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Experience the evolution of Cuba through its people on a cultural program that uses photography as a means of getting to know Cubans from all walks of life. Join a National Geographic photographer and two Cuban photographers for an intimate look at Havana and the surrounding countryside. Rise with the sun to capture the old city’s early morning rhythms, and photograph the people you engage with on visits to schools, dance studios, art cooperatives, and more. This trip is limited to 16 travelers.
Visit a historical home with its owner and focus on its stunning architectural details.
Attend a practice session of a ballet company and photograph graceful dancers.
Step into Cuba’s oldest boxing club to meet with and photograph coaches and boxers (November departure), or venture into the Cuban countryside to take part in the traditional New Year’s Eve festivities of Las Charangas de Bejucal (December departure).
Tour a leading photography guild with the director and see the work of renowned Cuban photographers.
Itinerary - 8 Days
Day 1 — Miami, Florida/Havana, Cuba
Depart Miami for Havana, Cuba. Upon arrival, have lunch at a traditional Cuban restaurant. Get oriented on a city tour as we drive toward Habana Vieja, or historic Old Havana. Check in to our hotel and then set out to explore the Paseo Prado, a pedestrian promenade where we begin to see daily Cuban life and engage with the locals. Gather tonight for a welcome orientation and reception at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts). Our welcome dinner will be the following evening, after our first full day in the city. Hotel Mercure Sevilla (L)
Day 2 — Havana
For those interested, join expedition staff for an optional sunrise photo walk around Old Havana as the city is coming to life. After breakfast, focus on the restoration of Old Havana during a guided walk around the historic squares and a meeting with a representative from the city historian’s office. Then head to Plaza Vieja to hear from Nelson Ramírez de Arellano, the director of Fototeca de Cuba. Founded in 1986 to preserve and promote Cuba’s photographic heritage, Fototeca de Cuba is home to the nation’s largest collection of Cuban photography. Learn about the organization’s role in nurturing young talent, explore current exhibitions, and enjoy an interactive presentation on renowned Cuban photographers. Following lunch, delve into the origins of Cuban folkloric dance at a local dance company and learn about the history of dance in Cuba, as well as the life of dancers in Havana today. Converse with students and musicians, and shoot portraits of dancers in motion. Gather for a welcome dinner tonight at a local paladar (privately owned restaurant). Hotel Mercure Sevilla (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Havana/Countryside
Rise early for an optional sunrise photo walk followed by breakfast, then travel to the outskirts of Havana to Cojímar—a small fishing village where Ernest Hemingway once docked his boat, El Pilar. Explore the fishing community and speak with local fishermen about how they make their living. After a group lunch, spend the afternoon exploring the quiet town of Campo Florido, where we will have the opportunity to visit nearby horse farms and learn about how horses play a valuable role to Cubans in terms of working farms and day-to-day transportation. Meet and photograph local residents, and discuss their hopes and
thoughts for the future. Back in Havana this evening, take part in a specially arranged session with a group of leading Cuban photographers who will share their portfolios and discuss their careers. Hotel Mercure Sevilla (B,L)
Day 4 — Havana
Cuba has a long and storied tradition of dance, and today we explore this important cultural aspect of life in present-day Cuba. This morning, visit an Afro-Cuban dance group, and after lunch, meet with dancers and instructors at a ballet company. Engage with the company directors to learn about the history of dance in Cuba, discussing a wide range of topics including support of the independent arts organizations in Cuba, arts education, and the various health and fitness approaches of the dancers. During our visits, capture the dramatic action of Afro-Cuban dance and the graceful choreography of the ballet rehearsal. Later this afternoon, return to the hotel for a talk by your National Geographic photographer before dinner at a local paladar in Old Havana. Hotel Mercure Sevilla (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Havana
Enjoy an optional sunrise photo walk, then step back in time at a lovely old home in the neighborhood of Vedado, feeling the elegance that was once Havana. You will have a chance to get better acquainted with Cubans through interactions and portraiture in this setting frozen in time. Additionally, we visit and learn about the importance of the famous Cementerio de Colón, where Cararra marble tombs celebrate the lives of scores of generations. After a group lunch, cross Havana’s harbor to reach Casablanca, where fishermen repair their boats and nets; and explore the village that lies in the shadow of “El Cristo”, the Christ statue that sits on the hilltop overlooking Havana Bay. Then learn about the importance of the 18th-century San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress. Steeped in history, this stronghold was once under the command of Che Guevara. Hotel Mercure Sevilla (B,L)
Day 6 — Havana
Explore the neighborhood known as Barrio Belen this morning. Then go behind the scenes at Gimnasio de Boxeo Rafael Trejo, the oldest boxing club in Cuba. Cuba has a long tradition of amateur boxing, which has thrived in large part due to a 50-year ban on professional boxing. The director will introduce us to the illustrious history of this popular sport in Cuba, which includes 32 Olympic boxing gold medals since 1972. Talk with coaches and their boxing students, and then take a position ringside to photograph a lively training session. After a group lunch, visit Old Havana’s Mercado Agropecuario Egido, where we have an opportunity to meet independent farmers and produce vendors at the market and photograph their vibrant displays of fruit, vegetables, meat, and flowers. We also meet with Cuban artists and gallery owners in Old Havana, including a visit to a graphic arts workshop. Talk with Cuban printmakers about artistic expression, and learn about etching, lithograph, woodcut, and the collagraph engraving processes. Hotel Mercure Sevilla (B,L)
Day 7 — Havana
Early this morning, those interested in taking sunrise photographs overlooking the city can head out to El Morro castle, part of the Spanish colonial fortress at the entrance to Havana’s bay. Photographic opportunities abound as we explore the city today and interact with its gracious people. Talk with a classic car owner about the challenges of vehicle upkeep; meet with a former baseball coach and trainer to learn about the Cuban baseball scene; step inside local shops to engage cuentapropistas (self-employed workers), who are part of an expanding private sector; and more. Our Cuban photographers will join small groups to help facilitate these and other people-to-people activities. Tonight, celebrate our Cuban experience at a farewell dinner. Hotel Mercure Sevilla (B,D)
Day 8 — Havana/Miami
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight back to Miami.
To reserve space or for details about traveling with us on this unique Cuba program, call 1-866-797-4686.
Photographer and filmmaker Stephen Alvarez has published more than a dozen feature stories for National Geographic's magazines, covering exploration, culture, religion, and the aftermath of conflict. Stephen has reported on the discovery of the Ice Maiden in the high Andes of Peru, conservation in the roadless jungles of Suriname, rain forest research in Costa Rica, and cave exploration in Borneo, Mexico, Belize, Papua New Guinea, Canada, and the United States. His images have won awards in Pictures of the Year International and Communication Arts, and have been exhibited at Visa Pour L'Image in Perpignan, France. Recent appearances include NPR, PBS, and CBS Sunday Morning.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single
room, add $1,195.
Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Round-trip group airfare between Miami and Havana is $450. The group flight cost includes air ticket, taxes and fees, and required Cuban health insurance, as well as one checked bag and a Cuban visa processed on your behalf.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
Each departure is limited to 16 travelers.
Please Note: This trip is permitted through the people-to-people general license category from the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The itinerary was designed to provide numerous opportunities for travelers to engage in meaningful interactions with Cubans, using photography as a medium for enhancing educational exchange and cultural exploration.
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.