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Within cities seemingly frozen in time beats the vibrant pulse of Cuba’s most valuable resource: its people. Connect with Cubans of all backgrounds on this unique program, learning about their everyday lives and examining the forces that have shaped Cuban culture. From the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Old Havana and Trinidad to colonial Cienfuegos, meet historians and scientists, athletes and artists, entrepreneurs and musicians—and experience this fast-changing island nation through their eyes.
Discuss historic preservation with local experts, and meet residents as you explore Old Havana and Trinidad.
Witness Cuba’s shifting cultural and economic landscape on visits to schools, art studios, and privately owned businesses.
Soak up rhythms of all sorts—from Afro-Cuban to award-winning a cappella.
Meet with local dancers and musicians in the colonial city of Cienfuegos.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Day 1 — Miami, Florida/Havana, Cuba
Depart Miami on a charter flight. Upon arrival in Havana, enjoy a brief driving tour of the city and head to the lively community arts program of Muraleando. Get to know artists, dancers, and musicians who have helped transform a downtrodden neighborhood into a living work of art. Then check in to our hotel before gathering for a welcome reception and dinner tonight. Hotel Parque Central (D)
Day 2 — Havana
The architecture of Havana is astounding in its breadth and elegance, yet years of neglect have left many buildings in need of restoration. Learn about the challenges and successes of historic preservation from a local expert, then set out into Old Havana to see centuries-old gems—and meet the Cubans who live and work in them. After lunch, join local youth and their teachers who are carrying on the traditions of Afro-Cuban religion, dance, and music. Delve into race relations and other issues during a meeting and short film screening with Afro-Cuban filmmakers. Attend a special musical performance after dinner. Hotel Parque Central (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Havana
Spend the morning with Cuban professionals, engaging in a specially arranged discussion on education, economics, social issues, the role of government, and other topics of interest. Then join a sports expert to learn about the historical and political importance of sports in Cuba. In the afternoon, meet the instructors and students of La Colmenita, an after-school program that uses song and dance performance as a social development tool. Hotel Parque Central (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Cienfuegos
Drive south to Cienfuegos, a port city with French colonial roots. Stroll along the main commercial street on a walking tour of the city, stopping to talk to cuentapropistas (self-employed workers) about the burgeoning private economy here. At the prestigious Benny Moré Art School, watch students perform music and dance, view their artwork, and hear the stories of these talented youth and their teachers. After dinner, there will be an opportunity to get to know residents of a typical neighborhood in Cienfuegos. Hotel Jagua (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Trinidad/Cienfuegos
Travel along the Caribbean coast to charming Trinidad, where we explore Cuba's best preserved colonial city with a restoration expert. Set off along its cobblestoned streets, pausing at colorful houses along the way to meet artisans, antiques collectors, and longtime residents who have transformed their historic homes into guesthouses. One such man is Julio Muñoz, a photographer and union representative for the self-employed, whose family appeared in an October 1999 National Geographic magazine article. At his colonial-era house, learn about his private businesses, such as his bed-and-breakfast, and hear about his program promoting equine care. Hotel Jagua (B,L)
Day 6 — Cienfuegos
Near Cienfuegos, explore Cuba's oldest botanical garden with a botany expert, who will educate us about Cuba's efforts to maintain the rich biodiversity of its extraordinary plant life. Then stop in a former sugar mill town and meet with the town's present-day inhabitants. Later, enjoy a choral performance and discussion with a world-renowned a cappella group, the Choir of Cienfuegos. Hotel Jagua (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Bay of Pigs/Havana
Today, head to the historic Bay of Pigs. Trace the dramatic events that occurred here at a small museum, and then step foot on the Playa Girón, one of two landing sites for the 1961 U.S.–backed invasion. On our way back to Havana, pay a visit to Finca Vigía, the former home of Ernest Hemingway. A museum expert joins us to share a Cuban perspective on Hemingway’s strong connection to the Cuban people.
Hotel Parque Central (B,L)
Day 8 — Havana/Jaimanitas
In the fishing village of Jaimanitas, wander through the fantastical workshop and home of ceramic artist José Fuster, called the “Picasso of Cuba.” Stroll down village streets decorated with his mosaics, stopping to interact with neighborhood families along the way. Then attend a question-and-answer session with American author and Havana resident Marc Frank. Meet with Marc and a Cuban journalist to discuss their perspectives on Cuba’s past, present, and future. Celebrate our Cuban experience together at a farewell dinner tonight. Hotel Parque Central (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Havana/Miami, Florida
After breakfast, talk with troupe members of an
Afro-Cuban dance group and enjoy an energetic
private performance. Later, transfer to the airport
for your flight back to Miami.
Fabio (Fe) Amador is a Senior Program Officer for the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program, which is dedicated to funding exploratory research around the world. He has traveled and worked extensively throughout Latin America and is presently collaborating with research projects in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Peru, El Salvador, and Madagascar. He has also traveled regularly to Cuba over the past five years on educational and scientific missions for National Geographic. As a trained archaeologist, his interest in Taino Indian culture (which spanned the Greater Antilles, including Cuba) is focused on the sacred landscape and the use of caves for ritual activity. In his role at National Geographic, Fabio uses imaging and visualization technologies to provide new ways of capturing data and to document the experience of conducting research and exploration. His initiative in supporting worldwide research has resulted in a workshop titled The Art of Communicating Science. This capacity building initiative is aimed at students, scholars, explorers, government agencies, and stewards of the cultural and natural patrimony, so that they can be trained in how to develop, design and use imaging technology to document, protect, and communicate the importance of their heritage through exploration, discovery, and storytelling. Fe's continued effort in communicating science has allowed him to use photography, cinematography, and other multimedia tools to reach large audiences through his public lectures at universities, presentations at international scientific and professional symposia, publications in scholarly journals and on National Geographicâs Explorers Journal and NatGeo News Watch online blogs.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,850. There is an additional holiday surcharge of $400 per person on the December 27, 2016 and December 29, 2016 departures.
Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. The per-person costs for round-trip group flights between Miami and Havana are $550 (November - December 20, 2016 and January 2017 departures), $625 (December 27 and 29, 2016 departures), and $400 (February - June 2017 departures).
Featured Expedition Moment
What To Expect
This trip is permitted through the people-to-people general license category authorized by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The itinerary was designed to provide an in-depth cultural experience with numerous opportunities for meaningful interactions with Cubans.
Information about travel restrictions in Cuba will be provided in your pre-departure materials.
While we do our best to adhere to the itinerary listed here, traveling in Cuba requires flexibility, and changes to hotels and activities may occur.