Even though the Jesuits couldn’t complete the construction of the Cathedral of San Cristobal de La Habana in the 18th century, it is still the prettiest Cuba’s building ever built in the authentic baroque architectural style. Surrounded by the colonial palaces of the one-time Havana’s aristocracy and looming over the cozy Cathedral Square, the Cathedral showcases mismatched towers, white marble floors, mural frescoes by Italian artist Perovani and paintings done by Jean-Baptiste Vermay. Located within one of the most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Cuba, Old Havana
this is certainly an attraction we will not miss in this Cuba educational and cultural tour.
The Instituto Superior de Arte
, or Cuba’s National Arts Institute is Cuba’s leading art academy. With university enrolment in Cuba falling by about 25% in 2011, due to the new realities of the country where students are oriented now to fields like agriculture and technical sciences (with more employment opportunities) to help boost production, this is for sure one of the key visits we will undertake during our Cuba educational tour to help us comprehend the changes and challenges taking place in Cuba’s higher education system today.
Many of the American K-12 teachers and educators that have travel in our educational tours to Cuba consider a visit to the Museum of Literacy as an illuminating activity. The humble museum houses a large collection of photographs and literature documenting the Literacy Campaign that saw over 100 thousand students from urban centers going to Cuba’s rural areas to end illiteracy in the country. Many lost their lives in the noble odyssey murdered by counter revolutionary gangs in mountainous areas, and our host Luisa Campos, of those young teachers and museum director will provide valuable insights and anecdotes about the Literacy Campaign.
One of the highlights of our Cuba education tours is the opportunity to have access to elementary schools. You will learn about Cuba’s elementary education system by touring schools, meeting with school principals and teachers, and enjoying cultural activities organized by the students for our tour participants. This is for sure a heart warming, inspiring and educational visit that will make your Authentic Cuba Travel® experience unforgettable. Above primary students wear the typical primary uniforms.
Our Cuba cultural and educational tour features some authentic Cuban music venues such La Zorra y El Cuervo, Havana’s premier Jazz club. There’s a house band that performs free style jazz and Cuba’s top jazz bands also play regularly. Cuban Jazz Musicians
start playing around 10:00 p.m. but it is not unheard of performances starting as late as midnight, specially the top names in the genre such as Irakere, NG La Banda and others.
Nicknamed The Pearl of The South
because of its extraordinary natural beauty, Cienfuegos
is a Caribbean city that was declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005 because of its well preserved neoclassical architecture. Founded by French immigrants under Spanish ruling in colonial times, a large number of Cienfuegueros (the people of Cienfuegos) show light skin, blue eyes and blond hair. Cienfuegos is one of those cities, no Cuba explorer should miss.
What separates Authentic Cuba Travel® from other Cuba cultural and educational tours providers is that we take you to explore the authentic Cuba beyond Havana city at very affordable prices. And this Cuba tour is no exception; among other UNESCO World Heritage Sites you will visit the Sugar Mills Valley and Trinidad
, the third oldest city founded by the Spaniards in the island. Today no other city in Cuba offers a more colonial atmosphere than this beautiful Caribbean city.
What happened at the end of basic secondary education in Cuba? At that moment Cuban students can continue education either at pre- universities or at technical schools. Those who choose to complete pre-university education will received a high school diploma at the end of a 3-year period, while those who opted for technical education will graduate as skilled workers or technicians of middle-level. In both cases, students can continue studies at university level or join Cuba’s work force.
Day 1. Saturday 2 March 2024.
Welcome to the largest and most beautiful island in the Greater Antilles!
After clearing Cuban custom
and immigration at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana City, you will meet your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide. He will show you to the currency exchange offices so that you get some local currency.
Then your Cuban guide will introduce you to your bus driver. After a 30-minute private transfer you will check in at your hotel. Your driver and tour guide will be part of your full time entourage for the next week.
The hotel package option in this Cuba educational and cultural trip features a Luxury Casa Particular
, located in Havana’s downtown area of Vedado neighbourhood.
Day 2. Sunday 3 March 2024.
Discovering Old Havana
Morning: our host this morning is renowned Cuban architect Miguel Coyula, leading figure of the Group for the Comprehensive Development of Havana City. Architect Coyula will give our group a presentation on the urban development of what is today considered the historical centre of the city. And there’s no better place for such an educational introduction than the Old Havana’s Scale Model
at the heart of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Welcome Lunch: a new wave of paladares (privately-owned restaurants) has recently swept the Cuban dining scene offering excellent food and charming ambient. Today we’ll enjoy a welcome lunch at the stylish Paladar San Cristobal
, one of Havana's top ten private restaurants.
Afternoon: now is the time to embark on a walking tour of Old Havana
led by our expert Cuban guide.
No better place to start than under the shades of a ceiba tree that marks the original place of foundation of the city in 1519. In 1828, a small neoclassical building known as El Templete
was built here as a remembrance of such a historical event. And this is the point from where our Authentic Cuba Travel® guide will tell us the stories and history behind the main buildings surrounding the Square of Arms
, Havana’s oldest colonial square and symbol of the Spanish ruling in the island for over 400 years.
Then we will make our way into the Cathedral Square
a few blocks away. During the rainy season, stagnant waters in this area, mosquito’s outbreaks and poor transit conditions made life miserable for any serious development to take place. And that’s why the square was originally known as the Swamp Square. However, that did not prevent the Jesuit order to start building a church in this area in 1748. By the end of the 18th century the construction was finished and the diocese of Havana was created. After the move of Cuba’s bishop to Havana (previously in Santiago de Cuba) the church was elevated to a Cathedral.
Another colonial square of great importance during colonial times is the Square of San Francisco
. The square commercial history can be traced back to earlier colonial times when Spanish galleons used to call port in this square to unload precious cargo that was stockpiled in the area. Named after the former Convent of San Franciso, a commodity market was established here in 1909, the magnificent Lonja del Comercio
building that serves today as the centre of operations of foreign firms and joint ventures.
The final square we will visit in Old Havana during this Cuba educational and cultural tour is the Plaza Vieja
(Old Square). Historically speaking, it was founded in the mid-16th century when it was called the New Square because of being the third one to be founded in the period. Originally used for military exercises, the square soon became a more public square where people in Havana used to gather to discus daily affairs. Today the historic buildings in the area house residences, schools and important art galleries such as the Fototeca de Cuba
(Photo Art Gallery), the Center for the Development of Visual Arts
and La Casona
To wrap up today’s exploration of Havana’s historical center we will pay a visit to a former warehouse on the harbour side that has been restored to its original glory and houses today Cuba’s largest handicraft market
. You will be able to purchase not only small souvenirs and crafts but original art works by Cuban talented artists.
Evening: our Cuba tour highlight tonight is a private performance by Elsa’s Band
. Our group will be hosted by Elsa at the rooftop of her private residence in an Old Havana building. We will learn the basis of popular Cuban rhythms such as Salsa and Rumba by the hand of talented bandleaders.
Day 3. Monday 4 March 2024.
Cuba's Higher Education
This morning we will visit Cuba Higher Institute of Arts
which presents an unparalleled chance to learn about Cuba’s higher artistic education and the challenges it faces in the light of the new approach to higher education in Cuba. Today Cuban students are encouraged more and more towards the pursuit of studies related to agriculture, which Cuban authorities consider a key sector for the development of the country.
The schools were built on the fields of the former Havana’s Country Club. Today you will meet at the one-time Club House, Faculty of Music
today, with school principals and professors who are also active artists. After a brief presentation on the role of the school, you will embark on a tour of the main faculties among those the Faculty of Visual Arts
which is considered the most representative of the architectural ensemble.
What sets our Cuba educational tours as authentic Cuba experiences is the opportunity to meet with Cuban personalities like Jose Fuster
. The renowned Cuban artists will open the doors of his private residence and studio to our group today. Fuster is an outstanding example of the artistic education in Cuba’s revolutionary period. As we tour his studio and shared a special complimentary lunch with the artist
, we will hear about his work and dreams of turning Jaimanitas town into a giant museum.
Afternoon: now we are off to the National Museum of the Literacy Campaign
dedicated to the preservation of documents, photographs, books and mementos related to the Literacy Campaign that took place in 1961 when more than 700 000 people learnt to write and read within a year.
We are lucky enough to be hosted by the museum director Luisa Campos who not only participated in the 1961 literacy campaign but is a key consultant for the development of literacy campaigns taking place in countries like Venezuela and Bolivia these days.
Evening: we will witness an authentic Cuba tradition in the making, the Fire of the Cannon of 9 O'Clock
. Every night hundreds of Cubans come from all over Cuba to attend this colourful traditional ceremony that has been taking place in Cuba since colonial times. It takes place at the largest fortress build by the Spanish rulers in The West Indies, San Carlos de La Cabana. In recent history, it served as Ernesto Che Guevara headquarters at the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
Day 4. Tuesday 5 March 2024.
Cuba's Technical Education
Morning: today is another special day of our education tour to Cuba as our group will visit the prestigious Escuela-Taller (Workshop School) “Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos”
. Founded more than 20 years ago, this authentic Cuban school teaches young students the arts, techniques and methods of historical preservation and restoration.
Among the school many accomplishments in recent years has been the complete restoration of the San Francisco de Asis Convent and the Greek Orthodox Church in Old Havana. In fact, it is almost impossible to find a historical building in Havana city today that has been restored without the participation of graduates from this school.
Next we are going to visit primary school “Angela Landa”
. 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.
Then we will take a lunch break. As lunch is not included today, your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide will show you to a variety of eateries in the area.
Afternoon: we are off to a tour of the Universidad de La Habana
(Havana University). Founded by the Dominicans in 1728, it is Cuba’s oldest university. We will go up the monumental stairway, pass the Alma Mater sculpture, and through the impressive neoclassical gateway into Ignacio Agramonte Square, the heart of the university. Surrounded by the faculties of social sciences, mathematics, law and the University Library, the square is the centre of student life and social gatherings.
Followed by visit to the Palacio de Bellas Artes
(Palace of Fine Arts) that dates back from 1954 and was fully renovated in 2000. This world class museum showcases Cuba’s most important collection of Cuban visual arts from the 17th through the 20th century.
Evening: tonight we suggest you escape by yourself or with your tour mates to Havana’s most popular Jazz venue, The Fox and The Raven Jazz Club
(La Zorra y El Cuervo). Even though this is an optional activity, not included in the cost of your Cuba tour, it is worth a visit if you are into Latin jazz, or just need a break from Cuban Salsa and Son. Cuba's top Jazz musicians
and bands perform here live every night. Please, do check with your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide for an updated schedule in advance.
Day 5. Wednesday 6 March 2024.
Cuba Explorer, Off to Central Cuba
Morning: one of the things that sets authentic Cuba tours apart from the rest; it is the chance to explore authentic Cuba cities that are somehow away from mainstream Cuba’s tourist destinations such as Havana city and Varadero Beach. And today we wear our Cuba explorer hat and are off for an exploration of two Caribbean cities that have been for its own merits declared as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, Cienfuegos
Cienfuegos sits on one of the largest pocket-shaped bays of Cuba, the Bahia de Cienfuegos
that opens into the Caribbean Sea. It is the capital city of Cienfuegos province, the second smallest province in Cuba after Havana, and was named after the Spanish Captain General Jose Cienfuegos in 1829, ten years after the foundation of the city by a group of French families.
We will arrive in Cienfuegos
around lunch time.
Lunch is included at Paladar Ache
, one of Cienfuegos top ten private restaurants, serving local specialties in a pleasant courtyard.
Visit to Palacio del Valle
one of the landmarks of the city. It showcases Gothic, Moorish and Eclectic architectural styles. Named after Acisclo del Valle Blanco, a Spaniard that settled in Cienfuegos around the turn of the 19th century at the age of 17, it was built by Italian architect Alfredo Colli using imported materials from Italy, Spain and the United States.
Afternoon: we will visit the historical center of Cienfuegos by foot guided by our Authentic Cuba Travel® guide.
We can’t think of a better place to start our afternoon exploration than Parque Jose Marti
as this is the place where Don Luis de Clouet and a group of 46 French immigrants from Bordeaux and Lousiana in the United States gathered for the elaborate ceremony of foundation of the city in 1819.
Two marble lion statues at the entrance of the park lead to an inlaid rosette that commemorates the exact place of foundation. This serves as a perfect spot for having a 360 degree view of all the neoclassical structures surrounding the park.
Cienfuegos has been known as the City of Domes
because many buildings in the city are crowned by magnificent towers and miradores
. You can appreciate one of those towers in the former Palacio Ferrer
, a blue lavish palace that stands out on west corner of the square.
One of the most stunning buildings in the area is the 950-seat Tomas Terry Theatre
. Featuring seats carved in Cuban woods, a large ceiling fresco, and incredible ironwork, the theatre opened in 1895 with a performance of Verdi’s Aida. Among the famous who have performed in this auditorium are Enrico Caruso and Sarah Bernhart. This is also the scenario for performances by visiting Cuban companies such as the Cuba’s National Ballet, the Liz Alfonso Ballet and all important theatre groups in Cuba today.
If you take a closer look you will see the busts of remarkable city benefactors spread discretely throughout the park. Families like the Terrys, the Albis, the Lebrancs and the Aceas donated part of their fortunes to build the Cathedral of Cienfuegos
that stands at the eastern side of the square since 1870. Time permitting, we will take a look at the interior of the Cathedral where original elements has stood the test of time such as a 12 Apostoles stained glass reproduction and the machinery of the clock tower both imported from France.
Our tour to the historical centre wouldn’t be complete without some shopping time at the graceful Galeria de Arte Maroya
. This is Cienfuegos most visited art gallery where you can buy paintings, sculptures and crafts produced by the most prominent local artist and artisans.
Sometime around 5 o’clock we will board our air-conditioning bus to continue our Cuban journey to the colonial city of Trinidad. Upon arrival at the city we will check in at our Luxury Casa Particular
Day 6. Thursday 7 March 2024.
Morning: another highlight of this Cuba education tour is the opportunity to visit the Academy of Painting “Oscar Fernandez”
in Trinidad. This is an excellent opportunity to do some research into Cuba’s educational system in rural areas. Our group will be welcomed by the school principal, teachers and students who in turn will take us for a tour of the facility.
Lunch at Solananda Paladar
Afternoon: our afternoon exploration of Trinidad’s Historical Centre
will begin at Plaza Mayor
(town’s main colonial square) where the museums and church of the old town are focused. Founded in 1514 by Cuba’s first governor, Diego Velazquez, the village remained somehow dormant until the 19th century century when the city flourished as a result of the boom of the sugar cane industry. The lovely buildings we see around Plaza Mayor were built during this period for Trinidad wealthiest families.
However, the sugar cane estates in the nearby Sugar Mill Valley
were burned to the ground by the mambises
(Cuba independence fighters) on regular basis during the two wars of independence in an attempt to destroy the economic foundation of the Spanish rulers. And by the late 19th century, Trinidad’s landowners had moved to Cienfuegos and Matanzas provinces, closer to the Cuban capital where the metropolis had full control.
became a city frozen in time. Cobblestone streets, mansions of wide porticoes and red-tile roof, baroque churches remain today with little change from that time period. That’s why, the colonial atmosphere of Trinidad is hard to imitate for any other colonial city, and that’s why UNESCO declared Trinidad and the Sugar Mill Valley
as World Heritage Sites.
Among the colonial building we will visit this afternoon are the former mansion of Sanchez Iznaga family that houses the Museum of Trinitarian Architecture
today; the 18th-century ex Convent of San Francisco the Asis that contains the Museo de La Lucha Contra Bandidos
since 1984; the Museo Romantico
, the one-time residence of the Counts of Brunet; the Casa Cantero that houses the Museum of Municipal History
today and the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad
on the northeast side of the Plaza Mayor that shelters one of the most sacred religious objects in Cuba today, the sculpture of El Cristo de la Veracruz (1731).
Following Trinidad’s walking tour, our Authentic Cuba Travel® guide will take us for a bus ride to the Mirador del Valle de Los Ingenios
(Sugar Mill Valley Lookout). This is a mirador
from which you can have a panoramic view of the entire Sugar Mill Valley. The sugar cane production of the valley created the wealth that financed the townscape of the city in the mid of the 19th century as we already know.
An authentic Trinitarian tradition that has passed from one generation to the next in the city is pottery making. Next our group will be hosted by the Santanders, one of those mutigenerational pottery making family, at their workshop, also known in Trinidad as Casa del Alfarero
Before calling it the day, we will explore the open-air handicraft markets
that spread throughout the historical center. This is probably the best place in Cuba to buy crochet work and textile items.
Evening: tonight is free of scheduled activities to enjoy your local music venues and entertainment. If you still have some energies left, and feel like dancing, we recommend paying a visit to Casa de La Trova
that features Cuban folk music every night and it is popular with tourists and locals alike.
Day 7. Friday 8 March 2024.
Morning: as a very special activity for this educational tour of Cuba, our group will meet Cuban doctors at a family doctor’s office. You will learn about the Cuban Family Doctor and Nurse Program
, an educational approach that requires the training of a team of two health care professionals (community doctor and nurse) who work as a team to provide health care to a neighbourhood, specific area or community. Family doctors are a new type of physician that specializes in comprehensive general medicine and are integral part of the so called Primary Level of Medical Attention.
Now is time to say good bye to Trinidad and head back to Havana city.
Day 8. Saturday 9 March 2024.
This morning your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide and bus driver will take you to the international airport of Havana city for departure. Please make sure to keep aside 25 Cuban convertible pesos to pay for the airport departure tax.