La Vida Real - a cross-country journey

    • Havana
    • Viñales
    • Matanzas City
    • Cienfuegos City
    • Trinidad
    • Sancti Spíritus City
    • Camagüey City
    • Bayamo
    • Santiago de Cuba City
    • Guantánamo
    • Baracoa
    • Guardalavaca
    • Cooking local dish
    • Culture, Nature, History
    • Sustainable farming
    • Tobacco rendezvous
    • Workshop pottery

Traditions determine the culture of a country; they are composed of the everyday life of the people. On this tour, which covers the entire island, you will be introduced to the incomparable, deep pride that the inhabitants feel to be Cuban. 

This adventure begins in Havana, New7Wonder City. From a glamorous tour in a classic car to a relaxing walk with your guide through ancient colonial alleys.

Learn about Cuban tobacco on the farm of a famous veguero and about traditional farming by farmers in Viñales.
Discover the architectural differences between Cienfuegos and Trinidad.

When you arrive in Camagüey, where a maze of streets still reminds of pirates and privateers, you are in Eastern Cuba.
The serene town of Bayamo was first liberated from the Spanish.

You can pay respects at the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, resting place of countless celebrities, including Fidel Castro.
Be inspired by the Santiagueros who simply cannot sit still hearing the sounds of the Conga.
Baracoa, was the first place founded by the Spaniards at the time, surrounded by mountains, tropical nature, and hidden beaches.

Farewell in the pleasant seaside town of Guardalavaca.

What else is special about this private guided tour with daily departure?

  • Eat in private restaurants (paladares). Stay overnight in Casas Particulares, private (family) homestays, cozy and small-scale, friendly, and welcoming as the Cubans themselves.
  • With your visit you support several local projects, as well private enterprises such as casas particulares, paladares etc. 
  • A road trip showing you the best of Cuba, from the west to the east.
  • Have fun interacting with the Cubans. Cook a meal together and try your hand at making pottery.
  • Witness sustainable farming and savor fresh food in eco-friendly restaurants.
  • Kayak across the river in rustic handmade canoes. 
  • There is a lot on your travel agenda. Free time is also scheduled for leisure, such as on Trinidad's beach.
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Departure time
Starts in Havana and ends in Holguín/Guardalavaca
Private (possible as group tour or self-drive)
English, German, Spanish

Day 1: Arrival in Havana

Welcome to Havana airport. Transfer to your casa particular.  

Accommodation: Casa particular, Havana (e.g., La Siguaraya).

    • Havana
    • No meals included today

Touring Havana feels like riding a fascinating roller coaster.
A hilarious coco-taxi, a yellow egg-shaped motorized vehicle, takes you to the back streets of the neighborhoods of Centro Habana and Vedado, towards the iconic Revolution Square. Climb up for a spectacular panorama of the entire city.

The classic cars, symbols of prosperity for the happy few in the 1950s, are still driving after more than 70 years. They have been kept in good condition thanks to Cuban ingenuity. The comfortable drive goes through Havana Metropolitan Park and the Miramar neighborhood, with its beautiful 5th Avenue flanked by old bourgeois mansions, today often housing a foreign embassy.

Breathing clean sea air in as you cruise the Malecón seafront promenade on the way to Old Havana. The best way to explore the car-free historic part of the capital is on foot. Together with your guide you will explore the four main squares. Landmarks include the Catedral de La Habana, the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, and the Convento de San Francisco de Asís.

A private restaurant in Cuba is called a paladar. It actually means palate and there is nowhere better to eat than in a paladar. Your lunch will be served in one of them. 

Afterwards, you'll have the opportunity to walk over the warehouse San José, Cuba's largest arts and crafts market.
Return to your casa particular in a bicitaxi. The rest of the afternoon and evening are yours.

Accommodation: Casa particular, Havana (e.g. La Siguaraya)

    • Havana
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch

Today is all about Cuban cuisine and Afro-Cuban religion. 

The fruit and vegetable markets are pleasantly busy, the shouting is just as loud as in a baseball stadium. Your guide explains the typical groceries of the Cubans and the difficulties in obtaining them.

The fishing village of Cojímar, where the American writer Ernest Hemingway liked to fish, chat and drink with local fishermen, is only a 20-minutes' drive away.
Cook together with a chef a traditional Cuban dish. Some essential ingredients for the recipe have to be picked from the family orchard. Enjoy the cooking, the interaction, and a delicious cocktail.

In the afternoon you will be intrigued by the Afro-Cuban religious customs and traditions. A connoisseur explains the beliefs, the gods and the connection with European Catholicism. After this you understand better why so many Cubans dress completely in white clothes.

Accommodation: Casa particular, Havana (e.g. La Siguaraya) 

    • Havana
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch

The smell of wet soil and fresh leaves indicates the arrival to Pinar del Río, the greenest of Cuba’s provinces and home to the best tobacco in the world. 

Here, you have the exclusive opportunity to learn about the plant at Quemado de Rubí, one of the top 5 tobacco farms in Cuba. The illustrious owner, Héctor Luis, is a Hombre Habano (Habano Man), a title equivalent to the Oscars of tobacco. On the property, you will be introduced to the entire process; from the growing of the leaves up to the rolling by hand.  
After lunch, you may even want to smoke an authentic Habano to enjoy the spicy-sweet flavor. 

En route to Viñales, a stop at the lookout point Los Jazmines will reveal the panorama of the stunning Viñales Valley, with its distinctive limestone formations called Mogotes. 
Continue to the small and lovely town of Viñales for your stay at a casa particular. 

Accommodation: Casa particular, Viñales (e.g., Villa El Habano)

    • Viñales
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch

The charm of this area does not solely lie in its beauty, also in its soul. UNESCO included the Viñales Valley also on the World Heritage List for the harmony between people and their environment. The farmers still use the same rudimentary tools, use traditional seeds and hardly any pesticides. Taste typical products such as honey and delicious tropical seasonal fruit. The beautiful Mogotes and their lush vegetation look different every time. They are extremely protected given the fragility of the ecosystems they live in.

After a walk, a healthy lunch in an ecological restaurant will be served. In the kitchen, they cook with fresh ingredients and eco-friendly products. The restaurant is part of a larger project in the field of sustainable agriculture. You will hear more about this while looking out over the Silence Valley.

Continue to the small botanical garden of Caridad for a visit and tour. Built and maintained by two sisters, is this backyard private property home to a wide variety of plants from different regions.

Accommodation: Casa particular, Viñales (e.g. Villa El Habano) 

    • Viñales
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch

Leaving the fertile farmland behind, you will head for Matanzas, also called the Athens of Cuba. The city received the title in the 19th century for its cultural development, especially in the fields of literature and art.

Close to the Bacunayagua bridge, they make the best piñas coladas in the region. Cheers! The bridge is a jewel of Cuban engineering and is, with its 103 meters, also Cuba's highest one. The views over the sea and the lovely Yumurí valley with its Royal Palms, are magnificent.

In the city of Matanzas, across Parque de la Libertad, you will find the Pharmaceutical Museum, formerly a French drugstore and one of the oldest and best preserved in the world. The instruments and medicine containers are from the 19th century, as well as almost 800 thousand preserved formulas. 

Enjoy the non-touristy town of Matanzas as you stroll over the Paseo Narvaes, a beautiful pedestrian walkway, along the San Juan River. You can visit various art galleries, such as the Lolo Studio-Gallery, seeing artists working on objects in steel, canvas, and bronze.

Accommodation: E-Hotel El Louvre (or similar), or a casa particular in Matanzas. 

    • Matanzas City
    • Meals included: breakfast

Cienfuegos is the only Cuban city founded by the French. The perfect layout of the streets, the wide avenues and the special relationship with the sea give Cienfuegos its unparalleled elegance.

Visit Parque Martí to see the graceful architecture of buildings such as the Tomás Terry Theater, Ferrer Palace, the former Spanish Casino, and the Cathedral.

Seafood is the specialty of the paladar where you will enjoy your lunch. 

Today's second special city (which is just like Cienfuegos on UNESCO's World Heritage List), is called Trinidad. One of the world's most beautiful colonial towns with cobbled streets, mansions with high, shuttered windows, patios, and bell towers. Trinidad's traditional craft industry dates to the 19th century. Pottery is in the Trinitarians blood and perhaps in yours. The pottery workshop will show.

In the evening, go with the flow, take a seat on the steps of the main square to enjoy the captivating music of La Casa de la Música.

Accommodation: Casa particular, Trinidad (e.g., Hostal Ly)

    • Cienfuegos City
    • Trinidad
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch

The warm Caribbean Sea is your getaway today. Enjoy a day at leisure at the Trinitarian beach Playa Ancón or book an excursion (not included) to a small island where you will feel like Robinson Crusoe.

At 8.15 am you will be picked up at your homestay and taken to the beach. Or to the departure port of the excursion to Cayo Iguana (if booked). In the afternoon, at 4.30 pm, you will be brought back to your guesthouse. Nice, isn't it, a day without a program?

Accommodation: Casa particular, Trinidad (e.g., Hostal Ly)

    • Trinidad
    • Meals included: breakfast

The Valley of the Sugar Mills Valley looks peaceful early in the morning. The sugar industry flourished here in the 19th century and brought great prosperity to Trinidad. The landlords of the mills, wealthy families who owned the lands, made a fortune by abusing African slaves. The Manaca Iznaga Tower, the tallest in the valley, recalls both prosperous times and its dark side.

Continue to Sancti Spiritus, an old town with the only colonial-era bridge (over the Yayabo-river) still intact. 
You will have lunch in Sancti Spiritus, and next on your way to the east of Cuba via the provincial highway.

Camagüey is also called the city of "tinajones" (large earthenware jars, typical of this province). The bicitaxi takes you around the city with its labyrinthine streets. Centuries ago, they were deliberately designed this way to mislead pirates and privateers and get them lost.

Accommodation: Casa particular, Camagüey (e.g., Hostal San Rafael) 

    • Sancti Spíritus City
    • Camagüey City
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch

The pride of a country comes from the glorious deeds of its people.
Your tour continues to the city of Bayamo, the cradle of the Cuban nation. The city was the first to be liberated from the Spaniards and where the Cuban national anthem was performed. 

Through the mountains of the Sierra Maestra you reach the beautifully situated pilgrimage town of El Cobre, its basilica houses the patron saint of Cuba, the spiritual guide for millions of Cubans since the colonial era.

Later in the afternoon, arrival in Santiago de Cuba. The heroic city of the Cuban revolution, birthplace of Son, with a perfect mix of cultures and religions. Enjoy the music coming from every corner. End your day with a delicious dinner in your B&B. 

Accommodation: Casa particular, Santiago de Cuba (e.g., Hostal Heredia)

    • Bayamo
    • Santiago de Cuba City
    • Meals included: breakfast and dinner

'Rebellious yesterday, hospitable today, heroic forever'. That is the motto of the second largest city on the island.

The city tour starts right after breakfast. See the Moncada Barracks, the former police station that was attacked by Fidel Castro in 1953 in an action that fueled the sparks of the Cuban Revolution. Visit the beautiful and serene Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, the final resting place of the most illustrious Cuban patriots, including national hero José Martí, former President Fidel Castro and Mariana Grajales, mother of the Maceo Generals.
Even some prominent members of the Bacardi-dynasty are buried here.

In Santiago's city heart you will visit Céspedes Park and Enramadas Street, main artery of the historic center. In the afternoon, head south to the fortress of San Pedro de la Roca, an outstanding military engineering work in the Caribbean. The view of the mountains and the sea is spectacular.

Do as you please for the rest of the day in swinging Santiago.

Accommodation: Casa particular, Santiago de Cuba (e.g.,Hostal Heredia)

    • Santiago de Cuba City
    • Meals included: breakfast

Today's journey will take you to uncommon geographical places. Passing small towns and cultivated fields, with all kinds of vendors along the way, we arrive in Guantánamo. The city is home to the Tumba Francesa, a dance and music tradition brought to Eastern Cuba by French settlers and their Haitian slaves, fleeing the Haitian revolution.
Many will know the name Guantánamo as the infamous American detention camp. The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base occupies an appropriated Cuban territory, which can be seen from afar from the vantage point of La Gobernadora.

On the road, you can clearly see the contrasts and changes in the landscape. From the sea in deep turquoise hues, followed by an arid, semi-desert landscape with cacti as main vegetation, to the humid, green rainforest in the mountains.
Your destination is a tropical paradise. The last stretch of the road runs over the La Farola Viaduct, considered one of the Seven Wonders of Cuban Engineering. The meandering path leads past a breathtaking natural landscape. Typical culinary delicacies are sold along the way, the Cucurucho; made from coconut and fruits, served in cone-shaped packages made of palm leaves.

Once arrived in Baracoa, you will visit the Matachín Fortress and the square of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, where the Cross of the Vine is kept, brought by Christopher Columbus.

Check-in at a casa particular for your stay and dinner. The local traditional cuisine is unique in Cuba and based on products such as coconut, cocoa, banana, and seafood, with a distinct Caribbean touch.

Accommodation: Casa particular, Baracoa (e.g., Casa Isabel Castro)

    • Baracoa
    • Meals included: breakfast and dinner

In the midst of exuberant nature, with many rivers and coconut trees, the landscape of Baracoa is mainly characterized by the table mountain El Yunque. Explore this beautiful creation of Mother Nature on a trip in cayucas, a rustic canoe typical of this region, across the mouth of the River Miel.

Along the way, learn about the local flora and fauna and rejuvenate in a little-known cave. The sight of the sea and wild vegetation of coconut trees is breathtaking.

Your lunch, prepared with fresh products, bears the stamp of the region. Spread out your towel on pristine beaches, swim in crystal clear waters and chill out for the rest of the day in this unforgettable place.

Accommodation: Casa particular, Baracoa (e.g., Casa Isabel Castro)

    • Baracoa
    • Meals included: breakfast and lunch

On this last day, travel along a quiet, bumpy coastal road past Humboldt Park. You pass exotic coves with friendly swaying palm trees and pass through Moa, a mining area with an important nickel industry.

The next town is Holguín, followed (after 40 kilometers) by the seaside town of Guardalavaca. Here we say goodbye, the tour has come to an end, but you may not want to go home yet and you still have a beach stay in prospect.

    • Guardalavaca
    • Holguín City
    • Moa
    • Baracoa
    • Meals included: breakfast

  • Arrival transfer from Havana airport to Havana accommodation (on first day of the tour).
  • Local guide service all 14 days of the tour (transfers from airport might be attended by a representative).
  • Private tour with daily departure in air-conditioned vehicle with professional chauffeur. Type vehicle: 
    - Passenger’s car/taxi: with 2 participants (1 piece of luggage maximum per person)
    - Minivan/microbus (6-10 seats): with 3 to 7 participants (1 piece of luggage maximum per person).
    Quality of vehicles based on the country’s standards.
  • Excursions, visits, and entrance fees as per program.
  • 13 Nights in privately-owned guesthouses (double room).
  • 13 Breakfasts, 7 lunches, 2 dinners.

Services not included in the price of the tour

  • Meals and drinks not mentioned in the program.
  • Any extension after the tour.
  • Departure transfer to airport.
  • Personal expenses and tips. 

  • It is also possible to make this trip as a group tour, with international participants up to a maximum of 12 people. Please contact us for prices and departure dates.
  • Would you like to drive yourself? The same program can be booked in combination with one of our rental cars. In that case, guide or driver are not included, nor are entrance fees, lunches, or dinners.
More remarks
  • The published price concerns a private trip, is per person, based on room occupancy with 2 people, and does not include international flights and any extension. The minimum number of people is 2.
  • Not all Casas Particulares have a triple room. In that case, a double and single room will be reserved. 
  • The La Vida Real tour is designed to end in the seaside town of Guardalavaca. Ideal for an extension at the beach. We are happy to help you with your options.
  • Should you wish to fly from Holguín airport, either internationally (home) or local (to Havana), please do not book your flight on the same day the tour ends. Unexpected local circumstances may prevent you from arriving at the airport on time. Let us help you book an extra night before you fly.