Hola! My name is Yane Marquez and I was born and raised in Cuba. After graduating from the University of Havana and the Tourism School of Cuba, I worked for over 10 years as a tour guide, translator and event organizer for Cuba's travel companies and organizations. I guided many groups attending Cuba's main international festivals, fairs and events. A few years ago, I moved to Canada where I have continued promoting Cuba’s tourism industry. I would be more than happy to answer any question you have about festival Cuba travel. Do not miss out!
The Havana Jazz Festival (Cuba Jazz Festival) was born in 1978 when Bobby Carcasses, and other
Cuban Jazz musicians, presented the first Jazz concert at the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza.
This is the origin of the title International Havana Jazz Festival "Jazz Plaza".
Based on this success, another Jazz festival was organized the following year,
featuring pianist Chucho Valdes.
In 1996 Chucho Valdes became director of the Havana International Jazz Festival and president of the Organizing Committee.
Cuba Festival Travel: 35th Cuba Jazz Festival "Jazz Plaza 2020" From January 12 to January 20, 2020
Travel to Havana, Vinales, Cienfuegos & Trinidad From 2,499 (tax included) Most Popular Tour for the 8th Year in a Row!
Referral Discount: $100
Invite 1 Friend and Pay $2,399 only
Invite 2 Friends and Pay $2,299 only
Invite 3 Friends and Pay $2,199 only
Invite 4 Friends and Pay $2,099 only
Invite 10 Friends and Pay $0 And remember every person you invite
will also receive a $100 discount!
Jazz Plaza 2020, the 35th International Jazz Festival of Havana, which is sponsored by famed Cuban jazz artist Chucho Valdes and ICM, or the Cuban Institute of Music, will be held in numerous locations throughout the Cuban capital from January 15 to January 19, 2020. In light of this, Authentic Cuba Travel has once again partnered with the festival’s organizing committee as well as the ICM to offer the Official Jazz Plaza 2020 Cuban tour of the International Jazz Festival from January 12 to January 20, 2020.
The International Jazz Festival of Havana Tour from Authentic Cuba Travel offers travellers complete access to each and every one of the concerts, venues, and happenings of the festival while also granting incredible access to some of the island’s most incredible and well preserved historical centers. UNESCO World Heritage Sites the likes of Trinidad, Cienfuegos, and Old Havana are only a few of the stops during the tour, which also presents the opportunity to engage and interact with Cuban locals outside of the traditional tourist areas.
The people of Cuba and their genuine culture offer something that simply cannot be experienced in less authentic Cuba tours you'll find elsewhere. Our tour is often imitated but never duplicated not only because of the incredible value we provide for your money but because of the "human" component that can only be provided by our Cuban experts. Visitors will find that the social, economic, and political structures of the country are fascinating not only to academics, but to all who get to experience the island in person.
Take A Sneak Peak at the Cuban Destinations You Will Visit Outside Havana
The International Jazz Festival of Havana is certainly among the island’s biggest gatherings, bringing in acts from all across the globe. More than 20 international bands, including Michael Fleiner’s Latin Jazz Septet and the Chico O’Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra have joined some of Cuba’s most famous artists in previous festivals, which have been a rousing success. Festival venues include Mella Theatre, Sevilla Hotel, Karl Marx Theatre, and the National Theatre of Cuba, presenting visitors with the unique opportunity to experience some of the finest jazz musicians in some of Cuba’s most historic and impressive buildings.
Authentic Cuba Travel is pleased to invite you to the Official Cuba Tour to the Havana Jazz Festival 2020 open for Jazz Lovers & Jazz Professionals from All Over the World! Let's Celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Havana Jazz Festival Together!
For many festival attendees, the anticipation of the event’s famous impromptu jazz sessions is among the biggest draws of the festival. It is incredibly common for artists to join together to create spontaneous music, and the opportunity to experience the coming together of international musicians in such a way is an incredibly rare and delightful opportunity. The International Jazz Festival of Havana brings in artists from the United States, the UK, Argentina, Chile, and more, and represents not only the spirit of Cuban music, but the sense of camaraderie shared by those with a deep appreciation for jazz.
The International Jazz Festival of Havana has played host to some of the biggest names in jazz over the years, and 2020 will be no different. Past festival guests have included Dizzy Gillespie, Luis Monge, Max Roach, Cubanola, and many more of the most famed artists of the genre. The festival has also seen performances from renowned Cuban Jazz Musicians such as Chucho Valdes, José Luis Cortés, Bobby Carcassés, Mayra Caridad Valdés, and more.
Showcasing some of the biggest names in the genre alongside jazz’s most talented newcomers, the performances and jam sessions of Jazz Plaza 2020 will definitely be something to remember, and Authentic Cuba Travel is offering the chance to experience all that the festival has to offer as well as the opportunity to see Cuba outside of the usual tourist spots and to experience the island from a more authentic and exciting point of view.
US Citizens can Travel to Cuba under a General License for Group People-to-people Travel. We CAN help!
Who Can Travel to Cuba under a General License for Group People-to-People Educational Travel?
ANY US citizen can travel to Cuba legally under the group people-to-people license for educational activities. The people-to-people license is a program that was started under the administration of President Clinton (so it is not a new program), then it was revoked under Bush administration and it was reinstated and enhanced by the administration of President Barrack Obama.
After President Trump’s Cuba announcement on June 16, 2017, the General License for People-to-people Educational Travel will ONLY be available for Group Travel (individual people-to people-travel will be ended). It requires these trips to take place ONLY under the auspices of US organizations that promote people-to-people exchanges. All travellers must be accompanied by a representative of the sponsoring institution to observe that a full-time schedule of educational activities is maintained.
In other words, the trip should consist of a full-time schedule of activities intended to promote the exchange with the ordinary citizens of Cuba. This full-time schedule must also include educational activities that result in meaningful interaction in between American and Cuban nationals. Tourism remains prohibited.
Authentic Cuba Travel has launched this educational people-to-people trip to Cuba in cooperation with US organizations that are authorized by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to run cultural and educational people-to-people programs to Cuba. Your license is included in the price of the tour.
If it always has been on you bucket list to go to Cuba to attend the International Jazz Festival of Havana, and you are involved with a US University Jazz Ensemble or Jazz Band, Authentic Cuba Travel will make your dreams come true. Authentic Cuba Travel facilitated the Friends University Jazz Ensemble Cuba trip to Cuba in 2011. Do not miss the above documentary by Sierra Scott that showcases the entire journey.
Notice to US Recording Industry Associations, US Music Publishers’ Associations, US Musicians Associations, US Music Clubs, US Academies of Music, and other Music Institutes and Societies from USA
US Recording Industry Associations, US Music Publishers’ Associations, US Musicians Associations, US Music Clubs, US Academies of Music, and other Music Institutes and Societies from USA can organize and sponsor a trip to Cuba for educational exchanges not involving academic study to promote people to people contact for their members and the general public. Certain conditions are to be met to comply with OFAC General License requirements for USA Cuba travel though.
The trip should consist of a full-time schedule of activities intended to promote the exchange with the ordinary citizens of Cuba. This full-time schedule must also include educational activities that result in meaningful interaction in between U.S and Cuban nationals. The trip to Cuba must be escorted by an employee of the organization. Free time in excess or regular tourists' activities are not permitted.
We take care of all details both in North America and in Cuba, including VISA and flight arrangements to Cuba's main destinations via USA ports (Miami, Tampa, New York, Los Angeles, or other) or through third countries like Canada and Mexico. Authorized US organizations can travel through a third country subject to the same restrictions and requirements as those flying directly from USA.
At Authentic Cuba Travel, we have been organizing such educational and cultural travel experiences from the United States of America for years with great success.
People-to-people General License issued by OFAC Authorized US SponsorPeople-to-people General License issued by OFAC Authorized US Sponsor
Havana Jazz Festival PassHavana Jazz Festival Pass
9 Meals Included15 Meals Included
24/7 Luxury Air-conditioned Motor Coach24/7 Luxury Air-conditioned Motor Coach
24/7 English Speaking Guide24/7 English Speaking Guide
24/7 Support from ACT Staff24/7 Support from ACT Staff
4-Star Habana Riviera by Iberostar Hotels or 5-Star Melia Cohiba by Melia Hotels4-Star Habana Riviera by Iberostar Hotels or 5-Star Melia Cohiba by Melia Hotels and 4-Star Melia Jagua by Melia Hotels
UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
TWO(2): Old Havana and Vinales Valley)FIVE(5):Old Havana, Vinales Valley, Cienfuegos Historical Centre, Trinidad Historical Centre & The Sugar Mill Valley
Guided Tours of Old Havana and Vinales Valley & Town.
Guided Tours of Partagas Cigar Factory, Hemingway Attractions, Havana Art Schools, among others.
Visits to Studios of Artists, Experimental Printing Workshop, Old Havana Handicraft Market, Scale Model of Old Havana, among others.Guided Tours of Old Havana, Vinales Valley & Town, Cienfuegos, Trinidad & Sugar Mills Valley.
Guided tours of Partagas Cigar Factory, Hemingway Attractions, Havana Art Schools, among others.
Visits to Studios of Artists, Experimental Printing Workshop, Old Havana Handicraft Market, Scale Model of Old Havana, among others.
Guided Tours of Palacio del Valle, Tomas Terry Theatre, among others in Cienfuegos. Guided Tours of Museo Romantico, History Museum, among others in Trinidad.
Private Visits to the Pottery Making Workshop, Casa Templo de Santería, Handicraft Market, among others in Trinidad.
Price (All Taxes Included):
4 Star Package Price: $1,899
5 Star Package Price: $2,4994 Star Package Price: $2,499
Sr. Pablo Delgado
Instituto Cubano de la Música
Calle 15, No. 452, e/ E y F
Plaza de la Revolución
Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba 10600
The first Jazz Festival of Havana was held at the movie theatre Payret in Old Havana in 1963. Even though it was not an international event, it played a key role in revitalizing the dormant Cuban jazz scene. It was attended by Cuba’s best in the genre such as the Leonardo Timor Jazz big band, the only big band left in Cuba at the time featuring jazz musicians such as Samuell Tellez, Fernando Vivar & Ruben Gonzalez. Omara Portuondo was among the roster of muscians at this first Havana Jazz Festival too.
As an international event, the Havana Jazz Festival didn’t become a reality until 1978 when a string of concerts led by Cuban Bobby Carcasses and other renowned jazz musicians drew the attention of the world and international jazz masters. Given the fact that these concerts took place in the Havana municipality of Plaza de La Revolucion, the festival soon became known as the Jazz Plaza.
By the hand of your Authentic Cuba Travel guide you will explore the sights and sounds of the 142 hectares that comprise Old Havana, the Historical Centre of Cuba’s Capital. Getting to know Old Havana means getting to know her grand old palaces, squares and her people, it means taking the time to stroll her cobblestone streets once full of horse-drawn carriages and settle into a seat at a cafe to contemplate the daily life and sounds of the old city while catching the cool sea breeze.
Palacio del Valle is one of those landmarks you simply can't miss when touring Cienfuegos. Located in the one-time aristocratic district of Punta Gorda, the Moorish-style Palace was built by wealthy Spaniard Oclico Valle Blanco in 1917 as his private residence. During the times of dictator Batista, there were plans to turn it into a casino when the Jagua hotel was completed nearby in the 1950’s. Today is an upscale restaurant where you will enjoy a complimentary lunch before continuing your authentic Cuba travel adventure in the afternoon.
In today’s tour to the Tomas Terry theatre’s interior you will be able to appreciate all the original elements of the theatre, including the Cuban wood carved 950 seat auditorium, the impressive ceiling fresco, the “mourning” balconies with intricate iron work and independent entrance, the incline stage and also the white Carrara marble of Tomas Terry at the theatre lobby.
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad and the Sugar Mill Valley is our authentic Cuba destination today. This sort of “museum town” of 50 000 inhabitants offers the Cuba travellers the more genuine colonial atmosphere found in Cuba these days. With buildings showing barely any signs of the 20th century and locals who even ignore the new names of the river-stone streets, you will find a hard time getting directions base on official street names shown in your tour guides and maps. Luckily we have our Authentic Cuba Travel guide to show us around this morning.
The 44-meter-high Manaca Iznaga Tower next to the hacienda house was used to watch out slaves. Pedro Iznaga who bought the property in 1795 was one of Cuba’s wealthiest men.
Tonight the International Jazz Festival of Cuba 2018 kicks off. Jazz history will be made and new names will be added to the prestigious list of national and international Jazz musicians that have performed on regular basis at the event such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette, Danilo Perez, Chucho Valdes and many others.
Founded in 1845 by Spaniard Don Jaime Partagas, the Partagas Cigar Factory produces most of the Cuban famous cigar brands and vitolas.
Your Cuba travel experience wouldn’t be complete without a day trip to one of Cuba’s most unique and prettiest natural landscapes, the Vinales Valley made up of fertile plains of limestone origin. You can spot the famous mogotes (free standing cone-shape hills) anywhere in the valley. Bohios, palm trees and tobacco cops and houses are also easily found in the natural scenery that became known to the world thank to the landscape paintings of Cuban Domingo Ramos.
The Havana Jazz Festival 2010 was attended by over twenty international Jazz bands such as the Chico O'Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra- led by younger Arturo O’ Farril, the University of Texas Jazz Orchestra, the Joaquín Betancourt’s Jazz Band and the Michael Fleiner’s Latin Jazz Septet.
Cuban musician Chucho Valdes, president of the Organizing Committee of the Havana Jazz Festival, won his eigth Grammy Award in 2011 for best album of Latin jazz. CD "Chucho Steps", recorded with his new band Mensajeros Afrocubanos, under the label Concord Picante.
Day 1. Sunday 12 January 2020. Hello Cuba
Today we finally land in Havana City, full of spellbinding scenes and sounds; this is Cuba’s largest city with over 2 million inhabitants.
You will be welcomed by your Authentic Cuba Travel guide and bus driver. They will be your 24/7 escorts to all the activities and attraction of the Havana Jazz Festival Cuba tour.
You will be shown to your modern air-conditioning motor coach and enjoy a short ride to your hotel in Vedado Neighbourhood. This is Havana’s downtown where most of musical venues and happenings of the Cuba Jazz Festival will take place. This is the place to be in the city in the coming days if you are a Jazz lover.
Please remember that your breakfast is included and you can enjoy it anytime from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Day 2. Monday 13 January 2020. Cienfuegos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Morning. Authentic Cuba Travel’s Havana Jazz Festival Cuba tour is often imitated, but never duplicated, among other things, because we take travellers to explore the authentic Cuba beyond the capital of the country. And today we will travel to Cienfuegos, Cuba’s second smallest province after Havana. Located in Central Cuba, this Cuban province is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and Sierra del Escambray to the East.
Highlights of the province are the impressive neoclassical architecture of the provincial capital, the lavish Moorish architecture of Palacio del Valle, the outstanding Fortress of Jagua, the romantic colonial La Reina Cemetery and its historical centre that has been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Upon arrival we will head to Punta Gorda, the quarter of Cienfuegos one-time aristocratic families that today showcases the best restaurants, hotels, villas and residences. We will visit Palacio del Valle not only to enjoy its exuberant Moorish-style architecture or contemplate the breathtaking view of Cienfuegos bay from its rooftop (while enjoying a refreshing mojito..perhaps) but to have a complimentary lunch.
Afternoon: Escorted by local city planners and architects from the Office of the City Historian, the local organization in charge of the preservation and restoration of Cienfuegos Historical Center, we will embark on a walking tour of Old Cienfuegos. We will start in Parque Marti, a large square that is centered by a statue of Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero, and surrounded by Cienfuegos’s most imposing neoclassical buildings.
Cubans called Cienfuegos the Spanish city with a French heart because it was founded by French refugees from La Louisiana in 1819- following the purchase of that territory by the US. There’s an inlaid rosette in the park that marks the exact spot where Don Luis de Clouet and other French families held the ceremony of foundation of the city back then.
The south side of the square is dominated by the Capitol of Cienfuegos, former city hall that houses the seat of the People’s Power today (provincial government). Inside the Capitol, there are beautiful mural paintings that depict Cienfuegos’s most remarkable historical moments as well the legend of the creation of the peninsula by native Guanaroca, the first woman created by the Siboney’s moon, Maroya.
Tomas Terry Theatre on the north side of the square was completed in 1889 by the family of Tomas Terry, an industrialist from Venezuela who settled in Cienfuegos and made a fortune in the sugar cane industry. It was Terry’s dream to build Cienfuegos grandest theatre. At his death in Paris in 1886, his widow and sons decided to honor his dream.
In 1887, a jury in Paris selected from among three architectural projects the proposal presented by Cuba born architect, Lino Sanchez Marmol for an Italian style theatre. The same year the first stone was laid down in the same location previously occupied by theatre Isabel II built in 1940.
Tomas Terry was not the only wealthy sugar baron that donated monies for the construction of Cienfuegos greatest public buildings. Take a look at the east side of the square and you’ll see the impressive neoclassical Catedral de La Purisima Concepcion built with the monetary contributions of the Lebranc, the Terry, The Acea and other families.
Cienfuegos’ aristocracy also built their private residences around the square, that’s the case of Palacio Ferrer, better known today as Casa de La Cultura. Showcasing Carrara marble floors and walls and a wrought iron staircase that leads to a tower from which you can enjoy a great view of the city, rumour has it it will be completed refurbished into an upscale hotel soon.
Before going to the hotel, we will enjoy some free time to explore Maroya Art Gallery that has Cienfuegos’ best collection of art and even antiques for sale. This also represents a good opportunity to engage with local artist and artisans and learn about their lives firsthand. Your Cuban guide will facilitate introductions and translation.
We now go back to Punta Gorda neighbourhood to check in at the Jagua Hotel rising over the vast bay of Cienfuegos that opens to the Caribbean Sea. Dinner is complimentary at your hotel today.
Day 3. Tuesday 14 January 2020. Tour of UNESCO Heritage Site, Trinidad
Morning: after enjoying a complimentary buffet breakfast at our hotel this morning, we will embark on a day trip to one of Cuba’s more authentic destinations, Trinidad and the Sugar Mill Valley both declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
The 45 minute coastal road trip is as worthy as the destination itself. And we will enjoy the amazing natural scenery of the Escambray Mountains and the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea as we go.
Trinidad was the third village founded by conquistador Don Diego Velazquez in 1514. However, it was not until the mid of the 19th century that Trinidad’s economy boomed becoming Cuba’s third largest sugar cane producer.
The origin of this prosperity can be traced back to the Haitian Revolution when hundreds of French refugees came to Trinidad fleeing the slave rebellion and established a number of sugar mills in the Sugar Mill Valley that soon became the backbone of Trinidad and Cuba’s economy.
Escorted by local city planners and architects from the Office of the City Historian, the local organization in charge of the preservation and restoration of Trinidad Historical Center, we will embark on a walking tour of the old city.
As we tour Trinidad’s Historical Center today, we will find that behind most colonial palaces of red terracotta tiles, wide porticoes and ample balconies there’s the name and fortune of a sugar cane baron with properties in the nearby Valle de Los Ingenios.
We will pay a visit to the romantic museum, Museo Romantico housed in the former Palacio Brunet. The museum displays china, silverware and locally-made furniture that once belonged to the Brunet and other wealthy families of Trinidad.
The former house of Sanchez Iznaga contains today the Museum of Colonial Architecture that tells us the history of Trinidad’s authentic colonial architecture through a display of a series of traditional building items (from adobe walls to door hinges to a 19th century shower stall!) and architectural elements such as an impressive portico, shaped fan door headers, el aljibe (a rain water collecting system) and shuttered windows.
We will also visit the Iglesia Parroquial de La Santisima Trinidad, that threasures the venerated Christ of the Veracruz; the Museo de La Lucha contra Bandidos, located in a former 18th century convent of San Francisco de Asis that displays objects related to the war against counter revolutionary military groups that operated in Sierra del Escambray in the early years of the Cuban Revolution; and many other buildings.
We will have a complimentary lunch at El Jigue restaurant located in El Jigue Square where Fray Bartolome de Las Casas held the first mass of the city in 1514.
Afternoon: we visit the Casa Templo de Santería Yemayá. This is an opportunity to see a Santeria altar dedicated to Yemayá, Goddess of the Sea, and exchange with religious leaders about Afro-Cuban religion and influences in Cuba today.
Next, we will board our air-conditioning bus for a short 10 minute ride to the Valle de Los Ingenios (Sugar Mill Valley). By now we know the importance of the valley for the economic development of the city so it is only fair we pay a visit. We will stop at a lookout for a panoramic view of the series of valleys (San Luis, Agabama-Meyer and Santa Rosa) that comprise the Sugar Mill Valley. Many of the mills and estate house remain today (mainly in ruins though).
It could be the quality of the region’s clay and the skills of the artisans who have been passing from generation to generation the genuine techniques, but the fact remains that Trinidad’s pottery making is one of Cuba's most authentic traditions. We will visit the Workshop of the Santanders, one of those legendary families next.
Before heading back to Cienfuegos, we will have some free time in the historical center. This is a good opportunity to visit the numerous handicraft markets that covered Trinidad’s cobblestone streets. We also recommend taking a look at Galerias de Arte Universal (Universal Art Gallery) housed in the former Ortiz Palace where you will find original contemporary art by local artists.
Dinner is complimentary at your hotel tonight, but you can also take some time on your own to enjoy a local paladar (private restaurants). Paladares are abundant in town today.
After dinner, we recommend to pay a visit to nearby Casa de La Musica to listen to Cuba’s best salsa bands live and dance with Cubans and tour mates. Your Authentic Cuba Travel guide will keep you posted on the schedule of evening venues in the city.
Day 4. Wednesday 15 January 2020. Opening Ceremony of the Cuba Jazz Festival
This morning we say goodbye to central Cuba. After enjoying our last complimentary breakfast at Jagua hotel, we travel back to Havana City to attend the opening of the International Jazz Festival of Havana 2016.
At Authentic Cuba Travel, one of the Cuba travel tips we always give our American travelers is to visit local communities off the Cuba's tourism beaten track to discover the authentic Cuba. And that’s what we will do next. US visitors will meet ordinary Cubans whose lives have been positively impacted by the artwork of the Caribbean Picasso- a nickname Cuban artist Jose Fuster is commonly given.
We will visit their homes at the seaside village of Jaimanitas, the epicenter of Jose Fuster street art gallery project. Here dozens of humble homes are covered in amazing, wildly ceramic murals, and other artworks.
Complimentary lunch will be hosted by the artist himself in his personal residence and studio.
Then we will have some time to exchange with Jose Fuster, and other members of the Community Project of Jaimanitas about this outreach program that has changed the lived of humble fishermen for the best.
Followed by meeting with professors and students of Cuba’s leading art academy, Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA). Cuba's National Art Institute was established in the former Havana Country Club in the early days of the Cuban revolution. We will visit the Faculty of Music that occupies the original country club building. Chances are you will meet the next generation of Cuban Jazz musicians.
Evening venue: tonight is the night we have all been waiting for! The Jazz Plaza 2020 kicks off today. We will participate in the Opening of the 35th Havana Jazz Festival. Your Authentic Cuba Travel guide will hand out your All Access Jazz Pass and show you to the best seats at the designated theatre (quite likely the Mella Theatre or the National Theatre of Cuba). Please, guard the Jazz pass dearly as it is not replaceable and grants you access to all Jazz venues in the city.
We believe that educational travel should engage foreign visitors with the cultural and social values of the Cuban society through people-to-people interaction. During the next four nights, North American travelers will be able to spend quality time with the hundreds of Cubans that attend the various venues of the Havana Jazz Festival every night. Travelers will make friends, establish relationships and gain memorable experiences that both foreign visitors and Cubans will treasure for live and have an impact in their lives. The people-to-people engagement with Cubans is the key component that makes our educational tours to Cuba different from the rest.
Day 5. Thursday 16 January 2020. Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Morning: this morning we'll have the pleasure to be introduced to Old Havana by renowned Cuban architect Miguel Coyula, from the Group for the Comprehensive Development of Havana City. He will welcome our group at the Scale Model of Old Havana for a presentation on the past, present and future urban development of Old Havana. We will learn all about the original layout of the city and its foundation by the Havana’s Bay to its expansion over time. The creators of the model did a wonderful job in color-coding the buildings to reflect their age and historical period.
Complimentary lunch will be served at La Mina restaurant, located in one of the most historical buildings of Old Havana that once served as the Residence of Havana’s Bishops, We will enjoy authentic Cuban dishes and music live!
Afternoon: the best way to appreciate the historic yet vibrant neighbourhood of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is by foot. And that’s what we will do after lunch guided by our Authentic Cuba Travel guide.
Your Cuban tour guide will be explaining about the historical restoration project that is taking place in Old Havana. You will also visit social and community outreach projects during this walking tour.
We will start by visiting El Templete (or Little Temple in English), at the east side of Plaza de Armas (Square of Arms) the city’s oldest square and the seat of Spanish power and rulers in the island for over 400 year. Marked today by a neoclassical chapel erected in 1828 and a Ceiba tree, this is the spot where the foundation of the city took place in 1519.
We will also explore Palacio de Los Condes de Santovenia, an 18th century building that houses today the Hotel Santa Isabel dating back from 1867!
On the west side of the square is the Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales (Palace of the Captain Generals), Cuba’s most magnificent baroque building that was the seat of authority and the residence of the Spanish rulers (at the time known as Spanish captains general) in colonial times.
Adjacent to the Palace of the Captain Generals we find another beautiful example of authentic Cuban baroque architecture, the former headquarters of the Spanish governor or Palacio del Segundo Cabo.
We cannot continue our guided walking tour of this authentic Cuban attraction that is Old Havana without noticing Cuba’s oldest military fortress, the Fortress of the Royal Force. It was the first residence of the Captains general until the Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales was completed...some two hundred years later.
Now we will walk a few blocks to Plaza de La Cathedral (The Cathedral Square) surrounded by noble palaces and presided over by the Catedral de San Cristobal de La Habana.
The Jesuits began the construction of the church in the mid of the 18th century, but they couldn’t finish it as the order was expelled from the island in 1767. Considered as the most beautiful example of authentic Cuban baroque architecture, it contains the remains of Christopher Columbus inside a dramatic funeral monument.
During the early Spanish colonization of Las Americas, the wealth seized from people from Peru to Mexico, mainly in the shape gold, passed through Havana on the way to Spain. Merchants made fortunes providing goods and services to the crews while in Havana. That’s the wealth upon which the great buildings you see in Old Havana today were built and San Francisco Square is no exception.
Visit to the Experimental Printing Workshop, a cooperative workshop where young lithographers ply their art. You will have ample time to engage with Cuban artists about this art project that follows a very unique cooperative model in Cuba in which artists directly benefit from the sales of their artworks.
Plaza de San Francisco, our next stop, soon became the trade square of the city during early colonial times. Galleons full of Spanish immigrants and African slaves called port here to unload their human cargo and stockpile before continuing on journey to The West Indies.
No wonder Cuba’s first commodities market was built here in 1909, the domed Lonja del Comercio. Today it houses foreign enterprises with joint ventures in Cuba.
One of the latest squares to be founded in colonial times was Plaza Vieja (Old Square) and it was completed restored in the 2000s. Surrounded by wide-balcony elegant-porticoe mansions of Havana’s one-time wealthiest merchants, the square contains no government or religious buildings, an element that makes it unique in the Spanish fabric.
Next we are going to visit a primary school. As Cuba looks forward to increasing its production of foods to reduce its dependency on imports, education officials are now implementing new strategies to encourage the young generations to embrace agricultural related trades from elementary education. What’s exactly been done at elementary level is one of the subjects that school principal, professor Garcia and her team of teachers will attempt to shed light on during our tour of the school.
Now it’s time to enjoy some free shopping time, as we will visit the newest harbour side home of the Handicraft Market of Old Havana at the Cultural Centre San Jose’s Old Warehouse. This is the place to buy some Cuban souvenirs or a great paining or sculpture, or just enjoy the sea breeze as you admire the architecture of the building.
Evening: tonight marks the second night of the Havana Jazz Festival 2020. Your authentic Cuban guide will keep you posted on the schedule of the Jazz Festival so that you decide the best venues to attend. Keep your ear on the ground for the unscheduled Jazz sessions that usually unfold during this night. Also do keep your ALL ACCESS Jazz Pass handy to make sure you have complete access to concerts and music events.
Day 6. Friday 17 January 2020. Authentic Havana
Morning: the great US author Ernest Hemingway spent about 20 years in Cuba and today we will embark on a tour to follow his trail in the Caribbean island. We will start by visiting Finca La Vigia (Watchtower Farm) located on a small hill of San Francisco de Paula, a humble town in the outskirts of Havana, where the US novelist lived most of this time and completed his most successful novels.
Hemingway used to wake up early in the morning and write for about 6 hours, sometimes from a three story tower next to the main house, sometimes standing in front of a wooden book case on top of which we can still see his typewriter. Here he completed books such as The Old Man and The Sea and Islands in the Stream.
The property has been kept as a museum for more than 49 years. The interior of the main estate remains unchanged since 1959 when Hemingway left for the United States. Hemingway’ shoes, glasses, hunting trophies, original manuscripts, letters, books, pictures and all his possessions are on casual display just like the writer may show up anytime.
Many times, after completing his morning writings, Hemingway used to go out to Cojimar, a coastal fishing town where he kept his fishing boat Pilar, and then go fishing in the company of Gregorio Fuentes, the Cuban captain of Pilar for the rest of the afternoon.
And that’s where we are heading next. Worth mentioning the fact that his novel The Old Man and The Sea that granted him the Nobel Prize for Literature was inspired on the life of a fisherman from Cojimar. The presence of Hemingway can be felt around town from the small gazebo that contains a bust of the US writer to Las Terrazas restaurant where a large portrait painting of the author is displayed altogether with a collection of pictures.
Your Authentic Cuba Travel guide will give you some free time in Cojimar to walk along the waterfront by yourself. You can also take advantage of this time to enjoy a seafood lunch at Las Terrazas (not included in costs) or sip a refreshing mojito or daiquiri.
Afternoon: visiting an artist’s studio is like a small window into the artist’s mind and heart. This afternoon you’ll get to explore those spaces with private visits to the workplaces of some notable contemporary artists like Alicia Leal and her husband Juan Moreira as well as younger artists like Juan Carlos Alom and the Britos’ Sisters making their mark on the Cuban art scene.
Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to share directly with the artists, ask them questions about their work and methods, and see the diverse influences, heritages, and imaginations at play. Meeting with Cuban artists up close and personal is an exclusive experience of our Cuba Tours.
Next we will learn about Cuba’s maritime history at the Fortaleza de Los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro (El Morro Fortress). The fortress was built in the 16th century to guard the entrance to the Bay of Havana from the attack of pirates and corsairs. Sitting on a rocky bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean it displays breathtaking views over Havana city. Showcasing an iconic lighthouse, 3 metter thick walls and deep moats, The Fortress has been a landmark of Cuba’s military architecture for centuries.
Inside the Fortress, there’s also a Cigar Store that carries all brands of Habanos. Your tour guide will show you to the store where you can puff the famous Cuban cigars.
Evening: tonight marks the third night of the Havana Jazz Festival 2020. Your authentic Cuban guide will keep you posted on the schedule of the Jazz Festival so that you decide the best venues to attend. Keep your ear on the ground for the unscheduled Jazz sessions that usually unfold during this night. Also do keep your ALL ACCESS Jazz Pass handy to make sure you have complete access to concerts and music events.
Day 7. Saturday 18 January 2020. Vinales Valley, UNESCO Heritage Site
Today we will take a day tour to explore another authentic Cuba destination, the Vinales Valley. Vinales was declared as Cultural Landscape Site by UNESCO in 1999 because of its beautiful landscape dotted with mogotes (conical limestone hills), tobacco houses and bohios (a sort of huts); because of the distinctive vernacular architecture of its houses; and because of an authentic system of agricultural methods for the tobacco harvest that farmers have been passing through generations.
We will take another escape into the local tobacco farm of one of those families that have inhabited the region for generations dating back to colonial times when Spaniards- from Canary islands mainly, settled in this region in an attempt to move away from the monopoly of tobacco trading imposed by Spain. We will learn about the ancient techniques of tobacco growing of this region that produces the best tobacco in the world. We will also learn about the daily life and struggle of the locals.
We’ll take a tour to the Indian Cave. Once used as a burial site by the Gunahatabeyes, one of the native people of Cuba, the cave was rediscovered in 1920. We will walk some 300 meters into the cave towards a river that flows underground the mogote. Then we will travel by boat another 400 meters to the other site of the hill.
There’s a gigantic 180-meter-long mural on the side of one of the mogotes known as Dos Hermanas. This is our next stop. The painting was done by Cuban artist Leovigildo Gonzalez, a pupil of Mexican Diego Rivera and is better known today as the Prehistoric Mural because it depicts prehistoric animals whose fossils were found in the region.
There’s a restaurant onsite that specializes in grilled pork, congris and other authentic Cuban dishes. For many, this is the best place to eat in town. We will enjoy a complimentary lunch.
Afternoon: after lunch, your Authentic Cuba Travel guide will give you some free time in downtown Vinales for visiting at your own pace some of the attractions of this charming colonial town such as the handicraft market, the Parque Marti (town’s main square), the main church, and others.
Then we will head back to Havana just in time for freshen up, have some dinner at the hotel (not included) and go out explore tonight’s main venues of the International Jazz Festival of Havana. Did we mention yet that you could not forget your All Access Jazz Pass?
Evening: tonight marks the fourth night of the Havana Jazz Festival 2020. Your authentic Cuban guide will keep you posted on the schedule of the Jazz Festival so that you decide the best venues to attend. Keep your ear on the ground for the unscheduled Jazz sessions that usually unfold during this night. Also do keep your ALL ACCESS Jazz Pass handy to make sure you have complete access to concerts and music events.
Day 8. Sunday 19 January 2020. Closing Ceremony of the Havana Jazz Festival
Morning: another key element of our authentic Cuba tours that sets our Cuba travel company apart from the rest it is the escapes that we make into the most humble yet genuine neighbourhoods of Cuba to discover authentic traditions and get to know the real Cuban people. And we are about to experience another one of those adventures as we visit Santa Amalia neighbourhood where a group of elder dancers have maintain tap dancing alive in Cuba for decades. Now they will display their dancing skills to live Jazz music.
We will spend the morning exchanging with members of the community and the Tap Club of Santa Amalia.
Next, we’ll also visit the Callejón de Hamel, an alley where all the buildings display murals inspired by Afro-Cuban culture and religions.
We'll meet with project director and artist Salvador Gonzales Escalona at his studio to review the influence of the African culture and religions in Cuban art.
Salvador Gonzalez is a well known Cuban muralist, painter, and sculptor. He has murals in Philadelphia, New York and Norway.
Remainder of the afternoon is free to relax by the swimming pool of your hotel or conduct personal explorations of
the city on your own.
Evening: attend the closing ceremony of the 35th International Jazz Festival of Havana 2020. Please, do not forget your All Access Jazz Pass.
Day 9. Monday 20 January 2020. Good Bye Cuba!
Today marks the end of our Cuba Jazz adventure. Your Cuban guide and bus driver will escort you to the International Airport for departure.
The History of Cuban Jazz Music
From the Jazz Big Band "Brothers Castro" to Chucho Valdes. Brought to you by Authentic Cuba Travel
While jazz music has many of its roots on the island nation of Cuba dating as far back as the end of the 19th century, it was really in the 1920’s that the genre gained an established presence in the country.
It was then, in 1929 to be specific, that the first Cuban jazz big band Brothers Castros led by a saxophonist named Manolo Castro was formed, and over time, the genre grew in fame and size. While considered to be the first jazz big band of the time, Brothers Castros was far from the last.
During this time many American jazz bands were hired to play in the Caribbean island. Cuban musicians learnt from those American bands not only the intricacies of the jazz language but the international repertoire and soon they became masters of the musical genre not only in Cuba but in the very USA.
By the 1930’s Cuban music had become popular across the globe, a fact that favored the birth of numerous jazz big bands flourished in Cuba the likes of Leucona Cuban Boys, Riversai, and The Curbelo were practically household names.
In 1932, the musical works of American jazz legends such as Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson had an impact on Cuban jazz musician Armando Romeu who, together with other famed Cuban artists such as Chico O’Farrill, Bebo Valdes, Kiki Hernandez, and Rafael Tata Palau, formed the first of a series of Jazz big bands.
Many Cuban artists, including the likes of Mario Bauza and Miguelito Valdes had established themselves in New York City as early as 1930, with Bauza gaining the opportunity to work with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie and Cab Calloway.
When Bauza’s brother-in-law, Frank Grillo, arrived in the city in 1937, he suggested that they form a band blending the sounds of traditional jazz with those of Afro-Cuban music. In 1941, he did just that, and Machito and the AfroCubans were formed with Bauza serving as their music director. The band went on to perform with Charlie Parker and other famous jazz musicians of the time. Dizzy Gillespie renamed it Cubop when it added Cuban Chano Pozo to its own band.
Even while America was becoming a popular venue for Cuban jazz in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, Havana was still an equally popular area for the genre. It was during this time that Armando Romeu and Luis Escalante teamed up with Gustavo and Leopoldo Pucho Escalante to form the famous jazz band The Bellamar.
During this time, the first Cuban bop band was also formed. Known as The Beboppers, the group featured Rene Urbino, Kiki Hernandez, Daniel Peres, and Chico O’Farrill. It was also during this time that Armando Romeu was hired by the famed Tropicana cabaret. Here, he formed a big band that included more than 12 members, including Daniel Perez, Kiki Hernandez, and Peruchin Justiz, among others. Critics by large considered the band to be among the best in Cuba.
One of the most important events in this part of the history of Cuban jazz is the emergence of Luciano Chano Pozo as one of the most famed jazz artists of the time. Pozo began as part of the radio station RHC’s orchestra in Havana, as well as the author of a number of famous rumba tunes, such as Parapampin. Pozo starred in the famed Congo Pantera at The Tropicana and became a highly famed soloist in Havana before moving to New York, where he became as much of a legend of American jazz as he was in Cuba.
The Filin, or The Feeling also emerged during the 1940’s when Cuban musicians abandoned the music’s Spanish and Italian roots to create something new closer to Jazz influences. Artists who belonged to this style include Jose Antonio Mendez as well as Cesar Portillo de la Luz, both of whom hold a firm place in Latin American music history. The founder of Cuba-Bop, unrelated to New York’s Cubop, Nino Rivera (from within The Feeling lines) also went on to put Cuban jazz music on the global map.
Other famed Cuban jazz artists of the 1940’s included Palau Brothers, the Brothers Lebatard, and the famous Casino de la Playa, the latter of which included popular singer Orlando Guerra, as well as pianist Damaso Perez Prado, who went on to be known as The King of the Mambo.
By the time the 1950’s rolled around, Havana’s mafia was hard at work trying to turn the city into the island’s equivalent of Las Vegas. Show business increased rapidly in popularity, with the hotels and nightclubs of the era offering jazz sessions. International stars such as Sarah Vaughan, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Benny Goodman visited the city with some frequency, and the Tropicana, with the help of Armando Romeu, became the center of Havana’s jazz scene.
Here, Sunday jazz sessions played host to the likes of El Negro Vivar, Tata Palau, Milt Jackson, and Ralph Burns. In 1957, 1900 Havana and the Tropicana played host to many musicians, DJs, and jazz fans from both Cuba and the United States with the goal of sharing musical experiences. It was also in this period that the first Cuban Jazz LP “El Cubano” was recorded. Featuring the likes of Bebo Valdes, Guillermo Barreto, El Negro Vivar, Kiki Hernandez, and Gustavo Mas, “Cuban Jam Sessions” was one of those records that altered the course of Cuban Latin jazz not only on the island, but even in the United States.
The success of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 altered the landscape of Cuban jazz, and the music of the 1960’s included rhythms such as the mozambique and the pachanga which initially were very popular, but quickly became forgotten. During this era, rock, bossa nova, and other forms of music made their way to the island, diminishing the popularity of jazz and relegating it to smaller venues and concerts. The big bands almost disappeared in this decade.
Cuban jazz musicians like pianist Frank Emilio Felipe, Pucho Escalante and Dulzaides and worked to keep jazz alive, the latter trained many young musicians. By 1961, Armando Romeu had left the Tropicana, though in 1966 he agreed to direct a band of young Cuban jazz musicians.
In 1963 the first Havana Jazz Festival was held in Cuba at the Payret Movie Theatre. All jazz bands and popular musicians showed up such as singer Maggie Prior and Omara Portuondo, and the Jazz band of Leonardo Timor, the last remaining big band of the time that featured many important musicians of the time, including Samuell Tellez, Fernando Vivar, and Ruben Gonzalez.
During the late 1960’s, Samuell Tellez and Chucho Valdes were among the popular young names in Cuban jazz. In 1966, The Cuban Institute on Cinematographic Arts and Industry (ICAIC) created an experimental group led by composer/ guitarist Leo Brouwer which combined sounds such as jazz, rock, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian music, and European Concert music.
Many of these orchestra members formed quintets or quartets that performed in a variety of jazz festivals, including Poland’s Jazz Jamboree, where genre legends Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mullingan were quite anxious to listen to the sounds of the Chucho Valdes Quintet. Valdes’s group Irakere, organized in 1973, gained nearly instant success, earning the praise of such musicians as Earl Hines, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan and David Getz, and Leonard Feather, the famous jazz historian.
In 1974, Irakere embarked on a historical US tour sponsored by Columbia CBS playing at a number of US jazz festivals such as the ones in Newport and Montreal. This tour and the resulting success of Irakere helped lead to the creation of Irakere’s first Grammy winning album in 1979. For much of the 1970’s, Irakere ruled the Afro-Cuban genre of jazz alone, and it was only at the decade’s end that acts such as AfroCuba and Emiliano Salvador’s Quintet really entered into the scene.
In 1979, Casa de La Cultura de Plaza, a venue in Havana’s Plaza de La Revolucion municipality played host to a string of concerts organized by jazz player Bobby Carcases. It was these concerts that formed the basis for the national and later international event known as Jazz Plaza or the International Jazz Festival of Havana. These concerts have featured some of the biggest jazz musicians not only of Cuba, but of the United States, Canada, Latin America, Australia, and Europe.
Ronnie Scott and Dizzy Gillespie were regulars of the festival, with Scott serving as a co-organizer until 1993. Other acts who have performed at the festival include Cuban jazz master such as Chucho Valdez, who now organizes the event, as well as Armando Romeu, Tata Guines, Frank Emilio, and others, while globally renowned artists such as Max Roach, Richie Cole, and Leon Thomas are also among the names who have played the festival in previous years.
The Jazz Plaza music festivals have helped to bring attention and renown to many Cuban musicians while also spreading the music of international artists across the island. Many of the Cuban artists who have performed at Jazz Plaza have gone on to be nominated for and even receive Grammy Awards within the Latin Jazz category, with Chucho Valdes certainly remaining among the most globally renowned of them all.
Authentic Cuba Travel
Cuba Festivals & Events
Authentic Cuba Travel's festival tours are sanctioned, hosted and fully sponsored by Cuba’s key Culture Ministries, Organizing Committees and Cuban personalities. Travel with the peace of mind of knowing you are in the best hands!
Tour participants are provided with “All Access” Pass to participate in all official venues and activities of Cuban festivals.
Premium seats at the opening and closing ceremonies of our festival Cuba tours.
Tour of festival related venues across the city, escorted by Cuban culture personalities and world class tour guides.
Enjoy unlimited access to programmed concerts and festival events.
Travel to UNESCO World Heritage cities such as Old Havana, Vinales, Cienfuegos Historical Center, Colonial Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, and other Cuban cities.
Exchange with Cuban and international musicians, exhibitors, publishers and personalities.
Participate in the most traditional and popular ceremonies in Cuba such as The Fire of the Cannon of 9 O’Clock at the Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabana.