29th Edition of the Havana International Jazz Festival 2013, Havana Jazz Plaza
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Official Cuba Explorer Tours Seal. HAVANA INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL TOUR
For the 29th edition of the Havana Jazz Plaza
Sunday 15 to Monday 23 December 2013
The ultimate Latin music event and Cuban dream tour
Logo for JazzCuba.com HOT, THROBBING, LIVE Latin rhythms morning, noon and night on the ultimate Latin jazz and Cuban culture dream tour!

CUBAN JAZZ MASTER Chucho Valdés and the Cuban Institute of Music warmly invite you to come to Cuba and meet its people on the Official 2013 Havana International Jazz Festival Tour.

THIS IS OUR seventh year helping North Americans experience the world's best jazz in the exotic Caribbean capital of Havana, Cuba. During this globally renowned celebration of Latin music you'll rub shoulders with jazz greats from scores of nations. You stay in the best digs the Cuba has to offer. We keep our prices low so ordinary Americans attend. But our services and activities are five-star across the board. This Cuba tour is designed for participants to get an overview of island culture, history, and nature too. You'll enjoy best seats at all jazz festival performances and venues. You're treated as a VIP when traveling with Cuba Explorer Tours. You deserve it!

Logo of the Cuban Institute of Music (Instituto Cubano de la Música
2013 MARKS the 29th edition of the Havana International Jazz Festival (also known as Havana Jazz Plaza). For three decades the big names of the global jazz scene have performed on Havana stages at this grand music celebration, including the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Charlie Haden and Chucho Valdés. You'll be part of the stellar opening ceremony and the gala closing pageant with days of scorching Latin and international jazz in between.
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Your activities in Cuba video.
Your activities in Cuba video.
WATCH six minutes in Cuba!

COMMON CUBA QUESTIONS
Is Cuban food good? Yum. It is organic and tasty, but not spicy. If you like hot, bring Tabasco sauce.
Am I free to ask all questions? You'll insult your island hosts by being less than candid.
Is the water safe to drink? Yes, but we suggest bottled water.
Are vaccinations needed? No.
Can Americans visit Cuba legally? Yes. They should do so now while the island is pristine and before it is overrun. There is no charge for travel licenses.
Can I stay in Cuba after the tour? Absolutely! We encourage this and gladly assist for free.
How much money should I take? We suggest $75 to 125 per day.
Do Cubans like tips? Of course! See our gratuities guidelines.


Rooftops in Old Havana.
Rooftops in Old Havana near your hotel.


Clime and time in Havana now



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Best Cuban food.
We feature the best Cuban food.

29th Edition of Havana Jazz Plaza, Havana International Jazz Plaza.

Chucho Valdés is a living treasure in Cuba. He's also the big boss of the Jazz Festival. Visit his website. Chucho Valdés


Logo of United Nations Development Program (UNDP). See how Cuba ranks amongst its neighbors on the United Nations Human Development Index.
Cuba Tour Overview :: An elaborate day-by-day itinerary is below
Nine days and eight nights of music, fun, learning and friendship in Cuba. Want to stay longer? We make it happen for you at cost. Go for it! Euphonium musician in Havana
Euphonium player. Click to enlarge.
Attend the gala opening and closing ceremonies of the Jazz Festival and all events in between on a deluxe Gold Access Jazz Fest Pass.
Eight nights in the historic five-star Hotel Nacional in heart of Havana's pulsating entertainment district of Vedado.
An up close highly personal examination of Cuba's renowned music and arts scene, and a big dose of authentic island culture.
Be part of the daily life of Cubans in La Habana and Artemisa provinces.
Encounter a neighbor nation and kind people forbidden to Americans since 1959.
Glean insights into dynamic citizen engagement in all aspects of urban and rural development and national policy.
Establish enduring personal and professional relationships with your Cuban counterparts and North American tourmates.
You're in good hands while in Cuba with Cuba Explorer Tours
26th Havana International Jazz Festival
GOLD ACCESS Havana Jazz Festival Pass for every tour participant. This premium credential grants the bearer access to all jazz festival venues from December 20 to 23.
Cuba Explorer Tours guide.
SAFE, FUN, people-to-people cultural travel. Your tour is fully escorted by Cuban experts. From the minute you land in Havana until you go home, you will be in the conscientious care of our fulltime multilingual guide together with a professional bus chauffeur. They're there for you and eager to assist in everyway.
Official Cuban Travel Health Insurance required for foreign guests.
MANDATORY Cuban medical insurance is included in tour cost. This excellent policy covers all health issues that may arise while in Cuba. If you get hurt or take ill, you are not dinged with out-of-pocket expenses.
Legal Cuba Travel for Americans.
WE ENSURE Americans travel to Cuba legally. Find out how you can go to Cuba now. We've sent thousand of Americans to Cuba since 1997; not one has experienced complications. We assist free of charge with all licensing issues so you can go to Cuba legally without fear or concern.
Cuba logo.
TRAVEL FOR CHANGE  Cuba Explorer Tours is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its staff is from Cuba, America and Canada. We are dedicated to green, ethical social travel that benefits Cubans and our guests.
Havana's Best Restaurants.
BEST RESTAURANTS  Every traveler gets an exclusive Havana's Best Restaurants guide highlighting cuisines for every taste and budget. It's updated monthly based on reviews from our travelers and includes the places they found to be most delicious and service friendly. It features everything from street eats to elegant culinary encounters.
Club Cubano
CLUB CUBANO benefits apply to this tour. Club Cubano's no-obligation free membership means cash rewards, big discounts and no-cost travel. Become a Cuba Education and Explorer Tour travel agent and start generating income – even if you're not able to go to Cuba now.
Most Amazing and Fun Things to Do and See in Havana.
CUBA TRAVELER GUIDE  Every tour participant receives a Most Amazing and Fun Things to Do and See in Havana brochure. It begins with free activities and works it way up to overnight excursions outside Havana – all peer suggested and updated weekly based on returning traveler reports.
Apple indicates Cuba tour meals included at your hotel and at fine restaurants
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Get to know Cuba in comfort and safety
Cuba Education and Explorers Tours bus.
YOU DO CUBA in a modern air-conditioned tour coach with a fulltime professional chauffeur from arrival to departure. Havana is one of the oldest and most architecturally stunning cities in the New World. During your many excursions around the capital, and beyond, your guide provides ongoing historical commentary for all points of interest. We want you to learn everything about our beautiful island.

Several site highlights are Modern Havana, the Capitol building, the Grand Theatre, Central Park, Prado promenade, Plaza de la Revolución, Coppelia Ice Cream Park, Plaza José Martí (in front of U.S. Interests Section), Malecón seawall, Monument to the Battleship Maine, Hotel Nacional, University of Havana, Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón, and the Miramar, Central Havana and Vedado neighborhoods.
Your Cuba tour map
Map of Cuba.
Day 1 in Cuba Sunday 15 December :: Hello Cuba
Cuban girls perform folk dance.
Cuban girls perform folk dance.

Sunset on the Malecón seawall.
Sunset on the Malecón seawall near your hotel – a place for relaxation and new friendships.

One-in-ten cars in Cuba are pre-1959.
One-in-ten cars in Cuba are pre-1959. Click photo to enlarge.

Lord Byng faculty Richard Harris and 2009 LB Cuba tour student.
Why is this image of John Lennon here? Click it to find out.


Cuba jazz performer Music abounds in Havana on every corner and at every café.

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Havana's Gran Teatro.
Ornate filigree and statuary adorn Havana's Gran Teatro where the National Ballet performs. Click photo for view of interior.
Mojito
Learn to say: Un mojito por favor!
Arrival at Havana's José Martí International Airport.
Collect your bags and go through customs. You're welcomed at the airport lobby by your Cuba Explorer Tours guide and professional bus chauffeur.
Private group transfer to your hotel located in the heart of Havana's cultural district. (Airport transfers are available to travelers on Cubana de Aviación flights arriving from Cancún, Mexico.)
Hotel check-in with assistance from your guide.
This is a good time to exchange some money into Cuban Convertible Pesos.
Upon arrival, enjoy a welcome drink with tourmates, hotel staff and your guide.
Free time to settle in to your hotel room and freshen up.
Dinner at your hotel is included in tour cost
Group welcome dinner with your guide and tourmates. Participants arriving on non-Cubana de Aviación flights who might miss this dinner are given a voucher for a hotel dinner to be used at any time over the course of the tour.
Evening activities are optional and not included in tour cost
Your guide will keep you posted on entertainment options around the city.
The city of Havana as seen from the fortress El Morro, across the harbor
The city of Havana as seen from the El Morro castle and San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress, across the harbor from your hotel.
Day 2 in Cuba Monday 16 December :: Old Havana, architecture and history
Maqueta de La Habana Vieja
Incredible detail hallmarks the Maqueta de La Habana Vieja. It's a great way to get a sense of the city.

Cuban post box
Decorative mail drop box in Old Havana.
El Capitolio dome
Inside view of the dome of El Capitolio.

Exterior of the Cathedral of Havana Interior of the Cathedral of Havana.
Exterior and interior of the Cathedral of Havana initiated by Jesuits in 1748 and completed in 1777. Click photos for larger view.

Old building in Havana
Example of restoration in Old Havana.
Cuban mime
Street pantomime in Old Havana.

La Divina Pastora Restaurante.
Restaurante La Divina Pastora, located in the Parque Histórico Morro y Cabaña overlooks Havana harbor with an incredible view of the city.

Cuban soldier guards Carlos de la Cabaña fortress. Turret at Carlos de la Cabaña fortress.
Left Contemporary Cuban soldier in 18th century British military attire guards the Carlos de la Cabaña fortress (click his photo to enlarge). Right Cabaña turret.

Ancient map of Havana.
British map from 1763 shows plan of the original walled city of La Habana (founded in 1519). The city was occupied by British and Canadian colonial troops from 1762 to 1763. Spain ended the dispute by trading Florida for Havana. Click here for another British occupation map. Try to identify it on this interactive Google Map of Cuba.

Cuban soldiers fire the 9PM cannon.
Soldiers fire the 9PM Cannon at the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, the best-preserved Spanish colonial garrison in the world.

Accomplishments of the Cuban education system.
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Musician in Havana.
Music is pervasive. Musicians perform in every cafe, hotel, town square and street corner.
Breakfast at your hotel is included in tour cost
Lay of the land  Morning visit to the Maqueta de La Habana Vieja [Scale Model of Old Havana] to learn about this community and its development plans. It's a 1:500 scale model of Old Havana complete with an authentic soundtrack meant to replicate a day in the life of the city. It's incredibly detailed and provides an excellent way of geographically acquainting yourself with the city's original core.
Next we'll take a walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We'll visit four of the five historic plazas that make Havana unique in the western hemisphere. These plazas contain the largest collection of Spanish colonial-era architecture in the Americas. This is a private tour led by your Cuba Explorer Tours guide. You'll witness:
Havana's Cathedral Square.

Cathedral Square, the most beautiful and private 18th century colonial plaza on the island. Named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture: the Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana built by the Jesuit order.
Square of Arms in Havana

Square of Arms, an ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers, surrounded by such impressive buildings as:

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, former seat of colonial government. Today the building houses the Museum of the City.

Palacio del Segundo Cabo [Palace of the Second Lieutenant] dates from 1770. Today it houses the Instituto Cubano del Libro [Cuban Book Institute] and the Galería Raúl Martínez (famed poster artist).

Museo de Artesanía at Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the oldest remaining fortress built by the Spaniards in the West Indies.
Plaza San Francisco in Old Havana.

We will continue onto San Francisco Square, one of the oldest plazas in the historical quarter. The square is named after the magnificent Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asís dating from the 16th century. The basilica is a striking example of Cuba baroque architecture.
Plaza Vieja in Old Havana.

And, finally we'll visit Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. In contrast to the churches and government buildings of the previous squares, Plaza Vieja is surrounded by opulent aristocratic 17th century residences. Here we'll tour an important center for the visual arts.
Lunch this afternoon is included in tour cost
La Mina mosaic
La Mina mosaic.
Group welcome lunch at the ever-popular Café La Mina. Situated in a former girls' school from the 17th century, the building housing La Mina graces a scenic corner of Plaza de Armas [Square of Arms], Havana's oldest public space. The atmosphere is authentically Cuban as is its menu. Three dining areas face a central courtyard filled with ferns, trees and exotic birds. La Mina serves up excellent Daiquiris and Mojitos. There's a tempting heladería [ice-cream parlor] attached. Yum! The menu includes typical Cuban cuisine specialties, served in a quaint Cuban atmosphere. You can choose among chicken, pork and prawns cooked in a variety of ways. The house specialty is the combo Caribeña La Mina, which is a sauté of chunks of chicken, pork, and shrimp in a tasty sauce with a hint of rum, and comes with a mojito cocktail, black beans and white rice, roasted pork with Cuban flavor, and dessert.
Ernest Hemingway.
Ernest Hemingway called Havana the Paris of the Americas.
Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José arts and crafts market.
Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José arts and crafts market.
Afterwards we'll visit the Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José. This marvelous new restoration of an old dock warehouse has resulted in a gigantic market exhibiting the wares of hundreds of Cuban artists and craftspersons. You'll find thousands of souvenirs, beautiful paintings, photographic prints, guayaberas (traditional Cuban shirt), woodwork, leather items, jewelry, painted ceramics and handcrafted cigar boxes, to name a few of the many authentic items for sale. The market also hosts food and beverage venues, money exchange facilities, public toilets and telephones.
Return to your hotel and freshen up.
Dinner tonight is included in tour cost
Now for a special group dinner at Restaurante La Divina Pastora. This seafood palace sets just behind the big cannons below Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña where Che Guevara established his headquarters after the Revolution came to power in 1959 – four hundred years after it was built on the backs of African slaves and indentured European laborers. La Divina is noted for its cocktails, good service and live music. You'll eat near the water on the north side of Havana Harbor overlooking Old Havana to the south.
ESPECIAL! Evening activity included in tour cost
Tour highlight  We will behold a most dramatic ceremony – El Cañonazo – the Firing of the 9PM Cannon at the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña. This enchanting colonial reenactment dates back to 1519 when the city of Havana was enclosed by a tall thick rock wall to ward off attacks from pirates and the English. The cannon firing signaled the closing of the city gates for the night. If you were outside at the time, you were in "vedado" or the forbidden zone. Today Vedado is an important cultural hub and beautiful section of modern Havana.
Day 3 in Cuba Tuesday 17 December :: Natural splendor of rural Cuba, Cuban cooking
Taíno Indian Chief Hatuey

FIRST HERO OF THE CUBAN PEOPLE
Taíno Indian Chief Hatuey from the island of Hispanolia traveled to and warned his Cuban counterparts about the horrific dangers of the impending Spanish invasion in the year 1511. Read about his legendary struggle – that of the premier independence and resistance fighter in our Americas who staked his life for freedom from foreign occupation and thralldom.

Cuban Trogon (Tocororo), Priotelus temnurus, is Cuba's national bird.
Cuban Trogon [Tocororo locally], Priotelus temnurus, is Cuba's national bird – its red, blue and white colors match the island's flag. It is endemic to the island.

Cuban Jutía
La jutía, the largest endemic island mammal, is a rodent the size of a cocker spaniel. These gentle tree-dwelling vegetarians are the preferred breakfast of the fierce Cuban crocodile.

Las Terrazas village
Lake and camping huts for locals in Las Terrazas.

El Santo Ángel Restaurant
El Santo Ángel Restaurant.

Cuban women's accomplishments by the numbers.
Click to graphic to learn more.
Breakfast at your hotel is included in tour cost
Once completely deforested as a result of charcoal production for coffee processing, and mired in poverty, Las Terrazas today is a self-sustaining eco-community.
Cuban airlines
Las Terrazas pool Heavenly pool at Las Terrazas.
Morning departure to Las Terrazas eco-community in the Sierra del Rosario mountain range spanning the provinces of Artemisa and Pinar del Río.

We'll tour the rural village called Rancho Curujey and enjoy a welcome cocktail while learning about this self-sustaining community's successes in reforestation, historical preservation, environmental balance, and a good life.
Next, we'll meet with local artists and craft workers in their homes and studios.
We'll visit a local school and talk with its teachers and students.
Later we'll walk the incredible ruins of a French Coffee Plantation built in 1801 worked by African slaves.
Lunch this afternoon is included in tour cost
We have lunch at an open-air restaurant specializing in traditional country cuisine – La Casa del Campesino – ever popular with tour participants.
You'll have free time to swim in the fresh waters of the Río San Juan and explore the surroundings of this lush tropical paradise. Don't forget your swimming suit.
We'll meet the environmental scientists and technicians responsible for the restoration of the jungles and forests of Las Terrazas. We'll learn the principles, approaches and practices that combined serve to sustain the region.
Return to Havana.
ESPECIAL! Dinner tonight is included in tour cost
Set within a beautiful colonial mansion, El Santo Ángel Restaurante enjoys the enchanted atmosphere of Plaza Vieja. Its stately inner courtyard is lined with plants to which many birds flock. Its menu features nueva Cubana cuisine and superb international dishes. There is always fabulous live music to accompany your meal.

Nueva Cubana cuisine Learn to cook nueva Cubana cuisine.
Tour highlight  Tonight you'll learn the secrets of nueva Cubana cuisine from the master chef and food staff at El Santo Ángel Restaurante. You'll watch the chef ready your dinner in the privacy of the restaurant's kitchen. You'll be led through each step in the preparation of your entrée and side dishes. This is a rare chance to learn unique Cuban techniques and methods – and bring them home to your family to enjoy. Learn more about the basics of Cuban cuisine.
ESPECIAL! Evening activity included in tour cost
Dance in Cuba.
Club Salseando Chévere.
Tour highlight  9:00 PM Noche de fiesta cubana – a special welcome party organized by Cubans for tour participants at Club Salseando Chévere! This is renowned venue gets the hightest marks for fun and salsa in the city. It's a great opportunity to meet new people, make new friends and dance.
Cuban bananas Cuban coffee beans Cuban cucumbers Cuban pineapple Cuban sweet potatoes Cuban eggplant Cuban advocados
Many staples are grown organically in Cuba: Bananas, coffee, cucumbers, pineapple, sweet potatoes, eggplant, and avocados.
Day 4 in Cuba Wednesday 18 December :: Cuban community center and the arts
Doña Flora, a 102-year-old resident of the Belén Convent. Belén Convent in Havana.
Left Doña Flora, a 103-year-old resident of the Belén Convent. Right Tower and entrance to the Convent of Our Lady of Belén.

Giant mosaic of crab by José Fúster.
Giant mosaic of crab by José Fúster. Click photo to enlarge. Photo Richard Harris.

Fantasy garden and studio of acclaimed artist José Fúster
Fantasy garden and studio of acclaimed artist José Fúster. Click photo to enlarge. Photo Richard Harris.

Lunch entrée at the home of Cuban artist José Fúster.
José Fúster's lunch dishes are as colorful as his sculptures.

Cuban orchid
Exotic and unique plants and animals thrive in Cuba. The island has more protected areas than any other country.
Cuban farm girl
Young person staffs farmers market.

Cuban boy and his grandmother.
Boy toasts his grandmother [abuela]. Cuban youth hold elders in high regard. The island is known as the Jewel of the Caribbean for its natural beauty and the unmatched warmth and kindness of its people.

Logo of United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Jazz fiends collect festival passes as if they were missing stamps to complete a rare collection. This Havana pass is No. 294 from 2004.
Waves against the Malecón
The warm blue waters of the Caribbean crash up against the Malecón seawall in Havana.
Breakfast at your hotel is included in tour cost
Restoration of Belén Convent began in 1991.
Restoration of the Convent of Our Lady of Belén began in 1991 and continues today. It serves as a public health facility for the elderly in the neighborhood and a permanent residence for 50 retirees. Eventually a section of the facility will house a small hotel.
Visit to the Convento de Nuestra Señora de Belén [Convent of Our Lady of Belén], a humanitarian health project in Old Havana. Construction on the Convent was begun in 1712. It was expanded and remodeled several times over the centuries. Finally abandoned in 1925, it fell into grave disrepair. In 1991 restoration began and continues with amazing results. Today the Office of the Historian, local Public Health authorities and the Order of the Sisters of Charity jointly manage the Belén Convent. It is home to fifty elderly people and provides physiotherapy and ophthalmological services to many more seniors in the community. Other activities include exercise classes, board games, cognitive rehabilitation, films, crafts workshops, and "love among the elderly" lectures. We'll meet with project Director Nelson Águila and tour the facility.
Lunch this afternoon is included in tour cost
José Rodríguez Fúster
José Rodríguez Fúster.
Tour highlight  We'll feast on a delicious lunch hosted by José Rodríguez Fúster, one of Cuba's most important ceramists and painters, at his whimsical studio in Jaimanitas, just outside of Havana. Fúster is known as the Picasso of the Caribbean and his art is acclaimed internationally. His artistic mission has been the rehabilitation and decoration of the village of Jaimanitas where he lives. Fúster has decorated over 80 houses with ornate murals and domes to suit the personality of his neighbors. Nowadays, Fúster's art is a cherished part of Cuban culture and joins the rank of other public artworks such as that of Gaudi in Barcelona or that of Brancusi in the Romanian city of Targu Jiu. He supports his community project through the sale of his paintings and ceramics.
Return to your hotel and freshen up. The balance of the day is free for you to explore the sights and sounds of the city.
Dinner tonight is not included in tour cost
This evening you are free to explore stellar eateries. Tour participants receive a guide featuring Havana's best restaurants for every taste and budget. It includes both paladares [small private diners] and fabulous state owned locales run by acclaimed Cuban chefs.
Evening activities are optional and not included in tour cost
Club La Zorra y El Cuervo.
Jazz Cafe in Havana.
Havana's Jazz Café.
Entertainment suggestions  Shake your booty to the best Afrojazz, Cubajazz and Sonjazz at Club La Zorra y El Cuervo [The Fox and the Raven] featuring astonishing performances by island bands. It's a popular haunt for Cubans and foreign guests. Or, enjoy a light dinner and evening of music at the Jazz Café. It's a popular modern jazz supper club with chrome trimmed tables and fairly bright lighting located on the Malecón seawall in the Galerías de Paseo shopping center. At night the venue swings into action with live jazz, timba and, occasionally, straight-up salsa. It attracts plenty of big-name acts.
Youths and fishers on the Malecón
Youths and fishers on the Malecón at sunset in front of your hotel.
Day 5 in Cuba Thursday 19 December :: Hemingway, farms, Jazz Opening Ceremony!
El Torreón de Cojímar
El Torreón de Cojímar, a fortress built in 1645, protected the bay from pirates.

Youth at play in Cojímar
Youth at play in Cojímar.

Monument to Hemingway in Cojímar
Monument to Hemingway in Cojímar. Village fishers cast this metal bust center above from old anchors, props and tools. They had no money for new materials. Inscription reads, "In loving memory of the people of Cojímar to the immortal author of Old Man and the Sea." A plaque below the bust reads: Sculpted with the contributions of the Fishermen Cooperative of Cojímar.

Merchant at Mercado de Cuatro Caminos
Merchant at a farmers market offers organic pineapple and papaya.

Youth at a Cuban baseball game.Youth at a Cuban baseball game, the island's national sport and pastime. Click photo to enlarge.

Cuban farm boy
Cubans enjoy lifelong free healthcare and education combined with inexpensive housing, utilities and childcare.
Cuban high school students in Havana
Breakfast at your hotel is included in tour cost
War reporter, activist, man of letters, journalist and titan author Ernest Hemingway. War reporter, activist, man of letters, journalist and literary titan Ernest Hemingway.
This morning we're off to visit Finca Vigía [Lookout Farm] where North America's literary giant Ernest Hemingway spent twenty-one of his most important and productive years penning the 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. The house has been preserved just as it was when Hemingway lived there. You'll see his personal objects, thousands of books and photographs, as well as some "trophies" bagged on his frequent safaris.
Logo of the British Broadcasting Corporation  In preparation for this afternoon's activity, watch this riveting British Broadcasting Corporation feature from Around the World in 80 Gardens on urban organic farms in Havana including a walk-through of Vivero Organopónico Alamar by fab host Monty Don.



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, the Alamar cooperative now has over 400 members and provides a range of healthy, organic vegetables to nearby communities.

Cuban "eggplant," ha ha ha! Eggshells are affixed to tips of medicinal aloe vera plants to thwart bird attack.
Produce is raised employing the practice of permaculture. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used. 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.
Lunch this afternoon is included in tour cost
La Terraza restaurant and bar in Cojímar.

We'll have lunch at Hemingway's favorite bar and diner La Terraza. Our suggestion is a glass of ice cold "Cristal" cerveza, or lemonade, and camarones al ajillo [garlic shrimp] fried in olive oil, and seasoned with garlic and parsley – delicious! The young boy in the novel "Old Man and the Sea," Manolin, was based on the young son of the original owner of La Terraza, Manolito.
Next we'll visit Cojímar, a small costal fishing village northeast of Havana where Ernest Hemingway kept his boat during the decades he lived in Cuba. Cojímar was the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea.
Return to your hotel and freshen up.
Dinner tonight is not included in tour cost
This evening you are free to explore stellar eateries. Tour participants receive a guide featuring Havana's best restaurants for every taste and budget. It includes both paladares [small private diners] and fabulous state owned locales run by acclaimed Cuban chefs.
Evening: Havana International Jazz Festival activities
Cuban orchid.
JAZZ FESTIVAL OPENING CEREMONIES  We're off by coach to the big event! Tonight you'll experience the incredible sounds and melodies of world jazz greats. You'll be part of a tradition that has spanned three decades and provided a launching pad for young musicians who've gone on to fame and notoriety. Cameras and videos are welcomed to capture memories of this grand occasion.
Day 6 in Cuba Friday 20 December :: Afrocubanismo and the Havana Jazz Festival
Casa de Africa entrance sign.
Entrance sign to the Casa de África.


The House of Africa supports traditional and contemporary music and dance.


Drums used by Conjunto Folklórico.

Yemaya, African goddess of the sea Regla's church honors a black goddess who protects fishers and sailors.

Yoruban "Virgen de Regla" Yemayá
Yoruban "Virgen de Regla" Yemayá is paraded across the community on the Day of All Saints.


Conjunto Folklórico poster.


Painting reflects African slave dance.


Young dancer with Conjunto Folklórico de Regla.

Havana Club poster. Pre-Revolution Bacardi poster invites Cubanos to switch from beer to rum. The label Havana Club is now owned by the Cuban people.
End of the day for one of Havana's thousands of hardworking musicians.
Breakfast at your hotel is included in tour cost
Casa de Africa logo.Morning visit to the Casa de África. Established in 1986, this museum and cultural center is located in an old tobacco warehouse in Habana Vieja. It focuses on the continent of Africa and Cuba's African heritage, reflecting in a simple, but deep way, history, religion, art, wisdom, and emancipation battles. The Casa de África is devoted to research and the promotion of African culture and how it has shaped and defined Cuban culture. The Casa conducts workshops for youth, hosts theoretical events, special exhibits, and music and dance performances. Cuba claims both Africa and Europe as its mother continents. The museum reflects the traditions, customs and celebrations comprising the ancestral wealth of Africa for the enjoyment and knowledge of new generations.

Fernando Ortíz Fernando Ortíz, master Cuban ethnographer.
Gallery collections include initiation and fecundity masks, large carved wooden sculptures, wardrobes, musical instruments, and paintings. It also holds a vast library for use by academicians, researchers and university students interested in acquiring knowledge of the African culture. Among the most significant objects is the library of Fernando Ortíz, master Cuban ethnographer.
Lunch this afternoon is included in tour cost
Restaurant Bar La Imprenta is a fabulous new eatery in Havana that's getting rave reviews for its menu and décor. Set within a gorgeous building that once housed the printing press for a major 19th century publisher of La Habanera magazine. Old bits of printing equipment serve as decoration in the new bar. The restaurant offers a wide variety of cocktails and beverages in addition to light snacks and grilled meats and delicious seafood.
Next we'll cross Havana harbor to the Municipality of Regla. This Afrocuban community has a long, rich and still active tradition of African-inspired religions.
We'll visit Regla's church dedicated to the black "Virgen de Regla" Yemayá, the African goddess of the sea in the Yoruba religion and the patron saint of sailors.
We'll tour the Museo Municipal de Regla and learn of the origins of this unique community and its Afrocuban cultures.
Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba performance.
Conjunto Folklórico de Regla.
Exclusive dance presentation  While in this vibrant Afrocuban community, we'll be honored by a private performance of Conjunto Folklórico de Regla.
Return to your hotel and freshen up.
Dinner tonight is not included in tour cost
This evening you are free to explore stellar eateries. Tour participants receive a guide featuring Havana's best restaurants for every taste and budget. It includes both paladares [small private diners] and fabulous state owned locales run by acclaimed Cuban chefs.
Evening: Havana International Jazz Festival activities
2013 Havana Jazz Fesitival logo.Jazz Festival Performances  You're off to imbibe in stellar musical events. Tonight you'll experience the incredible sounds and rhythms of world jazz greats. Pick your venue and hop into a taxi to celebrate. Group transportation is not provided this evening as there are too many different activities. A taxi only costs between three and four Cuban Convertible Pesos.
Performance at Havana's Tropicana Cabaret.
Performers at the notorious Tropicana Cabaret.
Afrocuban dance performance. Afrocuban dance performance. Afrocuban dance performance. Afrocuban dance performance.
Scenes from an Afrocuban dance performance in Havana. Photos Barbara Fudge.
Day 7 in Cuba Saturday 21 December :: Time to explore and the Havana Jazz Festival
Cuban modern dance performer.
Modern dance performance.

Cuban Jazz Festival performers.
Jazz Festival band and dancers perform on the Malecón.

Afrocuban folkdance
Traditional Afrocuban dance.

Jazz Fest enthusiasts hit the streets.
Jazz Fest enthusiasts hit the streets.

Community Rumba performance in Havana's Callejón de Hamel.
Community Rumba performance in Havana's Callejón de Hamel.

Coca-Cola advertisement.
Carefree pre-Revolution days. 1958 Coca-Cola advertisement features Americans lounging on Cuba's famed beaches. Ad copy reads: "Colorful Cuba, too, enjoys… 'The favorite of the world.'" Click photo to enlarge.

Banana blossom -- spectacular! Bananas grow "up-side-down." Bananas grow upside-down. Spaniards brought them to Cuba in 1516. Click to enlarge.

Cuban youth snake dance
Cuban youth snake dance in the island's annual Festival – a Latin America tradition, also with strong Afrocuban influences.
Cool young Cuban trumpet player.
Young musician charms locals and guests alike on a Havana street corner.
Breakfast at your hotel is included in tour cost
Morning and afternoon is your freedom to explore time. You're at the beck and call of the magic that is Cuba, its people and their incredible culture. Let's get started!
Cuban tropical fish
Awe! Snorkeling in Cuba.
Cuban beach boy Baby sea turtle in Cuba
Baby sea turtle. Cuba protects its coastlines from exploitation of marine life.
Beach Trip!  Oh wow. How about a day excursion to the sugar white sand beaches of Playas del este [Eastern beaches] just twelve miles outside the metropolis? Ever popular with Cubans, and lacking foreign tourists, the Playas del este rival the best seaside destinations in the Caribbean. While there you'll have plenty of time to snorkel, explore surrounding nature and make new Cuban friends. Don't forget your swimwear and sunscreen; el sol shines stronger on the island. This is one of many exciting excursions that can be arranged at the tourist desk in your hotel.
Afrocubanismo  Many years ago Fidel Castro declared Cuba as an African Spanish nation. African influences permeate everything: food, music, architecture, art, dance, you name it. Cuba is a celebration of color and a fresh healthy take on race and human relations. Cubans come in every color, and they are proud of it. Guanabacoa is a community in eastern Havana. It's famous for the practice of the Santería religion. Your activities guide gives directions.
Nature at its best  Lush tropical vegetation abounds in and around Havana. This city is dotted with urban organic gardens (which contribute to nearly half of fresh produce consumed). Nature trails line the main river Almendares. The Parque Metropolitano is a wonder to behold. Outside the city is the bountiful Botanical Gardens, home to thousands of tropical specimens. Natural highlights are detailed in your activities planning guide.
Dance and music  Hot throbbing Latin rhythms greet visitors at nearly every corner and restaurant. Havana hosts dozens of happening night spots with tunes ranging from Salsa, Son, Rumba, Mambo, Merengue, Samba, Tango, Jazz, Hip Hop, Rueda, Reggaeton and much more. And at every venue you can dance into the wee hours of the morning! Your activities planning guide lists them all.
Lunch this afternoon is not included in tour cost
On the beach in Varadero.
Today you can revel on the beach. Enjoy the sugar white sand and warm crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. You deserve it!
Dinner tonight is not included in cost
This evening you are free to explore stellar eateries. Tour participants receive a guide featuring Havana's best restaurants for every taste and budget. It includes both paladares [small private diners] and fabulous state owned locales run by acclaimed Cuban chefs.
Evening: Havana International Jazz Festival activities
2013 Havana Jazz Fesitival logo.Jazz Festival Performances  You're off to imbibe in stellar musical events. Tonight you'll experience the incredible sounds and rhythms of world jazz greats. Pick your venue and hop into a taxi to celebrate. Group transportation is not provided this evening as there are too many different activities. A taxi only costs between three and four Cuban Convertible Pesos.
Old car in Havana.
One-in-ten autos in Havana are pre-1959. Many are in top-notch condition. Some are for hire.
Day 8 in Cuba Sunday 22 December :: Incredible art, music, and Jazz Fest Gala Event
Entrance to Palacio de Bellas Artes in Havana.
Entrance to the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Sculpture in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana.
Modernist sculpture by noted Cuban artist Rita Longa stands outside the entrance to Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Wifredo Lam. Zambezia, Zambezia, 1950.
Wifredo Lam. Zambezia, Zambezia, 1950. Oil on canvas. 49 3/8 x 43 5/" (125.4 x 110.8 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Wifredo Lam. Self portrait. Wifredo Lam. Self portrait.

Life size metal sculptures of elephants in Havana's Plaza Vieja.
Life size metal sculptures of elephants in Havana's Plaza Vieja by island artist Fonseca. Cuba's capital is an effervescent creative art space – a visceral feast for art lovers worldwide.

El Patio Restaurant, Havana, Cuba.
Farewell dinner at Restaurante El Patio.
Breakfast at your hotel is included in tour cost
Mural at the entrance of Museo Bellas Artes.
Striking 15 meter (49 foot) mosaic tile mural at the entrance of Museo Bellas Artes.
Victor Manuel's Gitana Tropical Island artist Víctor Manuel's Gitana Tropical, known as the Cuban Mona Lisa, was painted in Paris in 1929.
Followed by a private guided tour of the Palacio de Bellas Artes [Palace of Fine Arts] dedicated exclusively to housing Cuban art spanning three centuries. Sections are devoted to landscape, religious subjects and narrative scenes of Cuban life. A gallery devoted to the 1970s displays the latest generation of Cuban artists whose works reflect the strong symbolic imagery prevalent in recent decades. Together the exhibits account for the richness of the island's Spanish, French, Chinese, African and Aboriginal cultural roots. Notable works include those of René Portocarrero and Wilfredo Lam.
Callejón de Hamel

We'll visit the Callejón de Hamel, an alley where all the buildings display murals inspired by Afrocuban culture and religions. While there we'll take in an incredible rumba performance enjoyed by the community every Sunday.
Lunch this afternoon is not included in tour cost
Troubadour at Callejón de Hamel
Troubadour at Callejón de Hamel, a micro-community of Afrocuban musicians and muralists.
The balance of the afternoon is free for you to explore the city on your own or with you tourmates.
Dinner tonight is included in tour cost
Tour highlight  Farewell group dinner at the popular Restaurante El Patio. Located in the Cathedral Square, El Patio is housed in a beautiful 18th century residence, the former Palace of "Marqués de Aguas Claras." Its advantageous position provides a splendid panorama of the stunning historic surroundings. It also has an inside court and one terrace overlooking the famous Plaza de la Cathedral. Construction began in 1751 and ended in 1755. The house is considered one of the most interesting architectural structures of its era. El Patio's menu will please even the most diverse tastes. It offers stellar service and tasty Cuban and international cuisine.
Evening: Havana International Jazz Festival activities
Cuban orchid.
Havana Jazz Festival band.
Expect the very best musicians at the closing ceremonies of the Havana International Jazz Festival.
JAZZ FESTIVAL CLOSING CEREMONIES  We're off by coach to final event of the 29th Havana International Jazz Festival! We travel from the restaurant to the venue of the ceremony.
Day 9 in Cuba Monday 23 December :: Goodbye Cuba
KEEP IN TOUCH with your new Cuban friends – exchange email addresses! Bring some business cards to pass out on the island. Take pictures and keep a journal. Upon your return, we'll post them on this website for all to see and enjoy.

Goodbye Cuba girl.
We'll miss you and hope you return soon! In Cuba we say: A true friend remembers the song in your heart when you have forgotten the lyrics.

Old car in Havana.
Breakfast at your hotel is included in tour cost
United colors of Cuba.
United Colors of Cuba.
Check-out of your hotel.
Transfer to Havana's José Martí International Airport for your return home.
Don't forget to save 25.00 CUC for your Cuban airport departure fee and some money for meals on the airplane and while in transit
Extend your stay  Want to remain in Cuba following your tour? Contact us and we will help make it happen at a price you can afford.
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