HABANA VIEJA (Colonial Havana)
Habana Vieja is the birthplace of Havana and recently celebrated the 500th anniversary of its founding. Painted in the pastel colors typical of the region but with the feel of a continental European capital, you’ll walk down quaint cobblestone streets lined with shops, eateries, music halls and other attractions and explore the four main plazas in the area: San Francisco Square, Old Square, Main Square and Cathedral Square, as well as visit the Capitol Building, Grand Theatre of Havana, Central Park and Obispo Street. Take your time to soak in the spirit of the city and interact with the locals.
We begin with a tour of the old city and visit to Museo de La Revolución (Museum of The Revolution), where you can see history of world events told from the Cuban point of view. From there the tour continues and includes:
- Walk through the four main squares of Old Havana.
- Visit to the Hotel Raquel and the Orthodox Synagogue, Adath Israel.
- A stop at the legendary Hemingway hangouts (Bodeguita del Medio, Sloppy Joe’s, Ambos Mundos Hotel) where you can relax with a drink.
Following dinner, visit the iconic Hotel Nacional, a seaside hotel frequented by the rich and famous, and the best place in the city to enjoy a cigar by the water. Take your time, roam the garden, watch the peacocks and take in the majestic view of the El Morro in the distance.
JEWISH CUBA PART TWO
We’ll visit the United Hebrew Congregation Cemetery – the first of its kind in Cuba – on the outskirts of the city. While in a state of some disrepair, youth groups from the US have come to restore the graves and grounds to dignify the ancestors and history of Cuban Jews.
On our way back to town, we’ll stop at Finca Vigía or the “Lookout House”, where Ernest Hemingway penned some of his most important works including For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. The house remains exactly the way he left it on July 25, 1960, and artifacts from his life there are on display.
Once back in the city, we’ll visit the Centro Hebreo Sefaradí Synagogue, which is affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. We’ll walk through the Holocaust Museum and meet with community members to discuss religion in Cuba.
The Cuban cigar is known throughout the world as the pinnacle in the industry. To learn more, we’ll visit Viñales in Pinar del Rio province, home to some of the richest and most fertile tobacco soil. There we’ll meet a tobacco grower (veguero) at his farm (vega) and see how the tobacco for the world renowned Cuban cigars is cultivated, grown and rolled into Cuba’s most famous product.
From there, we’ll visit a coffee plantation tour where you will learn the rich history, production and distribution of the famous café cubano (Cuban coffee) which is typically prepared as a highly concentrated espresso and sweetened with sugar.
Before we say goodbye to the countryside, we will make a stop at the Mural de la Prehistoria (pre-history mural) a 120m by 180m mural on a rock face displaying a depiction of the evolution on the island from mollusk to man. This impressive site was commissioned by Fidel Castro in the early 1960’s and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Right outside Havana, we will visit the town of Soroa, home of over 700 types of orchids and other plant life on a stunning 7.5 acre garden. Soroa Orchid Botanical Garden is a registered UNESCO biosphere where the beautiful array of plant life is a must see!
No trip to Cuba is complete without a day (or two :)) at the beach! Varadero is home to some of Cuba’s most popular beaches, featuring pristine sugar white sands and crystal blue tranquil waters. Spend the day relaxing poolside with a mojito or daquiri or take a leisurely walk on the softest sands you’ll ever feel as you enjoy the gentle Caribbean sea breeze.