Tour introduction and overview of activities

8 days and 7 nights of an educational, local governance awareness, ‘People to People’ experience in Cuba organized by Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) for local elected, appointed, retired leaders, staff and friends adhering to all U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control Rules & Regulations. The Group Tour will be escorted by GRTC Leaders Dan Rutherford, who has been going to Cuba since 1999, and Josh Lanning an experienced Cuba traveler

Cuba’s big! Its land mass is 42,426 square miles – about 80 percent the size of Alabama. Cuba is nearly as large as Louisiana, and larger than Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Ohio or Indiana. Altogether it’s bigger than Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont combined.

Day 1 – Friday :: Arrival U.S. departure city to connect the next day to Havana Cuba

  • Individual arrival to U.S. departure city the night before departure to Cuba, for those connecting. You choose your own connecting city and arrange your own flights. Overnight accommodation in the U.S. connecting city will be arranged by GRTC and is included in the Tour package

Day 2 – Saturday :: Arrival Cuba and Old Havana

  • Depart to Havana via your own arranged flights
  • Arrival at Havana’s José Martí International Airport. Collect your bags and go through customs. You will be welcomed at the airport lobby by our Cuba Education Tours guide, included. Participant’s arrival times will vary throughout the day. Arrangements will be made for each flight
  • Transfer to Hotel Ambos Mundos located in heart of Havana’s Old City. A historic hotel with a seasoned elegance and home to Ernest Hemingway when he stayed in the City, included
  • Check-in to vintage hotel. Enjoy a welcome cocktail. (Included)
  • Free time to settle in and get oriented with our historic hotel and neighborhood, one of the most famous in Old Havana
  • This evening we will enjoy a welcome dinner at restaurant Café del Oriente (Included)
  • Evening walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site to see how historic preservation has helped capture tourism. We will visit the plazas that make Havana unique in the western hemisphere. It contains the largest collection of remaining colonial-era architecture. This is a private tour led by our Cuba Education Tours guide. (Included)
  • Cathedral Square, the most beautiful and private 18th century colonial plaza on the island. Named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture: the Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana built by the Jesuit order
  • Square of Arms, an ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers, surrounded by impressive buildings such as:
  • Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, former seat of colonial government. Today the building houses the Museum of the City
  • Palacio del Segundo Cabo [Palace of the Second Lieutenant] dates from 1770. Today it is home to the Centro para la Interpretación de las Relaciones Culturales Cuba - Europa [Center for the Interpretation of Cultural Relations Cuba-Europe]
  • We will continue on to San Francisco Square, one of the oldest plazas in the historical quarter. The square is named after magnificent Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asís dating from the 16th century. The basilica is a striking example of Cuba baroque architecture
  • Then on to Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. Absent are churches and government buildings, and is in contrast surrounded by opulent aristocratic 17th century residences
  • AFTER WALK: Our guide will keep us posted on local entertainment options

Day 3 – Sunday :: Hemingway, organic gardening and private cooking lesson

  • Breakfast. (Included)
  • Travel to Cojímar, small fishing Village and one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite’s places in Cuba. See the harbor where his boat Pilar was moored and he and Gregorio (the bases for Old Man and the Sea) would depart to marlin fish. Tour the small town, see Hemmingway’s bust made from metal donated by the local fishermen and get photos in front of the 17th century Spanish Lookout Fort. (Included)
  • Visit the small organic garden Jesus and Julio which supplies all of the herbs for the private restaurant where you will be cooking later. Up close see tropical fruits, bananas, plantains, squash and maybe even the Bumble Bee Hummingbird, the smallest bird in the word. This is an example of how production organic gardening in a residential neighborhood produces private income and supplies a local business. (Included)
  • TOUR HIGHLIGHT: Cooking & mojito making lesson at paladar (private restaurant) El Ajiaco followed by lunch, which you helped prepare. This is a unique experience; in the kitchen, with the chef and staff preparing multiple dishes (lobster, ropa vieja & el ajiaco soup) and then at the bar learning how to properly prepare a Cuban mojito. (Included)
  • Discussion with restaurant leadership staff on the loval government requirements for licensing and permitting a private paladar in Cuba. (Included)
  • Return to hotel in Old Havana
  • Dinner, not included. This is a perfect evening to explore Cuba’s famed paladares

Day 4 – Monday :: Valley of magnificent mogotes & the richest agriculture land in the nation and hand rolled cigars

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Morning departure to the western agricultural province of Pinar del Río
  • In Pinar del Rio visit and tour Francisco Donatién Cigar Factory, located in a former prison and on this site since 1961. You will see how some of Cuba’s premium cigars are made, by hand. Seated side by side at special wooden benches the rollers produce cigars of identical weight and length. (Included)
  • Drive through Viñales village, a picturesque town in the heart of Cuba's prime tobacco growing region. The town itself sits in the center of a flat valley surrounded by stunning formations known locally as mogotes. Mogotes are irregularly shaped steep-sided hills that can rise as high as 985 feet and have bases ranging from just a few hundred yards in diameter to as much as a mile in length. The mogotes were formed by eons of erosion. Many consider this the most beautiful nature spot in Cuba
  • Late lunch at private restaurant Balcón del Valle (Balcony of the Valley, and we will see why when we get there), one of the most spectacular views of the entire trip. Discussion with owners about the channels they have for supplies and availability of electricity for their rural operation. (Included)
  • Hotel Rancho San Vicente check in: a unique hotel in a forest setting and overlooked by mountains. This is a bird watchers paradise with several endemic species and at dusk bats emerge from the multiple caves
  • Evening relaxing time by one of the two pools at the hotel. (Included)
  • Dinner buffet at hotel at your leisure and a relaxing evening. (Included)

Day 5 – Tuesday :: Viñales activities, tobacco farming and meals in country-side paladares

  • Breakfast in hotel. We will have a very large lunch and evening meal, plan breakfast accordingly. (Included)
  • Morning Activities: horseback riding in the valley of the National Park (highly recommended), hiking, or guided birding tour (will need to be reserved the day before)!
  • Lunch at Finca Agro-ecológica El Paraíso (be sure we get a special drink ‘Stress Reliever’ blended from fresh grown organic herbs). Other than the seafood and beef, all of the food we will enjoy at lunch will have been grown by the Finca. (Included)
  • Tour Finca Agro-ecológica El Paraíso, learn about land reclamation, the family that claimed part of a rocky mountain side to grow vegetables and herbs organically, and the outstanding view of the valley. (Included)
  • Visit a small tobacco farm (you will have to walk part of the way to get to there, horse or oxen are the only other form of transportation) that produces product for the world-renowned Cuban cigar, meet the owners (third generation women who run the small farm) and have a personal demonstration of hand rolling a Habano cigar. Discussion with the owners of the small farm about the government oversite of the tobacco production and sales. Learn the Cuban government’s process for pricing and delivery of the product and their experience in the private sector, agriculture production and land management. (Included)
  • Visit Cueva del Indio (Indian Cave) for a brief walk and then a short boat ride to come out on the other side. Part of the National Park and surrounded by rainforest type vegetation. See how a natural wonder has been developed into a tourist attraction in Cuba. (Optional)
  • Return to hotel
  • ENJOYABLE EVENING AT, SMALL, LOCAL PALADAR: Dinner at private restaurant El Campesino, on the edge of a tobacco field with the mogotes as a backdrop & meet Yuri and Nino, mother and daughter owners, included. Have a personal discussion with Yuri about the evolution in Cuba of private business operations and what it is like for a young mother raising a family in a rural community; discuss with the family their land ownership for Casa Particular (bed & breakfast) and paladar (private restaurant), licensing and regulations. (Included)

Day 6 – Wednesday :: Havana return, Revolution and vintage american cars

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Hotel check out
  • Visit an open air craft market as we depart Vinales. (Included)
  • Lunch will be provided on the coach ride, complimentary, and hosted by GRTC Leaders, Dan Rutherford & Josh Lanning, as to-go sandwiches in order to save time on the return to Havana to get us to the world famous Hotel Nacional sooner. (Optional)
  • Arrive Havana and visit the Museum of Revolution housed in the palace of former dictator President Fulgencio Batista. Behind the Palace and a part of the grounds is the newly refurbished glass enclosure which houses Granma, the boat which took Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, Che Guevara and their revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba for the Revolution. There is a surface-to-air missile of the type that shot down a U.S. Lockheed U-2 spy plane during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the engine of the American U-2 airplane itself. It is an amazing look at history through the eyes of the Cuban government. (Included)
  • A short walk from the Museum of Revolution to near where the motor coach will be parked is the Hotel Sevilla. For those finished with the museum early, wish a refreshment and listen to live Cuban music in the courtyard you can meet there. The entire sixth floor was booked by Al Capone and his body guards at times when he visited Cuba. A plaque is outside of the room he would stay and makes for a unique photo. (Included)
  • Hotel Nacional check in; relaxing time to see the garden, walk the site depicted in the Godfather Part II movie, enjoy a cigar and mojito or have a rest on the veranda where some of the world’s most interesting personalities’ have taken a break while the winds from the Straits of Florida breeze by
  • At the Nacional, stroll by cannons of battles from the 1800’s, and visit the bunkers, built overlooking the Malecon and the Straits of Florida to Key West. For 13 days in October 1962 the world hinged on the brink of a nuclear war. The epicenter of the conflict was on the island you will be standing. Diplomatic understandings were formulated, treaties were contemplated, blockades occurred, embargoes were strengthened and international legal precedent was challenged. You can go through the bunkers and trenches to be briefed on the happenings of the time
  • Our group will caravan in Vintage American cars along the Malecon, and stop at a small park for photos & continue on to dinner. (Included)
  • Dinner at the paladar La Casa, private restaurant, one of the earliest established in Cuba and still in the original home. (Included)
  • Evening is free to explore the sights and sounds of the city

Day 7 – Thursday :: Old Havana municipal briefing, a community transfomed by art, Hemingway and last night in Havana

  • Breakfast in hotel. (Included)
  • Talk on Planning, Restoration and Urbanization in Old Havana by Restoration Specialist Yaima Gil.
  • Visit the community project Muraleando, a neighborhood in Havana which was inspired by the children of the community and housed in an abandoned water tank. Murals, sculptures and paintings adorn the buildings and street corners of what was once a very depressed area. Instruction of music, dance, sculpting, painting and other arts are available for the children, many who come from low income families or have behavioral challenges. Jeanne Schulz, the widow of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz (cartoonist best known for his comic strip Peanuts which featured Charlie Brown and Snoopy), visited Muraleando and subsequently funded and authorized an artist to paint a few Peanuts murals for the community center. A large Snoopy will greet you at the entrance. The project helped transform a very challenging neighborhood into a refurbished area, community center and an up and coming tourist site. (Included)
  • Lunch at Muraleando restaurant that employees members from the community. Enjoy live music and maybe even sneak in a dance instruction. If time allows you can visit the artesian shop on the way out. (Included)
  • Visit La Bodeguita del Medio and El Floridita, Hemingway's favourites bars in Havana (one drink at each location included)
  • Return to hotel
  • Dinner not included. With all the great food we have experienced the past week, this is our last chance to re-visit one of our favorite restaurants or check out a paladar we have heard about. Our Cuban Guide and GRTC Team will be glad to help. Plan ahead, even earlier in the week if you need reservations
  • Evening is free to explore the sights and sounds of the city. It’s our last night in the Republic of Cuba so Enjoy!

Day 8 – Friday :: Havana and home

  • Breakfast. (Included)
  • Check-out of hotel
  • Transfer to José Martí International Airport for flight home. (Included)
  • Memories of a wonderful visit to the Pearl of the Antilles: Cuba! (Included)
Cuba travel is a challenge. Our staff and Cuban partners work super hard to make your tour unfold seamlessly despite Third World conditions on the island. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Flexible travelers understand this is part of their Cuban adventure.
Tour meals at your hotel and at fine restaurants
  • Teleconference with the Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) leadership to go through the itinerary, answer questions and offer suggestions on opportunities not on the schedule
  • A series of briefing e mails, starting weeks before departure, to assist in preparing for the trip
  • Dedicated website for the delegation to review itinerary, have FAQ answered and to be able to register online
  • All taxes, amounts are quoted in US dollars
  • Airport departure tax from Cuba and the mandatory Cuban Medical insurance coverage during your island stay will be included in the cost of your airfare. GRTC Team will be of assistance if you have questions
  • Fly into your U.S. departure city, participant’s choice of city on the night before departing to Cuba, for those connecting. GRTC will make reservations. Your U.S Departure Hotel lodging is included the night before departing to Cuba
  • Airport transfers in Cuba: Your transfer at the Cuban airport is included. You are met at the airport in Cuba and will be taken to our hotel upon arrival. On the last day of your Tour the transfer for departure to the Cuban airport is included
  • Hotels in Cuba as listed in tour itinerary, or similar
  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners as per itinerary
  • All activities, services, speakers, meetings and meals as described in tour itinerary except those noted as “optional” or “not included”
  • Special presentations for Municipal Leader participants, value added educational experiences
  • Luxury air-conditioned private coach transportation and a full-time professional driver, dedicated to your group. Cold bottled water on board
  • An expert Cuban English-speaking guide whose background matches tour content and GRTC Team member from the U.S. serving as Tur Leader
  • Ongoing support from Cuba Explorer staff and the GRTC Team before, during and after our stay
  • Emergency collect call access to the United States while in Cuba
  • Emergency cash advance for tour participants who face complications while in Cuba
  • Global Relations Travel Club (GRTC) lifetime membership. Membership is a requirement, by Rule, to participate in GRTC tours. It is Complimentary in your Tour
  • Gratuities for Cuban tour guide, coach/van driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters, etc. for group activities. The ‘gratuity collective’ is included in your Tour
  • Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel in compliance with U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations (OFAC) section, 1 C.F.R. § 515.565(b)
  • Airfare is not included; you select your commercial flights and book them to and from Havana. Flight reservations are the responsibility of the participant. GRTC Team will be of assistance
  • Cuban Visitor Visa to enter the country is not included, but may be arranged by GRTC
  • Optional travel interruption and cancellation insurance. See