Cuba Off the Beaten Track: Santiago & the Oriente. Nov 5 – 12, 2018

This exciting new trip is for adventurous travelers who may or may not have been to Cuba before, and for those interested in a freewheeling, exploratory small-group experience on the less-traveled eastern side of the island.

We begin in Santiago, the seat of Revolution. We’ll visit artists in their studios and world-class son musicians in bars, cafés, and music houses. We’ll learn to salsa dance, take a tour of a cigar factory, discover the cultural importance of Afro-Cuban religions, and attend an authentic performance where trance-influenced dancers take on the characteristics of the Santería orishas. We’ll visit the governor-general’s house, one of the oldest buildings on the island; the cathedral that is host to Cuba’s patron saint, the Virgen del Cobre; and the fortified Morro fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site high on a hill overlooking the harbor. We’ll explore the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, were Fidel Castro is buried, and we’ll trace the path of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, including the famous Moncada Barracks that was the site of Castro’s famous attack in 1953.

Outside the city we’ll meet interesting local people as we explore small villages and remote beaches, climb historic San Juan Hill, and snorkel over the coral-encrusted wreck of a Spanish ironclad. Conditions permitting, we’ll make a very special long trek by 4×4 and on foot to the Revolutionary headquarters high in the wild Sierra Maestra Mountains.

After Santiago we’ll set out to explore the more remote regions of the Oriente, ending in lovely Baracoa, Cuba’s cacao-growing region, where the smell of chocolate fills the air and bicycles still outnumber cars. Here we’ll hike through cacao plantations and subtropical forests that are the last possible redoubt of the legendary ivory-billed woodpecker, and swim in crystal-clear rivers that unfurl into the warm azure waters of Cuba’s northern coast.

There will be time built into the itinerary for individual explorations as well. Because the group is limited in size, we will have the flexibility to take advantage of participants’ particular interests, with the spontaneity to take advantage of the sort of last minute happening that makes Cuba such a fun place to travel. In addition to a full daily schedule of arts and cultural exploration, we’ll have the opportunity to sample the cuisine in many of Cuba’s famous paladares (officially sanctioned restaurants located in private homes), and, of course, to experience Cuba’s justly renowned music scene.

The program is designed to be fully compliant with recent changes in the regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Space is limited to preserve the intimacy and flexibility of the experience, so we encourage you to reserve your place early. Please note that our itinerary in Cuba entails some hiking and extensive walking. Participants don’t have to be world-class athletes, but they should be able to walk a mile or two at a time and in reasonably good physical condition.

A note on our accommodations: We’ll be staying in carefully selected, well located, privately run casas particulares (bed-and-breakfasts) that get us off the main tourist track, allow unparalleled access to real Cuban neighborhoods, and provide a comfortable, hospitable base for daily cultural immersion and travel activities. Lodgings are well located, simple, and very clean, with excellent breakfasts served by our warm and welcoming Cuban hosts.

The program cost is $3250 (single supplement $500) includes all ground transportation, accommodations, all meals except 2-3 independent lunches or dinners, daily cultural and people-to-people activities, a lecture series on Cuban history and culture, local guides and experts, and museum entrance fees. A few independent meals give participants the chance to get a break from the group and sample Cuba’s famous paladares on their own. Participants will be responsible for booking their own international flights in and out of Santiago or Holguín.

To register: Contact Tim with any questions. Places are limited; reserve yours by sending a non-refundable deposit of $800 to Creative Travel Arts, LLC, 247 Beebe Rd, Putney, VT 05346. Balance due by October 15, 2018.

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