Photo shooting opportunities are abundant in Vinales Valley with the prettiest tobacco plantations of the country. Meeting photo-friendly farmers and local Cubans will also enrich your photography expedition to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cultural travel to Cuba wouldn’t be complete without exploring the mogotes, unique hills found rarely elsewhere in the world, and local tourist attractions like the Cueva del Indio, Vinales Downtown and the Prehistoric Mural.
Cuba cultural tours feature visits to premier Cuban cultural institutions. Treasuring original photography works by Cuban masters like Korda and Salas, among many others, the Photo Gallery of Cuba contains the most valuable collection of photos, photographic materials and documents in the world. A photography collection that grows every day with the addition of the newest photographic artwork produced by today’s leading Cuban photographers. For sure, the Fototeca is a mandatory visit in any Cuba photography travel.
Iconic black and white photos like those of Che Guevara by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda played a key role in making the image of the Cuban Revolution popular and somehow romantic around the world in the early 1960’s. Our Cuba cultural trips delve into the archives of Cuban photography.
At Authentic Cuba Travel®, we take very seriously the job of finding the best photographers and photography artwork to show participants in our Cuba Tours. For that reason, our tour directors personally visit the studios of Cuban photographers at least once a year to see their latest photos and artistic production. Luis D’Aguiar (left) revisits one of the latest collections by Cuban master Rene “Pupy” Pena (right). Cuba cultural travel to Cuba won`t be an authentic Cuba
immersion without people to people exchanges to learn side by side with Cubans.
Cuba cultural tours will take you to explore destinations like Cienfuegos, a Caribbean city in the southern cost of central Cuba that was founded in the 19th century by French settlers that were fleeing from La Louisiana after the US purchased that territory from Napoleon in 1803. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, its historical center contains neoclassical buildings of great beauty including theatres, churches and palaces that we will explore during this photography journey to the largest island in the Greater Antilles.
As part of your photography tour to the authentic Cuba, we will travel to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad, one of the first seven settlements founded by the Spaniards in Cuba in the early 16th century that contains one of the best preserve historical cores in all The Americas. With a colonial atmosphere like no other in Cuba, Trinidad town scape today looks like a city frozen in the second half of the 19th century with barely traces of modern times. For sure, a treat of our cultural tours in Cuba!
One of the most photographed natural settings of Cuba, the Valley of The Sugar Mills contains the ruins of dozens of small 19th century sugar mills, slave barracks, estate houses, and other remains of sugar plantations of the period that we will explore during our Cuba photography tours to the authentic Cuba.
With a cool microclimate of its own, the Escambray Mountain Range is home to a wide array of Cuban native bird species like the Cuban Trogon or the Cuban Parrot which makes it an ideal destination for wildlife photography professionals. Travel photography professionals will also find it hard to resist as it contains the prettiest coffee plantations, authentic Cuban farms and unbelievable human settlements like Topes de Collantes. With slopes bathed by vines, lichens, giant ferns and pine and coniferous forest, the natural beauty of the region makes it a paradise for photographers.
Day 1. Saturday 11 June 2022.
Cuba is the most photography friendly island in the Greater Antilles. And over the next week you will immerse yourself into this Caribbean photographers’ paradise as part of your cultural travel in Cuba.
Your cultural journey into the authentic Cuba starts today upon arrival at the Capital city of Cuba: Havana
with a population of 2.1 million inhabitants.
After meeting your Authentic Cuba Travel® tour guide and bus driver, you will take a short bus ride to Havana’s downtown in Vedado Neighbourhood
where your Luxury Casa Particular
Please, listen carefully to all instructions provided by your tour guide who specializes in cultural trips to Cuba about street smarts and facilities in and around your private rental accomodation. Please do notice that breakfast is complimentary.
Day 2. Sunday 12 June 2022.
Photographing Vinales Valley
Morning: our photographic adventure kicks off today as we travel to Cuba’s most Western province, Pinar del Rio where the famous Valley of Vinales
is found. There are many reasons that combine to make the valley one of the most photogenic landscapes of Cuba. Among those the distinct tobacco plantations and the mogotes
, a kind of flat top freestanding hills found nowhere else in Cuba.
The authentic Cuba experience include visiting local tobacco plantations
and meeting with camera-friendly local farmers
who has been passing down from generation to generation the culture of producing the best tobacco leaves in the world. Our Cuba cultural tours woudn`t be a complete cultural immersion into the authentic Cuba without these sort of people-to-people exchanges where North American photographers and Cuban citizens get to know each other on personal basis.
We will also visit the Mural de La Prehistoria
, a mural painting by the side of a gigantic mogote
that showcases prehistoric animals whose remains have been found in the Vinales region over the centuries.
Our tours to Cuba for Americans feature a delicious traditional lunch at the privately-owned bar-restaurant Paladar Yuri & Nino, El Campesino
. Yuri is a young woman entrepreneur who started this small restaurant that has expanded into a large establishment. Yuri and her family work hard to create delicious and plentiful food that comes with a beautiful mountain view.
Afternoon: our Authentic Cuba Travel® guide will lead the expedition into the Cueva del Indio
(Indian Cave) offering unique photo shooting opportunities. The cave traverses one of the famous mogotes of Vinales and it is the result of the erosion of an underground river that runs through the cave. A boat ride will take us to the exit of the cave at the other side of the hill.
The goal of our cultural tours to Cuba today is that tour participants capture through their lens not only the beauty of the breathtaking landscape of Vinales Valley but the prettiness of its picturesque townscape with unique colonial architecture. The Cuba explorer will have some time to wander at leisure Vinales Downtown
to photograph buildings like Casa de La Cultura
, the main Vinales Church
and others around Jose Marti Park
Evening: back in Havana city, we recommend our photographers to go for some photo shooting opportunities of Havana’s nightlife. Cultural tours in Cuba should provide ample time for personal photo shooting explorations. A great place to explore is a Jazz club located only a couple of blocks from your hotel, known as La Zorra y El Cuervo
(optional/ not included).
Day 3. Monday 13 June 2022.
Old Havana Photo Shooting Ops
Morning: today we spend most of the day in Old Havana
, the historical center of Havana city that has been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to the array of colonial buildings of historical or architectural importance found within an area of 2.14 square kilometers.
The first stop of today`s Cuba cultural travel is at the Scale Model
of Old Havana for a virtual guided tour of the historical center led by renowned architect Miguel Coyula
. The model provides an insightful understanding of the way the city grew over time. Color coded buildings and landmarks make it easy to understand the layout and expansion of the city.
Before embarking on a walking tour of Old Havana, a treat of our Cuba cultural tours for Americans, we will enjoy some traditional Cuban dishes at Paladar San Cristobal
. There’s also a host band that provides live entertainment as we sip on a refreshing mojito.
Afternoon: from stunning colonial fortifications to magnificent palaces and colorful characters, photo shooting opportunities are abundant within the historical center. And the best way to take amazing pictures is by foot and by the hand of our experienced Authentic Cuba Travel® tour guide. All the Cuban guides of our cultural tours to Cuba from USA are university graduates with many years of experience under their belts.
Surrounded by striking buildings that were once the symbol of Spanish power in the island, the Square of Arms
is the oldest colonial plaza
in the old city and the place where our tour will start.
Worth mentioning are the Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales
showcasing the most imposing Cuban baroque architecture in the island; the Fortress of the Royal Force
, the oldest existing Spanish military castle in The Americas; the Palace of the Counts of Santovenia
that houses today the upscale Santa Isabel Hotel
; and the Templete
building on the east side of the square that marks the original site of foundation of the Villa de San Cristobal de La Habana
back in the early 16th century.
Next our Cuba photography tours will take us to explore the beautiful Plaza de La Catedral
. Perhaps the prettiest and most intimate of all colonial squares, the plaza
takes its name from the Cathedral of Havana which theatrical facade is enclosed by asymmetrical towers and baroque decor.
Meeting fellow Cuban artists is a distinctive component of our cultural trips to Cuba. Learning side by side with Cubans at the Experimental Printing Workshop
is a chance not to miss by travelers. Housed in a spacious colonial building, this is Cuba’s only print workshop that works as a cooperative for over 50 print makers. This is a people-to-people encounter that will shed lights on the daily struggle of Cuban artists to advance their artworks despite economic shortages.
Another photogenic colonial square not to miss is the Plaza de San Francisco
. Serving in colonial times to provide Spanish galleons with supplies and water, to stockpile goods that arrive at the harbour and to welcome new Spanish immigrants arriving in the island, the plaza was the commercial square of the city per excellence.
As we have seen so far, colonial squares were created to serve different purposes for the people of Havana. The last square we will visit today is the Old Square
, a plaza
that was mainly used as a civic square for people to gather and discuss the daily political, economical and social events. Please do take notice that there are no government or religious buildings in the surroundings as we saw in the plazas we visited earlier.
Cultural travel to Cuba showcases photo shooting opportunities from the harbour side Almacenes de San Lorenzo
, a former warehouse from where we can take amazing photos of picturesque townscapes at the other side of the Bay of Havana. Today the facility houses the largest craft market
of Cuba and souvenir shopping is arguably unavoidable.
Evening: nightlife photo shooting ops in Havana are everywhere, yet one of the best locations is at the Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabana
. Located atop a hill at the other side of Havana's Bay, it provides a breath taking view over the entire city of Havana at night. It is also the backdrop of Cuba’s oldest standing tradition, the Fire of the Cannon of 9 O'Clock
attended by hundreds of Cubans every night.
Day 4. Tuesday 14 June 2022.
Cuba's Photography Patrimony
Morning: Cuba cultural travel features meetings with established cultural institutions. This morning we will make contact with Cuba’s official photography professionals as we visit the state-run Fototeca de Cuba
, the most prestigious photo gallery of the Caribbean island which owns the largest collection of Cuban photos and photographic materials elsewhere in the world.
This is a great opportunity for participants of our Cuba cultural tours to establish connections with prestigious personalities and decision-makers within Cuba’s photography scene. It also represents a good chance to revisit Cuba’s photographic history and enjoy current temporary photo exhibitions.
Next we will go to Centro Habana municipality for a photo shooting opportunity of a different kind at Callejon de Hamel
. This is a unique alleyway where complete buildings have been covered with thematic murals and sculptures related to African origin religions with strong hold on Cuba’s population. It is all the brainchild of painter Salvador Gonzalez who started the project in 1990 with the aim of preserving and paying homage the cultural heritage of the neighbourhood.
Another ceramist and painter who have covered entire blocks with his art is Jose Fuster
. And next we are off to Fusterland
, the artist’s magical land, a sort of living art gallery found at the coastal town of Jaimanitas. As photo-friendly as it gets, Jaimanitas
is a fishermen town of humble people and great traditions that the artist attempts to showcase through his ceramics, sculptures and paintings. We will have lunch at the artist’s studio and personal residence.
Afternoon: cultural travel in Cuba must include visits to the studios of independent Cuba artists. Now we are heading back to Vedado district to visit the photography studios and private residences of some of Cuba’s leading contemporary photographers the likes of Pene “Pupy” Pena
, Juan Carlos Alom
and Cirenaica Moreira
Evening: to call it the day, we will visit a non-for-profit, non-governmental art institution that consistently promotes the work of Cuba’s foremost photographers and visual artists, The Ludwig Foundation of Cuba
. This is another of those special moments of our authentic Cuba tours that set our Cuba photography tours apart from the crowd.
Day 5. Wednesday 15 June 2022.
Cuba Explorer Hats On!
Morning: it is time to wear our Cuba Explorer hats and go off the beaten path to explore picturesque colonial towns, amazing mountainous villages and breathtaking sugar cane valleys. Our Cuba cultural tours advance discovery and educational opportunities never found within the walls of all inclusive beach resorts, and over the next two days we will have the pleasure of capturing images of the authentic Cuba outside the reach of Cuba’s mainstream tourism.
Our first major stopover is at the city of Cienfuegos
, also known as the City of Domes
and The Pearl of the South
because of its many domed neoclassical buildings and its natural beauty. The city seats on the Bahia de Cienfuegos
(Cienfuegos Bay) that opens to the Caribbean Sea and it is guarded by the Castillo de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles de Jagua
, a Spanish-built fortress that was erected with the purpose to deny access to the city to pirates and corsairs during colonial times.
Just as we arrive in the city, we will visit to Palacio del Valle
before our afternoon exploration. We encourage tour participants to stretch their legs by climbing to the rooftop of this amazing Moorish-style palace which provides a great location to take pictures of the Bahia de Cienfuegos
, the neoclassical domed cityscape, the Punta Gorda neighbourhood
with its magnificent New-Orleans style houses and the unfinished Nuclear Power Plant
at the west side of the bay.
Next we will go for lunch at Paladar Ache
, one of Cienfuegos top ten private restaurants, serving local specialties in a pleasant courtyard.
Afternoon: as part of the cultural travel to Cuba, we will embark on a guided walking tour
of the historical center of Cienfuegos. After a brief explanation about the origins of the city and its foundation by French settlers in the early 19th century, our Authentic Cuba Travel® tour guide will give tour participants free time to take pictures on their own for a while.
The center of our photographic operations will be the Jose Marti Park
which is surrounded by the most magnificent neoclassical buildings in the city such as the Teatro Tomas Terry
(1895), a 950-seat hall that stands in the north side of the square and contains original elements such as the mural paintings, the ceiling frescoes and the wood seats.
Another building that has managed to preserve original elements in good condition it is the Catedral de La Purisima Concepcion
with French stained-glass windows depicting the 12 apostles, it stands on the east side of the square. On the opposite site we find Palacio Ferrer
, a domed blue building that serves as Casa de La Cultura
today. If you are looking for a high location to take panoramic pictures of the square surroundings, you can go up to the mirador
of this palace.
Before leaving the city, we will spend some time at the Provincial Art Gallery “Maroya”
that has an extensive display of local arts and handicrafts and even antiques for sale. You can buy all sorts of arts and crafts and import them legally to US as an authorized traveler of our Cuba cultural tours from USA.
Now we journey on to the historic city of Trinidad and check in at your Luxury Casa Particular
You'll have time for dinner and a swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Day 6. Thursday 16 June 2022.
Trinidad, an Authentic Cuba Destination
is one of those authentic Cuban cities in which you can experience overwhelming landscapes, incredible mountain views, amazing beaches and great colonial atmosphere all at once. No wonder UNESCO decided to include it in its list of World Heritage Sites
in 1988. Showing little traces of modern times, its historical center is a photogenic living museum city where it is hard to contain from pressing the shutter endlessly. Sadly, not many cultural trips to Cuba include travel to such genuine Cuban destinations.
Our Authentic Cuba Travel® tour guide will take us first to pay a visit to the Museum of Trinitarian Architecture
. Housed in the former residence of the Iznagas (1819), the museum contains traditional architectural elements and local building materials that serve to explain the distinctive colonial architecture of Trinidad.
Standing on the north side of Plaza Mayor
, the main colonial square in the historical center, we find the Iglesia Parroquial de La Sagrada Trinidad
which contains an original Cuban-hardwood altar created by local artists and one of the most sacred religious objects of the catholic faith in central Cuba, the cross of El Cristo de la Veracruz
Next to the church we find the former residence of the Condes de Brunet that houses today the Romantic Museum
. Showcasing European porcelain, original pieces of art and other domestic decorating elements that once belonged to Trinidad’s wealthiest families, the museum also offers great panoramic views of Peninsula de Ancon
and the Plaza Mayor
surroundings from its balconies.
From the balconies of the Museo Romantico
, we can also spot one of the most photographed buildings of Trinidad, the bell tower of the former San Francisco Convent
which we will visit next. Even though the convent is long gone, the bell tower remains and serves as an outstanding location to capture through your lens amazing images of Trinidad’s cityscape and the landscape of the Escambray Mountain range that somehow serves as a backdrop to the city.
A short bus ride is in order now if we want to understand the origins of the wealth that financed Trinidad’s townscape in the 19th century. And we are off to a hill in the outskirts of Trinidad, known as Loma del Puerto
where a 200-meter-high lookout point has been established to enjoy a panoramic 360 degree view of the Valley of the Sugar Mills
, one of the largest sugar producing regions in the 19th century where the ruins of dozens of sugar mills can be found today.
We will make one last stop at Casa del Alfarero
to meet the Santanders, an authentic Cuba family of pottery makers who has been making ceramics for generations using the traditional potter’s wheel.
After some lunch at Paladar Solananda
, all included in your Cuba cultural travel for US citizens, we can head back to the colonial town for personal explorations of the city, some more photo shooting, or we can simply relax by the beach or swimming pool while sipping on a mojito or cuba libre or daiquiri or just...any Cuban drink you fancy...it is all inclusive!
Evening: there are several options for dancing to Cuban live music tonight. You can stay at the hotel and enjoy the live shows and programmed venues or you can experience a more authentic Cuban immersion at Casa de La Trova
, a favourite hangout for locals and foreigners alike.
Day 7. Friday 17 June 2022.
Taking Pictures in Topes de Collantes
Morning: today we will take photos of one of Cuba’s most beautiful mountainous areas, The Escambray Mountains
, the second highest mountain range in Cuba extending some 90 kilometers from west to east along the southern cost of central Cuba.
The mountains are home to small communities, picturesque coffee farms and authentic Cuban villages like Topes de Collantes
, a national park and the largest human settlement in The Escambray located about 800 meters above the sea level.
Today we will need more than a modern air conditioning coach to find great locations to photograph, so we will board an ex-military Russian truck to do the job. The expedition will start right at our hotel Trinidad del Mar. Be ready for a “rough” ride and one of the most beautiful ones of your life!
Along the way, we will enjoy slopes covered by pine forests, coniferous forests and gigantic ferns. We will also spot Cuba’s highest peaks like Pico San Juan that stands 1,140 meters high, coffee plantations and native birds of Cuba.
Around mid-day we will arrive at former coffee plantation La Codina
. We will seat for lunch at the the one-time Spanish state house for a typical Cuban lunch.
Afternoon: we will return to Havana city.
Day 8. Saturday 18 June 2022.
Bye Bye Authentic Cuba
Today marks the end of our Cuba photography tour. Your Authentic Cuba Travel® tour guide and bus driver will help you check out of your private rental accomodation, and escort you to the international airport Jose Marti in Havana city.