Our Cuba photography adventure to the authentic Cuba starts in Havana City, the Cuban capital. Seating on a pocket-shaped bay, the city has been guarded since early colonial times by El Morro fortress, arguably one of the most photographed Spanish castles in the popular Caribbean destination.
Offering unlimited possibilities to take amazing photographs, the Vinales Valley is of one of the most unique landscapes in the planet. Dotted by pretty geological formations and photo friendly tobacco plantations, the valley is a photographers’ paradise and a mandatory visit for photography professionals who specialize on nature and wildlife photography. Our Cuba photography tours will spend an entire day exploring this valley that has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A highlight of our photography tours to Cuba is a visit to the National Photo Gallery of Cuba, La Fototeca, an official institution created to preserve the largest collection of Cuban photo artworks and photographic materials in the planet. Besides permanent photo shows, the Photo Gallery also organizes temporary exhibits by Cuban and international leading photographers which presents as a wonderful opportunity for our tour participants to establish connections and get to know Cuba’s photography history.
To understand the history of the Cuban Revolution of 1959 means to take the time to explore the history of contemporary Cuban photography and to understand the role that black and white photography played in establishing the romantic image of the revolutionary movement. Iconic photos such as those of Ernesto Che Guevara by Cuban masters like Korda, Salas and Corrales put the Cuban socialist ideals on the map in the 1960’s.
An important element that makes our Cuba tours an Authentic Cuba Travel® experience for American photographers and photography professionals and educators and students alike is the high calibre of the Cuban photographers that they met while touring Cuba. Above Rene Pena (right) shows some of its latest photographic works to Authentic Cuba Travel®’ director, Luis D’Aguiar (left) during an exploratory Cuba trip by our team in 2012.
Our authentic Cuba tours will take tour participants to explore the island’s most picturesque villages, towns and cities such as Cienfuegos city, also known as the “Pearl of the South” because of the beauty of its Caribbean surroundings and the ensemble of neoclassical buildings found within its historical centre declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo shooting at Palacio del Valle, the Tomas Terry Theatre, the Cathedral, the Bay, the Prado Promenade, the Seawall and other iconic locations are part of the guided city tour.
Trinidad city is another authentic Cuba destination featured in this photography tour to the largest and less commercialized island in the Caribbean region. With an unparalleled colonial atmosphere, the city's urban development froze in the mid of the 19th century when sugar cane production was halted due to the War of Independence against Spain. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site the city shows no signs of modern times.
El Valle de Los Ingenios (or the Valley of the Sugar Mills) is another photographers’ paradise that we will explore during this Cuba photography journey. The valley is dotted by the ruins of over 65 sugar mills that date back from the 19th century. The sugar mills were abandoned when the War of Independence reached the central regions of the country.
Travel photographers will find fascinating the touring around the village of Topes de Collantes in the Escambray Mountains, Cuba’s second highest mountain range. Home to many endemic species of birds, flora and fauna, the mountains showcase Cuba’s prettiest coffee plantations and a unique cool micrclimate.
Day 1. Monday 26 December 2022.
Welcome to Havana
, the Cuban capital and the most exciting city in the Caribbean. Cuba is truly a photographer’s paradise with photo-friendly people, picturesque colonial towns and breath-taking natural landscapes.
North American tour participants arriving via Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Mexico, Toronto or Nassau will land at terminal 2 or terminal 3 (the newest) of the international airport “Jose Marti”. Your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide will meet you just after you clear Customs and Immigration.
After a brief introduction to your Cuban bus driver for the next seven days, you will enjoy a panoramic transfer to Vedado neighbourhood
, Havana’s entertainment district where your Luxury Casa Particular
is located. Please, do complete the check in steps and take notice of amenities for a more enjoyable stay.
A delicious buffet breakfast which is included in the price of this Cuba photography tour.
Evening: a private reception at The Ludwig Foundation of Cuba
is a highlight of our Cuba tours regardless the main interest of the Cuba explorer. Working hard and independently to promote Cuban photography and artwork worldwide, the foundation was founded and it is financed by the Ludwig Foundation of Germany.
Day 2. Tuesday 27 December 2022.
Photo Shooting at the Valley of Vinales
Morning: today our Cuba photography journey will take us to Western Cuba into the neighbouring province of Pinar del Rio
famous for producing the best tobacco in the world since colonial times. We will visit one of Cuba’s most authentic attractions, the Valley of Vinales
, the pride and joy of Western Cubans, and one of the most photographed and painted landscapes of all Cuba.
A stop at Los Jazmines
lookout is a good way to start our exploration as it provides a 360 degree view of the photogenic valley which is dotted by conical hills known as mogotes
, tobacco plantations, guano-sheltered tobacco drying houses, royal palm trees and typical Cuban bohios.
Next we go upfront to visit colorful tobacco farms
and camera friendly peasants who will tell us about the methods of harvesting the best tobacco leaves in the planet. It is a very good opportunity to take pictures inside tobacco drying houses, visit the authentic Cuba bohios, and smoke good hand rolled cigars.
A visit to the Prehistoric Mural
comes next in today’s photo shooting schedule. Depicting prehistoric animals that once roam the earth, the mural covers the entire side of a mogote. This is a nice time to sip on a refreshing mojito at the nearby bar-restaurant.
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: led by our Authentic Cuba Travel® guide, we will go inside the Indian Cave
to take striking pictures and learn more about the geological history of the region. The cave goes through a mogote and it is the result of the erosion of underground waters throughout the centuries.
Before heading back to Havana city, we will explore Vinales
, one of the most picturesque colonial towns of Cuba that centers on the town’s main Parish Church
and the Square “Jose Marti”
. This is a good opportunity for tour participants to explore the sights and sounds of the area on their own and take pictures of the authentic Cuba that exists outside the Cuban capital.
Next we will head back to your Luxury Casa Particular
in Havana city. This is a good time to take a nap or listen to your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide talk about various subjects related to Cuban history and culture.
Day 3. Wednesday 28 December 2022.
Photo Shoot at the Historical Centre
Morning: most of our day today will be devoted to explore the historical center of Havana City. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
in 1982, Old Havana
has being under intense restoration for the last 20 years under the supervision of the Office of the City Historian and it is worldwide acclaimed as one of the most remarkable projects of urban renaissance.
In order to get a better understanding of the layout of the city, we will visit the Scale Model of Old Havana
where architect Miguel Coyula will give tour participants a presentation on the origins and urban development of the city from early colonial times until present day.
We will enjoy 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: even though Old Havana’s phoenix like renaissance has been praised all over the world, it does not mean that all 900 colonial grand palaces, government buildings, churches and mansions are fully restored.
Many buildings are still in ruins and crumbling while others are now coming back to live which provides for unique photo shooting opportunities. And the best way to explore it all and to take stirring pictures is by embarking on a walking tour by the hand of your Authentic Cuba Travel® guide.
The Square of Arms
is the oldest colonial square in the historical center, and it is surrounded by the most majestic Government buildings from colonial times that were once, not long ago, in a disgraceful stay of disrepair. Yet today they stand majestic once again.
On the west side of Plaza de Armas
, we can see the imposing architecture of the Palace of the Captains General
, the seat of power and authority in Cuba since the 18th century; the adjacent Palace of the Vice- Governor
showcasing several elements of Cuban baroque and neoclassical architecture; El Templete
, a neoclassical chapel on the east side of the square proudly marks the original site of foundation of the Villa de San Cristabal de La Habana; and the Fortress of the Royal Force
remains as the oldest castle built by the Spaniards in Cuba.
Visiting the intimate Cathedral Square
is next in our photography Cuba tour. Even though all buildings surrounding the square look in good shape at first sight, a closer look will show you that the interior of some of them have collapsed. In this case, the restoration effort is focused on saving the facade in its original condition and rebuilding the interior completely.
Establishing professional relationships with fellow Cuban artists is one of the goals of our Cuba tours for photographers so we will visit next the Taller de Grafica Experimental (Experimental Printing Workshop
) to meet with a dozen or so of Cuban print makers that can be found working on their lithographs over stone matrices tirelessly throughout the day.
As photogenic as it gets the Plaza de San Francisco
is another of the oldest colonial squares in the historical centre. Serving mainly for commercial purposes all through its history, it takes its name from the former Church of San Francisco de Asis
. Another building to take notice in the area is the Lonja del Comercio
, the former Exchange Market of Havana during the first half of the 20th Century.
The last colonial square we will visit today is the Plaza Vieja
(Old Square) in which the restoration process is not as advanced as in the squares we just toured earlier. You will see the mansions of the one- time Havana’s wealthiest in different conditions of disrepair. It is a good opportunity to take “before-and-after” pictures and document in images the renaissance of this large plaza that was once the center of social events in colonial Havana.
Housing the largest arts and craft market in Cuba today, the former San Lorenzo Warehouse
offers incredible opportunities to take pictures of the Habana harbor. We will enjoy some free time here before heading back to the hotel for refreshments before night venues.
Evening: considered by photographers as one of the most amazing locations to take pictures of Havana at night, the Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabana
offers a unique panoramic view of the entire city. One of the oldest ceremonies in Cuba, the Shooting of the Cannon of 9 O'Clock
presents itself as a good excuse to visit the fortress at night and enjoy the company of hundreds of Cubans who descent every night into the fortress to attend the colourful event. An excellent opportunity to get to know the authentic Cuba!
Even though we do not have photo shooting sessions scheduled after hours, we recommend the Cuba explorer to walk around the National Hotel as it is abundant in evening entertainment venues. A visit to nearby La Zorra y El Cuervo Jazz Club
will certainly pay off both in terms of taking good pictures of Havana's night life and listening to the best Jazz in the city.
Day 4. Thursday 29 December 2022.
Cuban Photography Institutions
Morning: your Cuba travel experience includes meeting with personalities of Cuba’s photography world such as the staff of the Cuba Photo Gallery
, an art institution founded in the 1980’s with the objective of safeguarding Cuba’s photographic archives and the largest collection of Cuban photographs in existant.
As your tour La Fototeca de Cuba
and enjoy permanent and temporary photo exhibits by Cuba’s leading photographers, you will also have the opportunity to exchange with Cuban photographers. Housed in an airy colonial mansion, the Cuba Photo Gallery is a mandatory visit for those interested in learning more about Cuba’s photography history.
Next we are off to the Hamel Alleyway
for a very interesting photo shoot session at one of the most colorful blocks in Centro Habana municipality. Covered by the paintings and sculptures of Salvador Gonzales
, entire buildings and streets showcase deities, symbols and elements of African-Cuban religions with great hold on the Cuban population.
For sure another mandatory stop in photography Cuba travel is the town of Jaimanitas, a coastal town in the western tip of Havana. Almost 80 houses and many streets are decorated by the murals, paintings and ceramic artwork of Jose Fuster
, one of Cuba’s most important living ceramist these days. We will tour the house and studio of Jose Fuster
where we will also enjoy a complimentary private lunch hosted by the artist himself.
Afternoon: considered as Cuba’s leading experimental photographers, Rene Pena
and Juan Carlos Alom
work mainly in black-and-white even though they have recently have been experimenting with color and mixed media. Next we are off to meet these remarkable artists who will share with us their most recent photographic artwork and their stories.
Day 5. Friday 30 December 2022.
Cuba Explorer Hats On!
Morning: Cuba explorer hats on! We are off to explore photo-friendly towns, picturesque landscapes and the best preserved Spanish-founded colonial cores in The Americas. The Authentic Cuba Travel® experience advances fun, learning and educational activities off the beaten path providing great moments to capture the images of the real Cuba.
city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
is our first stop en route. Showcasing an unparalleled historical core full of impressive neoclassical buildings and a beautiful layout by the Caribbean Sea, the city has been nicknamed as the Pearl of the South
Our first visit upon arrival in the city, it would be to the Moorish-style Palacio del Valle
, one of the most photographed and iconic building in Cienfuegos. Please, do not miss the amazing views from the palace rooftop from which you can capture through your lens the cityscape and beauty of Cienfuegos all at once.
Next we will go for lunch at Paladar Ache
, one of Cienfuegos top ten private restaurants, serving local specialties in a pleasant courtyard.
Guided by the expert hand of our Authentic Cuba tour guide, tour participants will explore by foot the historical center of the city and enjoy ample free time to take pictures around the Jose Marti square which will be our center of photography explorations this afternoon.
Surrounded by Cienfuegos’ most amazing neoclassical buildings, the Jose Marti park
marks the original site of foundation of the city in 1819 by a group of French immigrants. The Tomas Terry Theatre
, completed in 1895 is one of the most photogenic constructions erected around the square. Showcasing original elements such as the Cuban hardwood carved seats, a gigantic ceiling fresco and intricate ironwork, the 950 seat auditorium is a must visit in any Cuba travel to the authentic Cuba.
Standing on the east side of Parque Marti
, we find the Cathedral of Cienfuegos
, another beautiful building still showcasing original elements such as the clock machinery of the bell tower and the 12 apostles stained glass windows both imported from France at the end of the 19th century.
We recommend climbing to the lookout tower of the former Palacio Ferrer
, on the opposite side of the square, if you are up for taking stirring panoramic pictures of the city. The palace is also full of architectural details and decorative elements that make for excellent photo ops.
Naturally, our Cuba tours wouldn’t be complete without exploring the local art scene. The provincial art gallery “La Maroya”
provides the best opportunity in town to discover all at once the best artwork (including photographic artwork) that Cienfuegos’ artists have to offer.
After we say goodbye to Cienfuegos
, we will enjoy a panoramic bus ride east along the southern cost of Cuba and through the mountains of Escambray towards our next destination, historical Trinidad
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.
You can go for an authentic Cuba immersion outside the hotel such as the Casa de La Trova
, a music venue where the local host bands provides great music and dancing opportunities and it is very popular with locals.
Day 6. Saturday 31 December 2022.
Trinidad, an Authentic Cuba Experience
Morning: listed as a World Heritage Site
by UNESCO since 1988, Trinidad
is one of those photo friendly cities in which you can explore warm Caribbean beaches, great mountain views and a historical core charged with unparalleled colonial atmosphere making it hard to resist the urge of pressing the shutter continuously.
Our walking tour will kick off with a visit to the Museo de La Arquitectura
which displays architectural features, building materials and decorative pieces that tell the foreign visitor about Trinidad’s unique colonial architecture as well as its evolution since early colonial times.
The main parish church, Iglesia de la Sagrada Trinidad
stands on the north side of the town’s central square, Plaza Mayor
. Time permitting, our Authentic Cuba Travel® guide will show tour participants the interior of this magnificent temple that contains a grand altar made by local artisans and carpenters using local hardwoods.
Housed in a beautiful mansion of the 19th century, the Museo Romantico
is our next visit. Illustrating the way in which Trinidad’s wealthiest built and decorated their mansions, the museum also displays European artwork and Cuban colonial-style furniture belonging to the Counts of Brunet and other local aristocratic families.
You can take beautiful pictures from the balconies of the Romantic Museum, including photos of the iconic bell tower of the ex- Convento de San Francisco de Asis
which houses today the Museo de la Lucha contra Bandidos
that we will visit next. By the way, the most amazing pictures that we have seen of Trinidad’s townscape are those captured through the porthole windows of this bell tower.
To understand the origin of the wealth upon which Trinidad was built is to take the time to visit the Valley of the Sugar Mills
and see firsthand the vast fertile valley in which a third of Cuba’s sugar cane production was produced by the mid 19th century. So we will make a quick but important visit to Loma del Puerto
, a hill atop which a lookout point has been created to contemplate the valley.
Our exploration of the authentic Cuba takes us next to Casa del Alfarero
, a popular pottery workshop where various generations of The Santander family can be found working tirelessly on their traditional potter’s wheel.
Lunch at Paladar Solananda
In the afternoon, you can get back to the historical core for continuing your photo shooting.
Evening: celebrate New Year’s Eve at a venue of your choosing tonight
(optional/ not included in tour costs). Your tour guide will give you advice on the numerous venues in the city where you can partake in the celebrations for New Year’s Eve. He will also help you book your favourite dinner and event.
Day 7. Sunday 1 January 2023.
Photographing Topes de Collantes
Morning: aboard former military Russian trucks we will climb the mountains of Sierra del Escambray
today. Extending some 90 kms along the southern cost of Cuba and with the cool climate of its own, this mountain range is home to Cuba’s second highest peak, a national park
, Topes de Collantes
village, picturesque coffee farms and to an amazing number of species of flora and fauna.
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 your Luxury Casa Particular
in Havana city.
Day 8. Monday 2 January 2023.
Bye Bye Authentic Cuba
Your Cuba photography adventure ends today. Your Authentic Cuba guide and bus driver will help you check out, and escort you to the international airport Jose Marti in Havana city.