Why we love this trip:
- Experience Cuba at Christmas and New Year while also exploring the sights of interest the country has to offer.
- Join in the celebrations at the energetic and enigmatic Parrandas de Remedios festival.
- Indulge in a drink at the Palacio de Valle in Cienfugos.
- Celebrate Christmas in Trinidad, and feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
- Explore Cuba’s lush tobacco region, Vinales.
- Experience a roof-top dinner and Cuba New Year’s eve party.
- See how the locals let their hair down at this very special time of year.
Is this Cuba tour for me?
We don’t believe in single supplements and we don’t believe in age restrictions either! Our years of experience in Cuba have taught us that small-group tours with an English-speaking guide offer security, camaraderie and cultural insight that can be missing from independent travel whatever your age or previous travel experiences. The free time built into our Cuba New Years Tour schedule means you can also explore the country at your own leisure – the best of both worlds. However, we ask that you consider the following:
- Cuba’s casa particular bed and breakfast accommodation are boutique, unique family-run establishments specifically aimed at providing lodgings for foreign visitors. As such, they are an excellent way to interact with everyday Cubans, but may be more basic than you are used to.
- Cuba is a developing nation, and it’s more common to experience events such as power cuts that are rare back home. By the same means, much of Cuba is run off innovation rather than instruction manuals, so don’t be surprised to see Cuban resourcefulness used to keep things on track, and don’t be worried if schedules slide a little.
- Cuba’s internet access is steadily improving, but will undoubtedly be much slower than you are used to, WiFi hotspots are harder to find than in many other countries, and are rarely free to connect to. So though you will be able to keep in contact with the outside world, don’t expect too much and make the most of the world away from your screens instead.
Estimated travel times:
We supply bottled water on journeys scheduled to last longer than a couple of hours, and also give you the opportunity to stretch your legs regularly or stop for lunch on longer journeys. As a guide, below are the sorts of in-country travel times you can expect on our Cuba New Years Tour:
- Havana to Santa Clara: 4 hours
- Santa Clara to Trinidad: 1 hour
- Trinidad to Cienfuegos: 1 hour
- Cienfuegos to Vinales: 6-7 hours
- Vinales to Havana: 3 hours
To download our Cuba drive times map (click here).
All the transportation between destinations and for any scheduled activities and excursions is included as part of our Cuba New Years Tour, taking the stress out of traveling. What’s more, journeys are completed using comfortable, air conditioned private transport so there’s no battling with Cuba’s public transport system.
Spending money on tour:
With many of your main expenses (accommodation, breakfasts, transport between destinations, airport transfer on arrival, and included activities) already accounted for your spending in Cuba will be limited. We estimate that you will need approximately CUC50.00 – CUC60.00 per person, per day to cover the cost of excluded meals, optional activities, souvenirs and tips.
Today you arrive into the Cuban capital. You can easily become mesmerised by Havana Vieja, the old city neighbourhood of cobble stoned alleyways and colonial buildings, ancient squares and notable churches loved by camera crews the world over. Its streets take on an added frisson of excitement so close to Christmas and New Year, so head out onto the streets and feel the sense of anticipation for yourself.
As the joining day of our Cuba New Years Tour there are no scheduled activities, enabling you to arrive at whatever time of day best suits you without worrying you are missing out and making it the perfect day, if time allows, to get your bearings independently.
All the same, you will be met at Havana’s José Martí International Airport by one of our representatives, who will have organised your airport transfer to your casa particular accommodation. If time allows you have the option of meeting your English-speaking local guide and other tour guests for an evening meal, where you can get to know each other a little and ask any burning questions you may have about Christmas and New Year in Cuba.
We can also book any extra nights of Casa/ B&B accommodation should you wish to arrive before Day One of the tour.
After a hearty Cuban breakfast at your casa particular, day two of your Cuba New Years Tour begins with the journey, by private transport, to Santa Clara. Here, overlooking the city, you’ll find the mausoleum and museum dedicated to Che Guevara, Cuba’s revolutionary hero alongside Fidel Castro. It was nearby that in December 1958 Guevara was able to derail an armoured train loaded with weaponry designed to defeat Fidel and the revolution. The train still lies where it derailed, an unofficial memorial to Guevara for many years. But when El Che’s remains were discovered in an unmarked grave in Bolivia in 1997 they were brought to the new mausoleum, specially-built to house them despite Guevara being born in Argentina.
Nearby, in the small town of Remedios (the eighth oldest settlement in Cuba, or so it’s said), you’ll get to experience the lively Parrandas de Remedios festival. One of Cuba’s greatest street parties and religious carnivals, it climaxes today on December 24th. Stemming from an eighteenth-century priest’s attempts to get the local populace to attend midnight mass in the grand cathedral in the run up to Christmas by giving children pots and pans to bang while running up and down the streets, it slowly evolved over the years into the street party you see today. Expect a night of dancing, drinking, fireworks and impressive floats as a fierce competition between the neighbourhoods of San Salvador (represented by the cockerel) and El Carmen (symbolised by a globe) takes place after they’re summoned by the church bells at 9pm today, Christmas Eve.
Now it’s on to the favourite destination of many a traveler to Cuba. Trinidad was founded in 1514 by Diego Velázquez and is considered a jewel in Cuban colonial architecture, made only the more special by the time of year. For some, Trinidad is a living museum, stuck in the time of Cuba’s first War of Independence when local sugar plantations were devastated by fire. The sugar industry came to its ultimate end with the abolition of slavery in Cuba, and Trinidad fell into disrepair for the better part of a century. It has since been painstakingly restored, and the central city is now an accurate reflection of how it used to look centuries ago. The vibrant colours and soulful music littered along cobbled streets will simply take your breath away.
There is plenty to keep you amused during your days in Trinidad after your orientation tour with your guide. Lying just outside the city is the Valle de los ingenious, or the Valley of the Sugar Mills. It contains a mixture of ruined and intact mills ripe for exploration. The most intact is perhaps Manaca Iznaga, for here not only the plantation house still survives, but also barracones (slave quarters) and the mighty 45 metre high Iznaga Tower. An evening in one of Trinidad’s lively music venues, such as the famed Casa de la Musica, is also a must. Here you can try your hand at Cuba’s traditional dance with an informal salsa lesson, or just stand back and let the locals show you how it’s done.
If you fancy spending some more time on the beach, you could choose to visit Playa Ancon beach, either by taxi or by bicycle. This beautiful ribbon of white sand on the Sancti Spíritus iridescent Caribbean shoreline is often touted, with good reason, to be the finest arc of beach on Cuba’s southern coast. It is a fantastic place to slip into your swimming costume and take to the azure blue waters, and a wonderful way to spend a Christmas break!
We can’t ignore the fact it’s Christmas, so you’ll get to enjoy a Christmas feast while in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You might be surprised to learn than Cienfuegos has been dubbed the ‘Paris of the Caribbean’. Thanks to an early influx of French, rather than Spanish, colonists, the city took on a distinctly Parisian air, which makes it unique among Cuban settlements. A harbour city by location, the ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ (as it’s also known) has been seducing travellers to Cuba for years due to its all-round elegance and beauty. Founded in 1819 by Don Luis de Clouet, Cienfuegos managed to remain free of pirate attacks, perhaps thanks to the Castillo de Jagua fortress sited at the entrance to the bay, allowing this popular city to prosper.
Explore the wide streets and promenades or enjoy a walk by the Malecon, the longest promenade on the island. Your guided orientation walk will show the main sights, from where you can explore further: the Terry Theater, Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Purísima
Concepción, Ferrer ́s Palace, former City Hall, Marti Park and the triumphal arch. And you’ll end the day in Cienfuegos at the ocean where you’ll enjoy a cocktail at the city’s Palacio de Valle - a lavish Yacht Club.
“Cienfuegos is the city I like the best”, wrote Beni More, one of Cuba’s most important musicians in the first half of the 20th century. The Cuba New Years Tour is your chance to check it out for yourself and see whether you agree.
Set in a beautiful, lush valley in Pinar del Rio province, Vinales is one of the most breath-taking locations in Cuba. In the heart of Cuba’s prime tobacco growing region, Vinales sits quietly surrounded by a number of stunning karst hill formations known as mogotes (pin cushions) that erupt from the landscape.
With the majority of Cuba’s tobacco cultivation occurring in the region, Vinales is the best place to see where these world famous cigars come from, and maybe even get some for yourself.
Your guide will take you on a walking tour of Viñales township and the surrounding farmlands by foot or by bicycle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999 in recognition of the areas traditional farming practices and architectural legacy, followed by lunch at the Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso organic farm. You’ll see how tobacco is farmed, and witness a cigar rolling demonstration. The rich sweet scent of the leaves in the drying house is a memory that will stay with you for a long time, as will the views from the lookout point at Los Jasmines.
It’s time to make your way back to Havana for some fantastic New Year’s Eve Celebrations.
The culmination of your Cuba New Years Tour, we will organise a special roof-top dinner with Cuban music food, drink, music and dance, a great chance to interact with the locals and celebrate a new year of opportunity – Cuba style!
On the final days of your tour you will have the opportunity to explore some more of the capital and experience Cuban nightlife one last time. We will also host you on a Walking Tour of Old Havana, taking in the elegant faded grandeur of Spanish-style plazas and buildings of the baroque and neoclassical styles favoured by the colonial government. Exemplified by the Gran Teatro (Grand Theatre), the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception and the Fort of Saint Charles (known locally as La Cabana), these early Spanish colonists spared no expense in creating a grand city in the style of the cities of their birth. The result has to be seen to be believed.
You will also the chance on your return to Havana to enjoy a tour of a wider area in an iconic classic American car. The resulting happy accident of the decades-long US trade embargo on Cuba’s communist government, drivers found it hard to import more modern cars, and the country slowly became the classic car capital of the world, with vehicles that, amazingly, have been running for more than 60 years.
Please note that Day Eleven of the Cuba New Years Tour is your departure day, and as a result, there are no scheduled activities for this day. Your guide will be happy to organise a taxi to the airport for you, and provide options for additional things to do in and around the capital should you find you have a few hours to spare before needing to return to the airport for your flight home.
Our single supplement policy:
Some travel operators charge people for traveling alone, as if there is something odd or suspect about wanting to do so. We don’t. On our Cuba New Year Tour you will have the option of sharing a room or having a room to yourself, but that decision will be yours, not ours.
Your airport transfer to your accommodation after your arrival into Havana is all taken care of by us, meaning a seamless and stress-free entry into the country.
Some of our optional activities and excursions are considered strenuous and require a good level of fitness to enjoy to their maximum, however our scheduled activities are designed to allow anyone with an average level of fitness and mobility to take part. The tour includes orientation walks at each destination, and a walking tour of Havana, so you should be able to walk without needing assistance. You will be required to carry your luggage between transport and accommodation, and be able to climb steps onto vehicles and in your accommodation.
Accommodation on tour:
Cuba’s casa particular accommodation is, well, particular to Cuba. Most closely similar to bed and breakfasts in other parts of the world, casas are small, unique dwellings run by ordinary Cuba families. A great way to interact with locals and get to know Cuba from the inside, they offer a warmer welcome than a hotel. Though always spotlessly clean, casas may well be more basic than you are used to. They are unlikely to offer WiFi for instance. Each is unique to the family that runs them and amenities will vary from one to another. Some accommodation will be in older buildings without an elevator. If you believe that your physical capabilities will make it difficult to climb stairs, simply let us know. We will be able to find you a suitable alternative. And if you should want to spend a few extra days in Havana (and who wouldn’t?), please let us know. You can easily use our online form when making your booking to arrange additional accommodation as needed.
Our Special New Years Cuba Group Tour uses standard authentic Casa/ B&B accommodation. You can learn more about staying in standard authentic Casa's here.
Supporting the Cuban people:
All of our group tours are dedicated to supporting the Cuban people, patronizing privately owned small businesses across Cuba.
Your itinerary is designed to introduce you to the local Cuban people and steer funds towards its citizens. On our group tours you will stay in casa particular (privately run Cuban B&Bs) and eat at paladares (privately run restaurants). You will also have the chance to interact with Cuban’s from all walks of life, listening to their stories, and sharing your own.