Why we love this trip:
- This tour is focussed 100% on photographing the people, culture and places of Cuba, meaning you will be with like-minded fellow tour members.
- With group numbers of just 2 – 7 members, the Cuba photography tour is flexible in its itinerary and can take full advantage of spontaneous events that may provide the perfect backdrop for photographic opportunities.
- We will take you to some of the best restaurants and hidden paladares in the country.
- Our Cuba photo tour will take you where typical tourists don’t go, uncovering the real Cuba.
- Photograph daily Cuban life at unique city locations such as boxing gyms, colourful Afro-Cuban streets and smoky jazz clubs.
- Witness first-hand the beautiful countryside of rural Cuba, not seen in the guidebooks.
- Receive the expert tuition of Louis Alarcon, a local photographer who has been leading tours in Cuba for 10 years.
- You will learn the cultural considerations of photographing people that are indigenous to the region and the challenges of photographing in a country foreign to you.
Louis Alarcon (b.1974) is a bilingual documentary photographer based in Havana, Cuba. His tour focuses on Cuba beyond the stereotypes, reflecting everyday experience of the Cuban people. He works in color and black and white photography.
Louis has been leading photo tours and private workshops in Cuba since 2008.
He is in charge of the international account of Cuba on Instagram (IgersCuba).
Louis started one of the most popular Cuba Youtube channels. Every 12 hours, a video of Cuba is uploaded to his channel that has had millions of visitors
Louis is a member of several photographic associations in Cuba, USA and Europe.
You can view Louis’ portfolio here – http://photographingcuba.com/photo-cuban-essays-by-louis-alarcon
Estimated travel times:
With most of the Cuba photography tour taking place within Havana, the only travel you have to take into account is the journey to your second destination, Viñales, which takes approximately 3 hours. This means only a minimum amount of time on your tour will be spent travelling rather than photographing.
All private transportation is included between destinations and for any activities/ excursions included in your itinerary that require transportation to and from the activity. Any extra transportation requirements can be organised through your Cuban guide and paid for locally in Cuba.
You will be driven from Havana to Viñales and other destinations in comfort, using private air conditioned transportation, vastly reducing the amount of time the same journey would take by the somewhat chaotic public transport system.
Upcoming tour dates:
Spending money on tour:
With airport transfers, accommodation, meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), guide, tuition by Louis Alarcon and transportation between Havana and Viñales all included as part of the Cuba photo tour, your daily expenses will be limited. You should bring enough money to cover tips for guides, drivers and photographic subjects, souvenirs, and personal expenses such as laundry fees. You might want to bring a little extra in case you decide to go on an optional excursion or activity. We recommend bringing around 50.00 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos) per person per day.
Travel to Cuba from the U.S.:
For those traveling to Cuba from the U.S. (regardless of nationality), please note that the documentation we will include with your booking ensures your compliance with current U.S. travel restrictions (515.574 Support for the Cuban People). In addition to retaining your itinerary, please keep records of your booking receipt, airline receipt, and any supplemental insurance purchased. You should retain these copies for 5 years after your travel. Some of our travelers have been asked to furnish these upon application for Global Entry, Pre-Check, and other programs with TSA oversight.
Arriving at Havana’s José Martí International Airport your included airport transfer will take you to your casa particular (Cuban B&B) accommodation, where you will be greeted by your host and shown your room. You will also be given the opportunity to meet with your guide and Louis and discuss the itinerary.
As the designated arrival day of your Cuba photography tour, there are no planned activities to allow for your arrival at any time of day. However, in the evening there will be the chance to walk along the Malecón with your hosts and fellow tour members.
The Malecón is a seawall promenade that stretches eight kilometres from the mouth of Havana harbour and through the Centro Habana neighbourhood to the neighbourhood of Vedado. It makes for a popular local spot to see and been seen, and therefore a great place to get any photography project off to a good start.
The focus underpinning day 2 of your Cuba photo tour is on Cuban culture and the Cuban people. Today you will have your first opportunity to capture the lively street theatre of Havana Vieja (Old Havana). As well as the main squares and points of interest such as the Parque Central area, Louis Alarcon together with your local English speaking guide will also take you to the streets not usually visited by tourists.
Louis will take this opportunity to share his tips on the art of taking photos in Cuba, including the relationship between photographers and their subjects, and places you shouldn’t photograph however tempted you may be.
While you walk the streets of central Havana, Louis will take a workshop aimed at highlighting all you will need to know about camera configuration, colour combination, lens use, and how to work in the brightness and shade you will find in Cuba’s streets. Louis will be eager for you to share your photos with him, so that you can discuss and analyse the images you have captured.
As the day progresses you will have the opportunity to photograph colourful street markets, courtyards and terraces. You will also have the chance to visit one of Havana’s vintage gyms, providing a unique atmosphere to try out your newly discovered photography skills.
Day 3 focusses on the island’s Afro-Cuban roots and religious practices. The influx of slaves to Cuba from Africa brought to work on the country’s sugar plantations during the eighteenth century saw the evolution of the Santeria religion. Another uniquely Cuban development, it combines the teachings of Roman Catholicism and West African tradition. Far from dead, it has somewhere in the region of 30,000 adherents, most evident around the Callejón de Hamel, a narrow pedestrian alleyway just two blocks long in the Centro Habana neighbourhood.
You will get the chance to visit the colourful streets of Callejón de Hammel in order to view the handiwork of Salvador Gonzales. A famed Cuban painter, muralist and sculptor, Gonzales has created a series of artworks that depict various aspects of the religion.
Staying in the area, your Cuba photography tour will continue as you get to visit an Afro-Cuban priest and have the prospect of photographing a group of dancers during their daily performances, putting your action photography to the test. Examples of the sorts of religious and Afro-Cuban dancer photos you can capture are available from Louis’ website.
As evening descends you will return to the Malecón and the Prado intersection to capture the sunset in all its glory, ensuring you are in the right place at the right moment, and with the right light!
It is an early start to day 4 of your Cuba photography tour in order to have breakfast before departing in good time for the 3 hour journey to the rural township of Viñales. You will arrive in time to have a group lunch at the Los Jasmines look-out point, where with any luck you will be blown away by the natural beauty of the area, since the town is ringed by mogotes – the word used to describe small hills with sheer rock faces.
Located in the heart of the Pinar del Rio valley, most of Cuba’s tobacco and coffee production takes place in and around Viñales, a town comprising simple single storey wooden houses with exterior porches.
Accompanied as usual by Louis Alarcon and your local guide, you will learn all about the special lifestyle in this area. The Cuba photography tour includes the chance to visit a hidden community of farmers and visit the valley itself to shoot the landscapes and its people as well as their relationship with tobacco, their animals and the land.
A relaxed evening will follow the hard day of photographing, giving you a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the local music of Viñales amongst the warm and friendly locals.
This morning you will be up early again so that you can journey into the heart of the valley. Here you will meet farmers preparing their morning coffee and meet some of the local wildlife amongst a sea of green back-drops.
As part of the fifth day of your Cuba photography tour you have the opportunity to interact further with the people of Viñales, and even to enter inside their homes to get to know their families as you share a locally grown and made “criollo coffee”. Be sure to keep your camera at the ready to capture the many memorable portraits and daily scenes you will see in this distinct part of Cuba.
You’ll also be able to take photos to your heart’s content of the beautiful Viñales valley before visiting a tobacco farm to see a demonstration of cigar rolling and learn more about the local industry.
In the afternoon you will travel back to Havana in air conditioned comfort with Louis and your guide.
Today your Cuba photo tour concentrates on street photography in a new area of the Cuban capital. Louis will get you to focus on capturing the spirit of the classic American cars that cruise the streets of central Havana, the external colonial facades of its buildings, and show you the best ways to capture natural portraits of families relaxing on their balconies.
Having mastered these skills the Cuba photo tour continues with a visit to a local Havana family, to learn more about daily life in the capital, followed by a visit to a boxing gym to photograph the boxers in training.
As the day progresses Louis and your guide will take you to the San Jose Market, where they will introduce you to well known painters, sculptors and artisans. This is a great opportunity to view and buy Cuban art direct from the artists themselves, while also offering the chance to identify the many photographic opportunities that mix paintings with people.
Throughout, Louis will be keen to review your work, offering advice and assistance to help you improve as a photographer.
Although the famed revolutionary Che Guevara was born in Argentina, he is as much part of the country’s recent history as Cuban-born Fidel Castro. In 1958 ‘El Che’ was able to derail a train loaded with weaponry designed to wipe out Castro’s men, saving the revolution. He is held in such high esteem that when his remains were discovered in Bolivia in 1997 it was arranged that they would be laid to rest in Cuba. It’s no real surprise then that the streets of Havana are full to bursting with graffiti celebrating the great man.
Your Cuba photography tour acknowledges this by centring day 7 around Havana’s Che Guevara route. Moving around the capital on foot, you will be taken by Louis and your guide to the most interesting works of Guevara street graffiti – whether they are easily observable or hidden from general view.
While strolling the Che Guevara route with your camera in hand you will also visit other points of interest along the way, and pay a visit to a popular Cuban photographer to learn more about their work and photography more generally in Cuba.
Since it is the last evening of your Cuba photography tour, a special farewell dinner will be arrange for the group.
As this is your designated departure day, there are no planned group activities today. Depending on your scheduled flight time, you might have the opportunity to put everything you have learnt with Louis to the test on your own.
You might want to return to UNESCO-listed Old Havana to capture some final shots of its high fortified walls or Spanish-style plazas at an alternative time of day when there are different light conditions. The perspectives of the grand baroque and neoclassical structures built by the colonial authorities 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) subtly change throughout the day.
Your tour includes your private transfer to the airport, reducing the stress of reaching the airport in time for your flight.
Your Cuba photography tour includes being picked up at Havana’s José Martí International Airport and delivered to your accommodation in the city on arrival, and the return journey to the airport on your departure, meaning you won’t have to worry about organizing your own transport, or the weight of your luggage on leaving!
Our Cuba photo tour uses Casa Particular accommodation. These peculiarly Cuban forms of bed and breakfast establishment offer a taste of authentic life on the island since you will be staying as a guest of a family in private accommodation. You’ll have all the privacy you need, while still being able to interact with the locals as much as you like. They make for a stark contrast to most types of accommodation, and you will truly be made to feel welcome. You might even forget you’re a paying guest entirely!
We’ve also got you covered if you want to spend extra time in Havana before or after your tour. Just use our easy online form when you make your booking.