Cycle Cuba!

Resort: Cycle Cuba!
Operator: Explore
Destination: Caribbean and Central America
Price From: £1835.00

Over View

Explore the scenic beauty and cultural highlights of Cuba on two wheels. Cycle on quiet roads along the Caribbean coast to historic Trinidad, past striking limestone landscapes in Vinales and through tropical forests in Topes de Collantes.

Cycle Cuba – With very little traffic this is the ideal way to see the island

Casas Particulares – Stay in private homestays in colonial Trinidad and Vinales

Havana – Explore this atmospheric UNESCO Heritage Site

Itinerary

Day 1 Join tour Havana

Our tour begins in Havana. Built around a deep natural harbour, Havana is one of the most impressive colonial cities surviving in the Americas today. Crumbling tenement buildings and 50s style American Cadillacs rub shoulders with white marble grandeur and the still audible echoes of the Cuban Revolution. The largest city in the Caribbean and Cuba’s political and cultural heart, it is the perfect place to start our journey. In Havana we stay in ‘casas particulares’ – family-run guesthouses.

On arrival to the main joining point casa in the Vedado district of Havana (Mara’s House: Calle 29 # 210 e/ B y C, Vedado, La Habana) you will be met by your host and shown to your room in one of the local guesthouses in the surrounding area. Each casa can only accommodate a handful of guests, giving you a great opportunity to interact with your hosts. At night the city’s legendary music and cocktails bars come into their own, in both Vedado, where your casa particular is, as well as Old Havana, a short taxi ride away.

Due to the number of evening flights into Havana, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two at 8am after breakfast.

There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Havana at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive into Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), which is a 30 minute drive away.

Day 2 Visit Old Havana; drive to Soroa

Havana boasts a sheer abundance of great buildings that reflect its importance centuries ago when all the Spanish galleons passed through with their freight of gold and silver, brought in from colonies in the Americas. We meet after breakfast at 8am for the welcome briefing and later this morning, during a relaxed walk through the old town we will take in the most important sites and buildings. After lunch we head off by bus to Soroa, nestling in the forested hills about an hour west of Havana. After checking in there may be time to strectch our legs on a walk, perhaps up to the top of a hill with views over the surrounding mountains and towards the sea.

Day 3 Cycle through tropical forests to Las Terrazas

Today we take our first bike ride with an excursion into the surrounding hills. The cycling is very rewarding – through almost tropical forests with plenty of flowers and interesting plants along the way – eventually leading us to the enchanting settlement of Las Terrazas, perched on the edge of a lake and the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Sierra de Rosario. This is an internationally acclaimed reforestation project and model ’70s communist settlement, set in the mountains at altitudes of around 500 metres where pine forests alternate with old coffee plantations. There is the chance for a swim in a natural pool in the San Juan river before we have lunch. You have the chance to try Cuba’s most original, community-run vegetarian restaurant. Afterwards we head back to our hotel in Soroa by bus. Keen cyclists can do a few more miles if they wish. The support bus can only accompany short sections at the beginning and end of today’s cycle route due to road conditions.

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 21 kilometres (300 metres ascent)

Day 4 Cycle to the Cuban spa town of San Diego de los Banos

Early this morning there is a chance to visit the splendid Soroa orchid garden. We start cycling downhill out of the Sierra, using smaller roads and a quieter section of Cuba’s Carretera Central. We will cycle through picturesque countryside with rolling hills, palm trees and farmhouses in small hamlets, eventually arriving in the Cuban spa town of San Diego de los Baos. The surrounding virgin countryside and forests are fabulous.

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 58 kilometres (100 metres ascent)

Day 5 Ride past banana and coffee plantations to Vinales

We continue cycling along Cuba’s dramatic western mountain range, passing banana and coffee plantations and tobacco fields in one of the most remote rural areas of this trip. We will stop at the Cueva de los Portales – a famous site in the jungle where Che Guevara set up headquarters during the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962. Soon we will see the first views the Viales Valley – one of Cuba’s natural highlights and an area of outstanding beauty. The area is home to some of the most spectacular and colourful scenery in Cuba. Millions of years ago underground rivers cut tunnels through the limestone hills and when the roofs collapsed, strange hills or ‘Mogotes’ were left sticking up from the otherwise flat valley floor. In between the jungle-clad saw tooth karst mountains the rich, red soil has been worked into a patchwork of fields growing some of the best tobacco in the world – the raw material for the famous Havana cigars. The cycle distance today is 43km if starting from Cueva de lo Portales and there is the option to extend this to 58 km by starting the ride from the hotel and paying a national park entrance fee directly (approx 5 CUC).

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 43 to 58 kilometres (100/400 metres ascent)

Day 6 Orientation tour of the Vinales Valley

We spend two entire days in this strikingly beautiful area. Today we will start the day with an orientation tour of the Vinales Valley by bike, exploring the valley in depth as well as taking some time to stroll through Vinales itself – a small laid back town with a charming main street built in neo classical style, leaving the afternoon free to explore the area further. Those interested can visit the limestone cave ‘Cueva del Indio’ and the Botanical Gardens in Vinales. The support bus does not accompany the ride today but is on call in case needed.

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 25 kilometres

Day 7 Free day to relax or explore the island of Cayo Levisa

Today is left free for taking it easy or perhaps by booking an excursion to Cayo Levisa, an island near Vinales just off the north coast with lovely beaches. Alternatively you may wish to take the bikes for some further exploration of the area.

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 20 – 45 kilometres (optional)

Day 8 Drive to Cienfuegos via Bay of Pigs

Today is a full day of travel to make our way to Cienfuegos. We commence the day with a bus ride (approx. 5-6hrs) across western Cuba to the Bay of Pigs – infamous for the ill-fated invasion attempt by Cuban exiles who landed here in April 1961 with the help of the US government. The result is well known and successful Cuban resistance, together with the missile crisis a year later, led the Americans to conclude that only a total trade embargo against the island could hope to discredit and ultimately oust Castro. Castro’s Cuba keeps on resisting, however. We will visit Cueva de Los Peces for a quick swim in this sinkhole or cenote that is connected to the warm Caribbean waters and has resident tropical fish. We continue by bus (1-2hrs) to the elegant town of Cienfuegos which was founded in 1819 by French farmers who had abandoned their plantations in Haiti after a slave rebellion led to formal independence there. The French brought their classical construction style of houses and quite an entrepreneurial spirit, thus triggering the sugar boom in the area. Depending on our arrival time into Cienfuegos we will either visit the town today or tomorrow morning. We continue by bus for 15 minutes to our hotel on the outskirts of town in Cienfuegos playa.

No cycling today.

Day 9 Cycle to Trinidad via Yaguanabo beach

We start our day with a quick exploration of Cienfuegos (if not visited yesterday) before driving for about 1 hour to Guajimico where we commence today’s cycling with the backdrop of the Sierra Escambray Mountains getting ever more impressive as we get closer to Trinidad. We will have a chance to stop en route for a swim in the Caribbean at Yaguanabo beach before continuing by bike to Trinidad. The town became incredibly wealthy in the 18th and 19th century and almost all the palaces and stately homes of the rich families remain, their grandeur undiminished by time and the cobbled stone streets add extra charm to this colonial gem. In the evening we should go out in town to sample the great live music to be found everywhere in Trinidad. One of the best spots is the Casa de la Trova where they play ‘Trova’ (Cuban Folk Music) and ‘Son’, the essence of Salsa. Those with some basic knowledge in Latin dancing or at least the willingness to try it will be most welcomed. On arrival we will have a short orientation walk in town exploring the central square and surroundings. In Trinidad we enjoy local hospitality for three nights as we stay in Casas Particulares – Private houses.

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 41 kilometres (250 metres ascent)

Day 10 Visit the sugar cane valley and old sugar mills by bike

We have two full days to explore this wonderful town and its surroundings. Today we take a ride into the very scenic Valle de Ingenios (sugar cane valley) towards Santi Spiritus where we can see the old sugar mills. The support bus will accompany the ride and help take people back to Trinidad. There is the option to ride back unaccompanied. This afternoon we will visit the colonial heart of Trinidad on foot and hopefully have the opportunity to hear some live music.

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 37 kilometres (230 metres ascent)

Day 11 Free day for a boat trip, snorkelling and relaxation

Today is left free to take a very rewarding Catamaran trip to the small island of Cayo Las iguanas – where you can snorkel on the reef and enjoy a seafood lunch on the island. Alternatively you can relax on the beaches south of Trinidad.

Day 12 Scenic downhill ride from Topes de Collantes; bus to Santa Clara

Just a few miles behind Trinidad looms the Sierra Escambray, one of the three main mountain systems in Cuba. It has peaks up to 1100 metres, an incredible abundance of tropical and semi-tropical vegetation on its slopes, and some of the best Cuban coffee is also produced here. Climbing up into the Sierra on the road from Trinidad is an experience, with slopes as steep as 20% (don’t worry, we do this by bus!). Those wishing to do the toughest cycling challenge to be found in Cuba may want to try by leaving at the early hours of the day and being picked up by the group later. We start cycling after about 1.5hrs drive, on the highest sections of the road, near Topes de Collantes, a village and mountain retreat built in the early 1950s. From here it is one of the most scenic downhills through the jungle to be found anywhere in Cuba. Before leaving the mountains we can stop at a local coffee farmer’s home to enjoying a meal and see the process of coffee tasting and of course we will try it as well! Then heading north, passing through the village of Jibacoa we finally reach the provincial town Manicaragua where we finish the cycling for today. Finally we drive (approx. 2hrs) to the hotel in Santa Clara. This town played a role in the Cuban revolution, as it was here that Che Guevara won the decisive battle in December 1958 which led to the fall of Havana a few days later.

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 35 kilometres (350 metres ascent)

Day 13 Drive to Havana via Yumuri valley

Santa Clara is a busy Cuban provincial town and home to the Che Guevara monument and mausoleum which we will visit together with a museum dedicated to his life. We continue by bus (2-3hours) to Matanzas where we get back onto the bikes for an afternoon ride into the Yumuri Valley, surprisingly still unknown to most western visitors. Abundant vegetation, palm trees, crops and plenty of birds are to be enjoyed while cycling through our last stretch of rural Cuba. Once on the coastal road we continue to the stunning Bacunayagua canyon with a great viewpoint and allegedly the best Pina Colada served anywhere in Cuba. The support bus can only accompany short sections at the beginning and end of today’s cycle route due to road conditions. Later we continue by bus for about an hour on to Havana.

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 17 kilometres (150 metres ascent)

Day 14 Explore Havana on foot or by bike

Today is left free to explore Havana however you may wish to take an optional cycle to explore the capital. In spite of growing traffic this is still a wonderful way of getting to know different parts of town.

Our total cycling distance today is approximately 23 kilometres (100 metres ascent) (optional)

Day 15 Tour ends Havana

The trip ends after breakfast at our Casa Particular in Havana.

There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Havana at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to depart from Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), which is a 30 minute drive away.

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