• Cuba

Overview

Explore contemporary Cuba through site visits, meetings & interviews with local residents. Students will learn about the country’s culture, political structure, domestic & foreign policies, as well as the importance of the Revolution in shaping Cuba’s modern identity. 

Highlights

  • Industry Visits - Sugar & tobacco dominated the Cuban economy for much of its history. Visit a factory where some of the finest cigars in the world are made. Then, see the Valley of the Sugar Mills, a center for sugar production in the late 18th Century.
  • Committee of the Defense of the Revolution - Meet with members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, an organization promoting social welfare & protecting its community from counter-revolutionary activity.
  • Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba - This museum is dedicated to Santería & features sculptures representing the different Afro-Cuban orishas (saint-gods). People still come to pray & give offerings to the various orishas, so you may even witness a Santería ceremony or ritual here.
  • Muraleando Project - Local artists began teaching workshops, but later moved into the streets where the seeds of “Muraleando” (mural-making) were sown. In a country where nothing is disposable, broken typewriters, old telephones & tire rims were all fair game to weld, paint & turn into sculpture.

Sample Itinerary

Day 1: Santiago de Cuba

Arrive at the airport in Santiago de Cuba and meet your guide. Transfer to your hotel to check in before enjoying dinner at a paladar (family-owned restaurant).

Day 2: Santiago de Cuba

After breakfast, enjoy a walking tour of the historic city center of Santiago de Cuba.  
Santiago is Cuba’s second-largest city and offers a culturally rich experience. The city is home to many traditional dances such as son, from which salsa has been derived. This area is the birthplace of many new forms of music and dance as a result of the influences of Afro-Caribbean culture. It's also known as the starting point for the Cuban Revolution. 
Explore the Emilio Bacardi Municipal Museum today where an eclectic collection of artifacts from the Bacardi family is split into three sections: history, art, and archeology. While the history and art sections are focused on Cuba, you’ll see archaeological findings that have been collected from all over the world. You can even see an Egyptian mummy!
Enjoy lunch at a paladar before heading to the Moncada Barracks. It was here that in 1953, Fidel Castro led a small group of revolutionaries on an armed revolt against Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship. While the rebels were severely outnumbered by Batista’s army, this event was just the beginning of what would become the Cuban Revolution. 

Day 3: Santiago de Cuba

Enjoy breakfast before exploring religion in Cuba. Start by visiting El Cobre’s Basilica, Cuba’s most revered religious building that has become a site for many Catholic pilgrims. While there are several versions of the story of this place, the most widely-accepted is as follows:
Three boys working in a mine in 1608 (one a slave) were gathering salt by the coast when they found a small statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, carrying a sign that said, “I am the Virgin of Charity.” They brought the statue back to the town, and for several years the idol was placed in small shrines. In 1630, when the mine’s slaves were freed, she replaced the statue of St. James in the church’s cathedral as symbol of the local people over the Spanish conquerors. To this day, the Virgin is believed to assist her people and has been credited with miraculous events. 
The town of El Cobre is also famous for its mines, the oldest in all the Americas.
After lunch on your own, you’ll have some time to visit cultural centers in El Cobre. This evening, enjoy dinner and a show at Noche Santiageura.

Day 4: Santiago de Cuba

After breakfast, spend the day learning about Santiago’s rich cultural heritage. Head to Cemeterio Santa Ifigenia, built in 1868 for those who lost their lives to the War of Independence and the yellow fever. Since then, many great historical figures have been buried here including José Martí and Fidel Castro. 

Next, visit the Castle of San Pedro de la Roca del Morro (Spanish Fort). This UNESCO World Heritage Site lies on the coast of Santiago de Cuba and overlooks the bay, a grand fortress that is one of the most well-preserved examples of Spanish-American military architecture. 

Day 5: Camagüey

Enjoy breakfast before transferring to Camagüey. A boxed lunch will be provided during your journey. 

Day 6: Camagüey

After breakfast, begin your day exploring Camagüey with a walking tour of “Camagüey Mitico.” This is the nation's third-largest city and is one of the first seven villages founded by the Spaniards in Cuba.  You'll notice influences of  various architectural styles, including: neoclassical, eclectic, Art Deco, Neo-colonial as well as some Art Nouveau and rationalism.
Enjoy lunch before visiting "Casa Natal del Ignacio Agramonte" – birthplace of independence hero Ignacio Agramonte, the cattle ranched who led the Camagüey revolt against Spain. His gun is one of the few personal items you'll find on display here.
Next, head to Quinta Amalia Simoni, a house built in 1848 by Dr. José Ramón Simoni Ricardo.  This is the only neoclassical, suburban mansion in the region that has survived and currently serves as the seat of the Chair of Women and Family of the University of Camagüey.
Enjoy dinner before a show at Casa de la Trova Patricio Ballagas. This is one of Cuba's best trova (traditional poetic singing) houses, where you can enjoy traditional music.

Day 7: Trinidad

After breakfast, you'll take a walking tour of Trinidad. Your guide will explain the city's history and colonial architecture as you stroll along the cobblestoned streets.
Enjoy lunch on your own before a walking tour of “Valle de los Ingenios.”  The valley of the Sugar Mills is a series of three interconnected valleys (San Luis, Santa Rosa and Meyer), were a center for sugar production in the late 18th Century. Today, the valley is UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site and home to several historic estates.

Day 8: Sancti Spiritus

Start your day with breakfast before an excursion to Sancti Spiritus, one of the oldest Cuban European settlements, founded in 1514. This city is known for the creation of the dapper guayabera (Latin America’s favorite men's shirt), the guayaba (guava) fruit and their quaint humpbacked bridge that is reminiscent of Yorkshire, England. In 2014 the city underwent intense beautification to celebrate its 500th anniversary.

Day 9: Santa Clara

Enjoy breakfast before you head out for a day trip to Santa Clara, known primarily for it's revolutionary landmarks. It's here that the last battle in the Cuban Revolution was fought in late 1958. The victory for Castro's troops is seen as the decisive moment in the Cuban Revolution

Day 10: Havana

After breakfast, transfer from Trinidad to Havana, Cuba’s colorful capital city. 
Once arriving in Havana, visit the Museum of the Bay of Pigs.  Also knows as the Brigade 2506 Museum, it commemorates the men of Brigade 2506 and their efforts in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. 
Enjoy lunch on your own before visiting the Korimakao Community Project in Playa Larga. This projects was founded 15 years ago to provide young artists with free community art, music, and cultural training. The project emphasizes theater, dance, poetry, and music as well as many other forms of art, in an effort to preserve Cuban cultural heritage.
Check into your hotel in Havana before heading out for dinner on your own.

Day 11: Havana

Enjoy breakfast before your walking tour of Havana’s Old City Center. There is no better way to experience the grandeur and history of Old Havana than visiting the many plazas and strolling along the streets interspersed with a mix of baroque and neoclassical style monuments.
After lunch on your own, pay a visit to the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba. This museum is dedicated to santería and features sculptures representing the different Afro-Cuban orishas (saint-gods) and is the first of its kind in the world.   People still come to pray and give offerings to the various orishas, so you may even witness a Santería ceremony or ritual here.
Afterward, stop by the Muraleando project, founded by local artists Manuel (Manolo) Díaz Baldrich and Ernesto Quirch Paz.  They began teaching art workshops in the neighborhood school but later moved into the streets where the seeds of "Muraleando" (mural-making) were sown. In a country where nothing is disposable and everything is useful, broken typewriters, old telephones, tire rims, wrought-iron chair parts - all were fair game to weld and paint and turn into sculpture.

Day 12: Havana

After breakfast, visit a cigar factory where you will learn how the finest cigars in the world are made. 
Next, head to the Museum of the Revolution, located in Old Havana. The museum is housed in what was once the Presidential Palace from the times of Mario Garcia Menocal to Fulgencio Batista.
Enjoy lunch on your own before visiting the Organopónico de Alamar, a sustainable farming community.   
After dinner (not included), head to El Morro Spanish fort to see a spectacular Cañonazo ceremony. The 9 o'clock gun fired from Fortaleza San Carlos de la Cabaña (Fort of St Charles) is accompanied by a ceremony of artillery cadets dressed in the 18th century uniforms of the Spanish colonialist who built the fort.

Day 13: Viñales

Enjoy breakfast before heading out for an excursion to Viñales. Start with a visit to Las Terrazas Community.  Las Terrazas is a small community and nature reserve in the municipality of Candelaria, Artemisa Province, Cuba. It is located in the Sierra del Rosario mountains, which was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1984.
After lunch on your own, continue on to Mural de la Prehistoria, a colorful mural painted on exposed rock. Then, stop by Cueva del Indio – a public park that was listed on the national Register of Historic Places in 2003 for its prehistoric rock art. 
Return to Havana for dinner on your own and an optional show at Tropicana.

Day 14: Flight to U.S.A.

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight home.