Our Cuba photography journey will take off in Havana City, the largest city in the Caribbean island with a population of over two million inhabitants. Access to the city has been guarded since the 16th century by El Morro Fortress one of the most photogenic castles in Havana sitting on a bluff at the entrance to the Bay of Havana.
A true paradise for photographers, Vinales Valley offers views of tobacco houses and bohios almost everywhere you turn. The tobacco plantations here certainly help enhance the color and richness of the Vinales valley. Photo shooting opportunities are abundant in the Valley and we will explore sites like Mural de La Prehistoria, The Indian Cave, Vinales Town, and meet with local tobacco growing farmers for an Authentic Cuba Travel® experience!
Established in 1986, Fototeca de Cuba is Cuba’s leading art institution for the preservation of Cuba’s photographic patrimony. This premier photo gallery treasures the largest and most important collection of Cuban photography in the world. Iconic photos taken by Cuba’s famed photographers such as Korda, Corrales, Salas, Figueroa and others are part of the permanent collection which continues to grow with the artworks of Cuba’s youngest generation.
The photographs of Alberto Korda are known around the world. In the early days of Cuba’s Revolution, Korda took the now iconic photograph of Che Guevara that has become the hallmark image of the revolutionary icon.
Authentic Cuba Travel®’s Luis D’Aguiar (right) and experimental Cuban photographer Rene Pena (left) at the artist workshop in Cerro municipality in Havana are reviewing some of the photos to be shown to the Havana Art Biennial
Cuba Tour participants. Over the last two decades, Rene has become one of Cuba’s most renowned photographers offering fresh perspectives into issues surrounding sexual identity, labels and race, the artists often uses his own body as a mean of expression.
The magnificent neoclassical architecture of its historical centre, the photogenic Spanish cemetery La Reina, the lavish Moorish architecture of Palacio del Valle, the stunning Fortress of Jagua, the Botanical Garden, and the large villas of Punta Gorda are all among the tourist attractions of the Caribbean coastal city of Cienfuegos in southern central Cuba.
Your photography odyssey to Cuba will take you to explore the UNESCO Heritage Sites of Trinidad and the Sugar Mill Valley which history and stories are so interconnected as the sugar cane production of the latter generated the wealth upon which Trinidad’s mansions and palaces were built during the second half of the 19th century. For sure another Cuba travel highlight that helps sets this tour apart from the competition.
The Sugar Mill Valley is one of the most photographed landscapes in Cuba, as well as a must-photograph
in every Cuba cultural tour. The monumental value of the 65 sites that form the valley increases the interest to visit this place, where important vestiges of the island's sugar colonization still survive.
The Cuban parrot, the Cuban Trogon and other native bird species can be found at Cuba’s Escambray mountain range which makes this area ideal for wildlife photographers. With Pico San Juan (San Juan Peak) standing 3,700 feet tall, this is Cuba’s second highest mountainous region.
Day 1. Saturday 14 August 2021.
Your exciting photography adventure into the heart and soul of Cuba, the most photogenic island in the Caribbean begins today as you arrive into the capital of Cuba: Havana City
You will be welcomed by your Authentic Cuba Travel® team of experts just after you finish customs and immigration routine procedures.
After a brief introduction to your tour guide and bus driver, you will be transferred to the Melia Cohiba Hotel
for a private group check in.
Please do take notice of the location of El Mediterraneo Restaurant
where your complimentary buffet breakfast will be served each morning starting at 7 0’clock.
Day 2. Sunday 15 August 2021.
Tour picturesque Vinales Valley in Cuba’s West
Morning: today we go Western to explore one of Cuba’s most photogenic natural settings, the Valley of Vinales
, showcasing the most stunning landscape in Cuba and some of the most fascinating and authentic limestone formations on the Caribbean island. This region is especially renowned worldwide by its mogotes
, a sort of conical freestanding hills found in four regions of the world only (including Cuba).
We will also have the opportunity to meet some of the local farmers
, whose knowledge and secrets regarding the cultivation of the world’s finest tobacco have been passed down for generations.
We will also have some time to take pictures at the Prehistoric Mural
, a gigantic painting mural right on the side of Vinales’s mogotes.
An authentic Cuba complimentary lunch will be served at Cueva del Indio restaurant
Following lunch, your Cuba photography tour will take you literally
into the heart of one of the famous mogotes. The Indian Cave
is an iconic attraction of Vinales and offer unique photo shooting opportunities. The cave history goes back in times to the pre-colonization period when it was used as a burial site for the Guahahatabeyes, one of Cuba’s native people. As we go deep into the cave, we will encounter a subterranean river that runs through the cave. Then we will enjoy an amazing boat ride to the other side of the hill.
As it is our goal that tour participants capture in images (from their very own unique styles) the cultural and social fabric of this picturesque and authentic Cuba destination founded in 1607, our Authentic Cuba Travel® guide will give our Cuba explorers some free time in Vinales Town
to take pictures of camera-friendly locals and attractions such as the Parque Jose Marti
, Casa de La Cultura
, the Church
, the open-air Market
Evening: tonight you will have the opportunity to visit Havana’s most popular and well renowned jazz club, La Zorra y El Cuervo
, where you will hear Cubajazz
, and Afrojazz
played by some of the best Cuban Jazz musicians
. This part of the evening is optional and is not an included part of the tour pricing.
Day 3. Monday 16 August 2021.
Capturing Cuban History Through The Lens
Morning: first thing in the morning we will meet with architect Miguel Coyula
, one of the leading figures of the Group for the Comprehensive Urban Development of Havana, an organization whose mandate centers around the preservation and urban development of Cuba’s capital. We will meet Mr.Coyula at the headquarters of the organization located at the Scale Model of Old Havana
for a presentation on the layout of the city from colonial times until present day.
Next we will enjoy a panoramic tour of important attractions in the Havana city today such as the Square of the Revolution
, seat of power and authority of Cuba’s government today; the University of Havana
, the oldest university founded by the Spaniards in The Americas; the Colon Cemetery
, founded more than 140 years ago; the Monument to the US Maine Battleship
, sank in Havana’s harbour in 1898; and others.
We will enjoy lunch at La Mina Restaurant
Afternoon: we will explore the sights and sounds of the historical core of Havana City. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old Havana
contains the most excellent buildings built in a period of 500 years in the 142 hectares that comprise the historical centre today.
The best way to take stirring images of the wealth of historical and architectural heritage in this section is to embark on a walking tour. Guided by our Authentic Cuba tour guide we will start our afternoon exploration at Plaza de Armas
, the early parade ground of the Spanish military.
The Square of Arms
is the oldest colonial square in the city and it is enclosed by imposing buildings such as the Palace of the Captain Generals
, past seat of the Spanish rulers in the island; the Palacio del Segundo Cabo
, former headquarters of the vice governor; and the Fortaleza de La Real Fuerza
, first fortress erected by the Spaniards in Cuba; and many others of great historical value.
Our photography tour of Old Havana will continue on to the Cathedral Square
, the most striking and concealed colonial square in the old city that takes its name from the Cathedral of San Cristobal de La Habana
, the most elaborate piece of Cuban baroque architecture.
The square is surrounded by amazing 18th century colonial mansions and palaces such as the Palace of the Marquises of Aguas Claras
with its shady balconies and beautiful Andalucía style central patio; the Palace of the Counts of Casa Bayona
housing today the Museum of Colonial Art
; and the House of the Count of Lombillo
with exquisite arches of its verandas supported by Toscana-style columns; and many others.
Nearby we find the Taller Experimental de Gráfica
, a collective of Cuban print and lithography makers that work tirelessly in the airy and imposing colonial building located in Callejon del Chorro. We will be welcomed by the workshop director and several artists for a people- to- people exchange on their daily life and work as Cuban artists.
Our exploration continues on to the commercial square of the city, the Square of San Francisco
used in earliest colonial times to stockpile the goods arriving at Havana’s harbour and provide the Spanish galleons with water to continue their transatlantic journeys.
At the end of the afternoon, we will land at the Old Square
of the historical core. Used mainly for public gatherings in colonial and republican times, the squares shows today signs of revitalization as most of its surrounding building have been restored to former glory. This is an excellent opportunity to take “before and after” photographs of buildings in the area.
Another excellent photo shooting opportunity can be taken advantage of at the harbour side “Almacenes de San Lorenzo”, an airy huge Republican-period warehouse that was fully restored recently and houses today the Old Havana Handicraft Market
where you can purchase artworks such as original photographs, paintings and sculptures by Cuban young artists and artisans.
Evening: we will close the evening with an incredible night photo opportunity at Fortaleza de San Carlos de La Cabana
where we will witness one of Cuba’s longest standing and most authentic ceremonies: The Firing of the 9 O'Clock Cannon
Day 4. Tuesday 17 August 2021.
Getting to Know Authentic Cuba Photography
Morning: we have an appointment today at Fototeca de Cuba
(1986), an art gallery formed to safeguard and support the photographic wealth of Cuba and to create an opening for the exhibit of national and international photographic artwork. This photo gallery is also a library that treasures a priceless compilation of documents. The Fototeca serves a museum containing the largest collection of Cuban photography found anywhere in the world today.
This is an unparalleled opportunity for Authentic Cuba Travel® participants not only to connect with Cuba’s photographic history but to meet leading Cuban photographers and establish relationships with Cuban curators and important personalities of Cuba’s art scene.
Next we will go for a tour of an alleyway street in Central Havana known as Callejon de Hamel
. Here, a Cuban fine artist named Salvador Gonzalez
has been working to expand and provide a sort of cultural rescue since 1990. Entire buildings have been overtaken by his sculptures and murals, which pay homage to deities from the Afro Cuban culture and faith. We will have the opportunity to meet with Gonzalez to talk about the work he has done and the ways it has impacted the neighborhood.
Lunch today will be hosted by renowned Cuban painter and ceramist Jose Fuster
at his wild kingdom “Fusterlandia” in the town of Jaimanitas
, a photo-friendly coastal town in the outskirts of Havana.
Afternoon: we will visit the photography studios of such famed experimental Cuban photographers as Cirenaica Moreira
, Rene Pena
, Juan Carlos Alom
, and more.
Evening: we will enjoy a wonderful presentation and reception at the exclusive Ludwig Foundation
, where the topic will be Cuban contemporary arts. This is another of those unique highlights that you can only enjoy by booking one of our Authentic Cuba tours.
Day 5. Wednesday 18 August 2021.
Wearing the Cuba Explorer Hats!
Morning: there are many things that separate authentic Cuba tours from the crowd; among those the opportunity to travel to picturesque towns and cities off the beaten track. For the next two days, we will explore two of America’s best preserved colonial cities: UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Cienfuegos
Sitting on the wide open Bay of Cienfuegos
, Cienfuegos is a Caribbean city where photo shooting opportunities abound. From a very photogenic population with a surprising number of residents having very light skin, blue eyes and blond hair to the imposing ensemble of neoclassical structures at the capital city of the province we will have our hands full within the next 48 hours.
Upon arrival we will enjoy a complimentary lunch at Del Valle Palace
that showcases a stunning Moorish architecture that has deservedly converted the palace in one of the highlights of the city.
We recommend you climb up the majestic marble staircase that leads to the upper floors to enjoy the majestic architecture of the palace. From there a circular wrought iron staircase leads to the rooftop of the building from where you can take amazing panoramic shots at the Bay of Cienfuegos
and the dome of Cienfuegos’ unfinished Nuclear Power Plant
that looms at the horizon.
Afternoon: the Cuba travel experience wouldn’t be complete today without the exploration of the historical center on foot.
A nice place to start is at the Jose Marti Park
which marks the original site of foundation of the city in 1819 by a group of French immigrants under the Spanish ruling of Captain General Jose Cienfuegos. Guarded by two iconic white marble lions, the park is centered by a sculptural ensemble dedicated to Jose Marti, and surrounded by imposing neoclassical structures from the 19th century.
The Teatro Tomas Terry
is a 950 seat auditorium that dominates the north side of the square is one of the highlights of this afternoon. As you walk into the historical theatre, you will notice the white Carrara marble statue of Tomas Terry in the lobby. Tomas Terry's widow and sons donated most of the monies for the construction of the theatre at the end of the 19th century.
Most of the elements of the lobby such as the mural paintings, the mirrors and the ticket booth as well as the Cuban hardwood carved seats, the wrought iron work of the balconies, the impressive ceiling fresco in the interior have been preserved as the very day of the opening in 1895 when a piece of Verdi’s Aida was staged for the first time.
Standing majestic opposite the two white marble lions we find the Catedral de La Purisima Concepcion
(1870) with its dramatic mismatching towers framing the stunning neoclassical facade. On the west side of the square we find the former Palacio Ferrer
- we recommend you climb up the mirador
(lookout) tower for a photo shooting session of the cityscape; and el Arco del Triunfo
(the Triumph Arch) dedicated to the Cuban independence of 1902.
We'll also visit the elegant art gallery Galería de Arte Maroya
and review its impressively displayed collection of paintings,
sculptures and antiques.
To wrap up Cienfuegos tour, we will have some free time at Cienfuegos’ premier art gallery known as Maroya
which is quite peculiar in the sense that you can find not only all sort of crafts and original artworks by Cienfuegos’ most important artisans and artists but also you can buy antiques.
In the late afternoon, we will say good bye to the city and continue our Cuban journey to Trinidad
. This evening our group overnights at Trinidad del Mar
beach resort, an all inclusive hotel where you can enjoy a swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean
as well as the eventful atmosphere of the hotel.
Day 6. Thursday 19 August 2021.
Trinidad, an Authentic Cuba Destination
Morning: with a colonial atmosphere beyond comparison, the historical core of Trinidad
was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988 because of its well-preserved ensemble of colonial structures that show barely no signs of the 20th century. Today our photography tour will take you to explore this photo-friendly “living museum city” that about 50 thousand inhabitants called home these days.
We will start at the former House of the Sanchez Iznaga family who join together two pre-existing buildings in 1819 to complete their upper-class residence. Showing typical domestic elements of the Trinitarian architecture of the second half of the 18th century and 19th century, the building contains the Museum of Architecture
today that sheds light on the evolution of local architectural development over time in the city.
We will also pay a visit to the Church of the Holy Trinity
that dates back from the late 19th century. The interior contains a beautiful altar that was done in Cuban hardwoods by local artisans as well as the image of El Cristo de la Veracruz (1731) which is the most venerated religious object in the region.
As we explore the surroundings of Plaza Mayor
, the main colonial square of the city, we will also pay a visit to Museo Romantico
displaying an excellent collection of artworks, European porcelain and glassware and local furniture that were once the property of Trinidad’s former aristocracy such as the Counts of Brunet, former house owners.
A few blocks away, we find one of Trinidad’s most photographed structures, the bell tower of the former Convento de San Francisco de Asis
. Today the building houses the Museo de La Lucha Contra Bandidos
that serves as a remembrance of the bloody counter-revolutionary gangs that operated in nearby Sierra del Escambray in the period from 1960 to 1965. Do not miss the remnants of an American U2 plain that was shot down during the so called Missile Crisis in 1962.
Before heading back to the hotel for lunch we will make a stop at the Loma del Puerto
(Del Puerto Hill) at the Mirador del Valle de Los Ingenios. The Sugar Mills Valley
was among Cuba’s largest sugar cane producing regions by the second half of the 19th century bringing about the wealth that somehow financed the town’s mansions and palaces that we visited earlier.
We will also pay a visit to Casa del Alfarero
, a pottery making workshop that has been used for the Santander family for several generations. This is one of the authentic Cuba traditions that can only be found in Trinidad.
After some complimentary lunch and refreshments back at the hotel, we can head back to the colonial town for personal explorations of the city, some more photo shooting, or we can simply relax by the beach or swimming pool while sipping on a mojito or cuba libre or daiquiri or just...any Cuban drink you fancy...it is all inclusive!
Evening: if you feel like dancing tonight you have two options. You can enjoy varied musical live shows from the comfort of your hotel or you can head back to town for a more authentic Cuban experience at Casa de La Trova
which is always a total Cuba immersion in dancing... with Trinitarians to traditional live music.
Day 7. Friday 20 August 2021.
Climbing Up Topes de Collantes
Morning: today marks another excellent opportunity to photograph one of Cuba’s most breathtaking landscapes as we visit the 90-kilometer-long Escambray Mountain Range
The journey will begin at your hotel where we will board former military Russian trucks that will take us to Topes de Collantes
, the largest settlement in the mountainous area that stands at about 770 meters above the sea level.
En route, we will pass coniferous forest and giant ferns that flourish in the cool microclimate of this region.
A typical Cuban lunch will be served at the Spanish estate house of the former coffee plantation Hacienda La Codina
Afternoon: it is time to say good bye to central Cuba and hit the road back to Havana city
Upon arrival we will check in at the Melia Cohiba Hotel
Day 8. Saturday 21 August 2021.
Bye Bye Cuba
Our Cuba photography adventure comes to an end today as we will take an early morning transfer to Havana City’s International Airport.