an hours hike, and then heading through the cave network with lights before we hit the swimming part of the adventure. Truly stunning, so don’t forget the go-pro!
- We head back to the casa for a shower before heading out to a great vantage point to enjoy our last sunset with a cocktail as a group
- We finish our last night in Viñales with an authentic home cooked Cuban meal at our casa.
- Drinks and conversation in the rocking chairs on the patio to end our last evening
Wednesday 4th May – Havana
- Head back to Havana after breakfast
- Visit to El Capitolio. This astonishing building was erected in the 1920s – a time known as “The Dance of the Millions” in Cuba due to all the cash coming in from the sugar boom. Modelled on the US Capitol, it’s an incredibly opulent edifice and has recently been refurbished and reopened as the Cuban Parliament.
- Lunch and then we head to Jose Martí monument in Revolution Square. Practically every tourist to Havana sees this from the outside – but very few go inside. After several years closed, the elevators are now operational again, and it’s possible to go to the top of this monument, which is the highest point of the city of Havana! This is the closest you can get to the Palace of the Revolution, where the highest levels of the Cuban Communist party ran the country from. See if you can peep into Raul Castro’s office window!
- Dinner then head to the airport for late flight to Bogota.
Thursday 5th May – Havana/Bogota
- Arrival in Bogotá
- Head to the Military Museum where we even learn about the not commonly known role of Colombia in the Korean War!
- Walk around the Parque Simon Bolivar and see what the locals get up to outside of work
- Stop by the Congress and Supreme Court, which was seized by the Marxist guerrillas in 1985
- Lunch in the city
- We visit the Colon Theatre, which is where the peace process between the government and FARC was signed, as well as the Museo Banco De República, the main modern art museum
- Head to the south side of the city, the main working-class area, for a bit of people watching. We head for dinner and then for a Friday night salsa night to remember in the Colombian capital. If you can’t dance don’t worry, rum will be available
- Overnight in Bogotá
Friday 6th May – Sierra Nevada National Park
- We get up early for the under two hours 9am flight from Bogota to Cartagena
- On arrival, we transfer directly to the Sierra Nevada national park, which is home to many of the indigenous peoples of Colombia as well as its most diverse biosphere.
- Lunch in Sierra Nevada
- We will have lots of opportunities to explore the area and see wildlife
- At night we not only camp out in the reserve but also do the whole BBQ and rum thing
- Camping overnight
Saturday 7th May – Sierra Nevada National Park
- We visit one of the local indigenous peoples the Wiwa in an Indian Reserve in the mid-highlands to learn about how they live
- Local lunch with the Wiwa
- We head back to Cartagena, where we check into the hotel before heading out for dinner to a Peruvian restaurant and drinks in Café Havana
- Overnight in Cartagena
Sunday 8th May – Cartagena
- Cartagena is an old colonial city, so we spend the day touring around this historical city
- We check out the old town and the city walls, as well as its 500-year-old coral stone forts from the Spanish era
- Lunch at Interno, a restaurant staffed by former political prisoners
- Climb La Popa Hill for a great view of the area and visit the 17th century Santa Cruz monastery
- Check out the Spanish Inquisition Palace, where people were tortured and executed for crimes against Catholicism
- Head out for local food and drinks in the Cartagena old town
- Overnight in Cartagena
Monday 9th May – Medellin
- Take a 10am flight to Medellin, Colombia’s second city
- Medellin was the notorious crime-ridden home of drug lord Pablo Escobar, but since the mid-1990s things have calmed down a lot.
- Head to the famous Museo de Antioquia including the world-famous sculptures by Fernando Botero in the park outside the museum
- Go for dinner and drinks in Medellin
- Overnight in Medellin
Tuesday 10th May – Medellin
- Breakfast in the hotel before we jump on our bus to begin the tour of Medellin
- In the morning we drive out to visit a project that helps farmers change from cocoa growing to coffee, part of the plan to eliminate the drug trade in Colombia
- Lunch in a roadside almuerzo
- After lunch, we visit a village that was recently de-mined by a charity and learn about the impact that the civil war has had on the people
- Before dinner, we meet 2 former FARC soldiers who discuss their experiences during the civil war
- Dinner and overnight in Medellin
Wednesday 11th May – Medellin
- You can’t go to Medellin without learning about its most infamous resident, so we do the full Pablo Escobar tour!
- Our first stop is La Paz, the very modest community where Pablo grew up, with our local expert giving us a few interesting insights
- We then go to explore the many luxurious buildings used to launder his money, as well as check out his bombed-out safe in the Monaco building, which was where the first car bomb in Colombia was detonated
- After visiting Pablo´s prison or the “Cathedral”, get spectacular Medellin views and get ready to visit a private cemetery where siblings and cousins of the mafia boss finally rest even near Griselda Blanco or “black widow”, who was once Pablo´s mentor.
- We finish off the tour by visiting the infamous La Manuela Mansion, where the notorious drug lord lived his somewhat over the top lifestyle
- We take a boat over to the mansion where we will have enough free time to explore, take photos, and who knows maybe bump into a Hippo
- Overnight in Medellin
Thursday 12th May
- We get up early for our morning flight to Bogota, where the tour ends, with GVT being able to arrange ongoing transport or accommodation for those that need it.
- Alternatively join us for a tour extension to Cali, and find out about Escobar’s deadly rivals the Cali Cartel!
Cuba May Day Tour Highlights
- Start your Cuba tour in the capital city Havana, one of the coolest cities on the planet.
- Visit five Cuban cities during the tour, travelling from Havana on to Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara and Vinales
- At Global Village Tours, we take you to handpicked, authentic Cuban restaurants for the best Cuban food, not limited to a BBQ on a beautiful beach in Trinidad
- This tour is off the tourist trail and we get to check out some amazing beaches and little visited tropical swimming spots
- Get ready for vibrant Cuban nightlife with a lot of cool clubs, bars with a wide variety of music styles
Colombia Tour Highlights
- Extensive tour of Bogota highlighting all the key sites from the time of the war between the Colombian government and marxist rebels as well as checking out what makes the city great in these modern times.
- Visit to Medellin, Colombia’s second city – former cocaine capital of the world and of course, the former home of Pablo Escobar. We also visit Escobar’s former ranch, La Manuela Estate.
- Spend a night out in the Sierra Nevada national park with the indigenous Wiwa people as well as superb swimming and hiking.
- Some of Colombia’s best food can be found in the the historic city of Cartagena, you will have a chance to sample a lot of it!
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