Groups of people interested in a certain subject (a hobby or a professional interest) like to travel together to a country where about this subject there is a story to tell. This happens in Cuba a lot where 400 years of Spanish colonization and 50 years of Socialist Revolution have formed the country in a unique way. On top it is an island in the Caribbean with a natural environment that has no comparison and a hospitable population and warm climate that makes any trip easy to enjoy.
On top to come to Cuba to study and investigate a certain topic brings you into contact with the local population and fits perfectly in the frame work of a people to people license. That’s why many American groups foremost use special interests tours as a way to visit the country which otherwise is forbidden to them.
But at Cubafortravel.com we do take these trips very seriously and go a long way to arrange visits around the topic. Getting into study centers, meeting with professionals, visit working places, all these things are not easy to get done in a country like Cuba. But at Cubafortravel.com we have the necessary contacts and legal framework to arrange those visits so the trip really becomes worthwhile even for the most serious aficionados.
Find below an example of a special interest tour around agriculture and gardening in Cuba.
Agriculture and Gardening
Day 1: Miami to Havana, Cuba
Early this morning you will depart your hotel for the airport to check in for our charter flight from Miami to Havana, Cuba. Charter flight times are not released until one month prior to departure. Your airline tickets and Cuban visas will be given to you when you check-in for your flight.
Collect your luggage and proceed through Cuban Customs which can, but rarely does, involve a luggage search and wait for the remainder of the group outside the customs area where your guide is waiting to greet you outside the terminal.
After clearing Cuban immigrations and customs, you are welcomed by your Cuban National guide, who will assist with the transfer to Old Havana (Habana Vieja) where we have lunch together at one of “Papa” Hemingway’s favorite restaurants, La Bodeguita del Medio, located in the heart of Old Havana. After lunch, our guide leads us on a stroll through the colorful cobblestone streets of Old Havana and Morro Castle with its magnificent views of Havana. We check into our hotel later this afternoon.
7:00PM: Meet your Earthbound Expeditions guide and walk to dinner this evening to one of Havana’s best known Paladars. Sleep in Havana (L, D)
Day 2: Organic Farms & Hemingway Haunts
We'll visit the UBPC Vivero Organopónico Alamar, 15 km (9.3 miles) east of Havana. It's one of the most successful urban organic farms in Cuba raising ornamental plants, medicinal herbs, and millions of seedlings for neighboring residential and collective farms. Established in the early 1990s by a dozen people, today the Alamar cooperative has over 400 members and provides a range of healthy, organic vegetables to nearby communities.
Produce is raised employing the practice of permaculture: no chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Instead, natural biological methods are used to nourish the soil, frustrate pests and conserve water. The result is an increased rate of yield and reduced costs.
After we are off to Finca Vigía [Lookout Farm] where North America's literary giant, Ernest Hemingway spent twenty-one of his most important and productive years penning building blocks of English literature. Claimed by both the United States and Cuba as their son, it was Hemingway himself who declared the island his true home. Before returning to Havana we stop by the quaint fishing village of Cojimar which served as the setting for The Old Man and the Sea.
Tour highlight this evening: We behold a most dramatic ceremony – El Cañonazo – the Firing of the 9PM Cannon at the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña.
Sleep in Havana (B, L, D)
Day 3: National Botanical Gardens, Las Terrazas and Fuster’s Art Gallery: After breakfast you’ll visit the National Botanical Garden in the outskirts of Havana. A workshop with various Havana Botanical Garden Society members has been arranged following your guided tour of the garden. You will have discussions with Dr. Angela Leyva Sanchez, General Director at NBG and Research Director Rosa Rankin. Afterwards there will be a reception in your honor and lunch at El Bambu ecological restaurant.
Then we depart for Las Terrazas. En-route you’ll travel through the lush countryside planted with sugar cane, corn, rice, and taro. With few vestiges of modernization, the region seems set back in time with farming communities still harvesting by hand and using horse and carts to transport goods to free markets. (The horse carts date back to the 15th century when the Spaniards used them to haul sugar cane to the factories). Las Terrazas in Pinar del Rio province is now part of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve, much of it reforested coffee plantation. Reforestation began in the late 1960s by the local farmers who were concerned that their land had been degraded by former French coffee barons. The first stop is at a quaint village overlooking a quiet lake.
Upon arrival enjoy a traditional lunch at a local farm.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS OF LAS TERRAZAS
Polo Montanez made his living initially as a farmer, but he would entertain his neighborhood at night with songs he wrote about rural life of the tobacco farmer. The Montanez family shows you his home and discusses how he helped his community by giving back financially to Las Terrazas when he became famous. This encounter would benefit travelers in focusing on the local heroes of Cuba, the farmers. Today the farming techniques are the same as they were in the 1960s with everything being done manually.
Mr. Jorge DuPort, watercolorist, is confirmed for your group but if he is not in residence, we have requested a visit with Lester Campas and his artisans in his studio at Las Terrazas. Mr. Campas is a young artist known for his unique paper recycling process, which he then uses for artistic expressions. Your guide will lead a people to people discussion with Campa and our travelers about recycled art in the US and Cuba. This movement to recycle in Cuba is not new – it was born out of the necessity in the late
1990s during the “special period” when Russia collapsed leaving Cuba without a major donor and trading partner.
This afternoon we stop at the private home and studio of famed Cuban artist, Jose Fuster who is known as the Picasso of the Caribbean. Mr. Fuster is a ceramicist and painter whose work has contributed to the upgrading of his entire community. Aside from discussing how he makes his art, he talks about how he started giving back to his community. When you drive through the neighborhood which is known as “Fusterlandia” you see ceramic tiled walls in fanciful designs. His first ceramic work was a gift to his neighbor who was a nurse. He transformed her front yard into a Disneyland of ceramic animals and mythical figures. Later, another neighbor asked for the identical work for his house. Soon Fuster was doing this free work for all his neighbors, which attracted many tourists and led to his popularity. As you learn about his work, you may be able to purchase his art directly if desired. Sleep in Havana (B, L, D)
Day 4: Havana-Cienfuegos-Trinidad
After breakfast, depart for Cienfuegos province, also known as the “Pearl of the South.”
In Cienfuegos, you will be able to see remnants of French style architecture built by immigrants from Bordeaux. The majority of the city however, displays 19th-century early Spanish Enlightenment implementation in urban planning and was declared a UNESCO heritage site for that reason. Arrive in the center of Cienfuegos and take a brief city tour to explore Cienfuegos’ magnificent wide boulevards and art galleries. A visit to an elementary school is also being arranged for you.
Enjoy lunch at the former Cienfuegos Yacht Club ocean-side restaurant (Club Naútico de Cienfuegos).
After lunch, continue your drive on to Trinidad and check-in to your hotel which is located on a beautiful beach. Sleep in Trinidad (B, L, D)
Day 5: Collante National Mountain Park
After breakfast, you’ll take a day trip to historic Trinidad. Your first stop will be at the Topes de Collantes National Park. To get there you’ll travel for 45 minutes in an open air Soviet truck into the lush mountains. Upon arrival you’ll enjoy a stop at an organic farm, lunch and a be given a talk on the biodiversity of this region. There will also be opportunities to take a light hike.
After lunch, return to Trinidad, where you’ll have a walking tour of the Old Center. On your walk, you will visit the Museum of Architecture for a guided tour and presentation on Trinidad’s architecture and the development of the city. You’ll also meet with the Ballet Folklorico for a dance and music performance!
In the late afternoon, return to your hotel. Sleep in Trinidad (B, L, D)
Day 6: Return to Havana via the Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens
Breakfast at the hotel and then depart for the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, founded 1899 by a land owner from New England and later maintained by Harvard University. The garden harbors a collection of some 2,000 species and is maintained by the Cuban Academy of Science.
Continue your drive and arrive in Havana late in the afternoon where you’ll check-in to your Hotel. Tonight dinner is on your own. Sleep in Havana (B, L)
Day 7: Finca Vigía - Museum of Fine Arts & Cuban Revolution
Today we visit Cuba's National Art Schools (Escuelas Nacionales de Arte, now known as the Instituto Superior de Arte), whose structures are considered by historians to be one of the most outstanding architectural achievements of the Cuban Revolution. These innovative, organic Catalan-vaulted brick and terra-cotta buildings were built on the site of a former country club in the far western Havana suburb of Cubanacán, which used to be Havana's "Beverly Hills" and was then mainly reserved for Communist Party officials. The schools were conceived and founded by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in 1961, and they reflect the utopian optimism and revolutionary exuberance of the early years of the Cuban Revolution. Over their years of active use, the schools served as the primary incubator for Cuba’s artists, musicians, actors, and dancers. The schools’ design fell out of favor by 1965 and was nearly completely decommissioned until preservation efforts were mounted in force in the 1990’s. Now tentatively on the list of World Heritage sites, they are in use, though still in various states of disrepair.
Lunch today is served at El Aljibe Restaurant located in the elegant Miramar section of Havana.
After lunch this afternoon, we visit the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), known for its international and Cuban art. You will visit the comprehensive Colección de Arte Cubano comprised of three floors of art, spanning works from the 16th to the 20th Centuries by prominent Cuban artists concentrating mostly on pieces from the 20th Century.
You’ll find just across the street from the Fine Arts Museum, the impressive Museum of the Revolution. Sitting outside you’ll find American Jeeps and planes used during the failed Bay of Pigs landing. Also worth noting, the yacht named “Granma” that was used to transport 82 Cuban fighters and Fidel Castro to the shores of Cuba from Mexico in 1956. We’ll have a brief tour of this museum after lunch.
Our gala dinner this evening is at La Fontana Paladar, a lovely private home restaurant. We’ll have a local band perform for us as we say our fond farewells to Cuba.
Sleep in Havana (B, L, D)
Day 8: Havana – Miami
We transfer to Havana’s Jose Marti Airport where we check in for our flight to Miami.