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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 for Havana, Cuba. Upon arrival, take a brief driving tour of the city. Then, meet troupe members of an Afro-Cuban dance group and enjoy an energetic private performance. Later, check in to our hotel before gathering for a welcome reception and dinner tonight at a local paladar (privately owned restaurant). 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, delight in an exhibition by dancers from one of the preeminent Cuban performing arts companies before participating in a discussion with them. 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 visit a fábrica de tabaco (cigar factory) to
meet cigar experts and learn about the role that tobacco has played in Cuban history. This evening, enjoy a private pre-opening tour of a former factory-turned-art gallery and discuss the contemporary art scene in Havana with local artists. Hotel Parque Central (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Cienfuegos
This morning, visit an urban organic farm to meet with a local farmer and discuss agriculture in
Cuba. Then 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. 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. After lunch, hear from a local athlete about the role that sports, such as baseball, play in Cuban culture. Later, enjoy a choral performance and discussion with a world-renowned a cappella group, the Choir of Cienfuegos. After dinner, there will be an opportunity to get to know residents of a typical neighborhood in 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. Then stop for lunch and enjoy an opportunity to talk with a park ranger visiting us from the nearby Ciénaga de Zapata National Park. Learn about the ecology and conservation efforts of the protected area, declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. 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, transfer to the airport for your flight back to Miami.
Fabio Amador was for many years 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 used 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 National Geographic research and exploration projects worldwide has resulted in a workshop titled The Art of Communicating Science. Fabio uses photography, cinematography, and other multimedia tools to reach large audiences through his public lectures at universities and on expeditions, presentations at international scientific and professional symposia, publications in scholarly journals and on National Geographic’s Explorers Journal and NatGeo News Watch blogs.
ALT indicates a departure that has a slightly different itinerary than the one shown on this page. Click the ALT icon to see the day-to-day itinerary.
The November 2017 to June 2018 departures are 8 days (one day shorter than the itinerary shown on this page). Please click on the Alternate itinerary icon to see the day-to-day information for these dates.
January - June 2017 (9 Days)
January - March 2017
April - June 2017
November 2017 - June 2018 (8 Days)
November 2017 - April 2018
May - June 2018
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,850. There is an additional holiday surcharge of $200 on the December 28, 2017 departure.
Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. The per-person costs for round-trip group flights between Miami and Havana are $400 (February - June 2017 departures), $600 (November 2017 - June 2018 departures), and $675 (December 28, 2017 holiday departure). Group flight cost includes air ticket, taxes and fees, and required Cuban health insurance as well as expedited check-in service, one checked bag, and a Cuban visa processed on your behalf.
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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.