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Cycling on quiet roads we explore Cuba's verdant countryside, colonial towns and revolutionary history. From Havana we cycle past the historic Bay of Pigs to charming Trinidad where we experience Cuban hospitality in Casas Particulares. Along the way we learn about modern day Cuba and excellent live music is never far away. Finally we relax and unwind on the beach at Playa Jibacoa.
Explore Tour Leader
5 nights simple casas particulares
2 nights comfortable hotel
2 nights premium hotel
Leisurely and Moderate
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Our tour begins in Havana. Built around a deep natural harbour, Havana is one of the most impressive colonial cities surviving in the Americas today. Crumbling tenement buildings and 50s style American Cadillacs rub shoulders with white marble grandeur and the still audible echoes of the Cuban Revolution. The largest city in the Caribbean and Cuba's political and cultural heart, it is the perfect place to start our journey. In Havana we stay in 'casas particulares' - family-run guesthouses.
On arrival to the main joining point casa in the Vedado district of Havana (Mara's House: Calle 29 # 210 e/ B y C, Vedado, La Habana) you will be met by your host and shown to your room in one of the local guesthouses in the surrounding area. Each casa can only accommodate a handful of guests, giving you a great opportunity to interact with your hosts. At night the city's legendary music and cocktails bars come into their own, in both Vedado, where your casa particular is, as well as Old Havana, a short taxi ride away.
Due to the number of evening flights into Havana, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two at 8am after breakfast.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Havana at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), which is a 30 minute drive away.
Casa Particulares - Havana Vedado (or similar)
Simple Casas Particulares
This morning we depart the city and drive (3 hours) to the Zapata Peninsula and the Bay of Pigs - the infamous site of a failed US-backed invasion by Cuban exiles in 1961. We then enjoy a relatively leisurely warm-up ride along the flat, following the Caribbean coast from Boca de Guama our route ends at the Cueva de los Peces - a flooded tectonic fault (or cenote) with resident tropical fish which provides a great swimming opportunity. There is time for an optional visit the museum dedicated to the failed invasion before we resume our journey by road, travelling on to the colonial city of Cienfuegos. We have a chance to take in some of its impressive 19th century architecture on a short walking tour of the centre, before continuing by bus (45 mins) to our hotel at Yaguanabo beach.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 28 kilometres (flat)
Villa Yaguanabo (or similar)
Continuing south-east this morning we cycle along the Caribbean coast to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trinidad, one of the best preserved colonial towns in the country. Founded in 1514, the town was a haven for pirates and slavers before the arrival of the French in the early years of the 19th century and today remains one of Cuba's cultural gems. This afternoon we enjoy a walking tour around the town, taking in the lovely setting of the central square and the cathedral. For the next two nights we will enjoy local hospitality staying in casas particulares - private houses.
Later this afternoon, we will enjoy a cocktail making class where we can learn to make some of Cuba's famous drinks such as mojitos and daiquiris.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 30 kilometres (Total accumulated ascent 150 metres)
Casa Particulares - Trinidad (or similar)
We have a chance to enjoy Cuba's beautiful Caribbean coastline today. Options include a day relaxing on the beach, or perhaps a trip on a catamaran out into the azure waters that lie off the coast. For those still wanting to stretch their legs we also have the option to cycle out to the Ancon Peninsula (30 kilometres return). Alternatively, you can simply relax on the white sands of nearby Playa Ancon, or perhaps return to wander through Trinidad's charming colonial streets.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 30 kilometres (optional, unescorted)
Todays cycle ride through the scenic Valle de los Ingenios (valley of the sugar mills), with its ruined mills and infamous slave watchtower, is possibly the most rewarding (and longest!). By the middle years of the 19th century the valley was responsible for a third of all Cuba's sugar production, before the wars of independence saw the mills destroyed. We cycle to the watchtower of Manaca Iznaga, before continuing through the valley. Re-joining our bus we drive a short distance to the colonial town of Sancti Spiritus where we stop to pay a short visit to the old town, before returning to our casas in Trinidad by bus. Today's ride is a moderate grade that encounters some ascents and descents throughout the day. You have the option to hop into the support bus if you prefer.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 60 kilometres (Total accumulated ascent 500 metres)
Just a few miles behind Trinidad looms the Sierra Escambray, one of the three main mountain chains in Cuba. It has peaks up to 1100 metres, an incredible abundance of tropical and semi-tropical vegetation on its slopes, and some of the best Cuban coffee is also produced here. Climbing up into the Sierra on the road from Trinidad is an experience, with slopes as steep as 20% (don't worry, we do this by bus!). Those wishing to do the toughest cycling challenge to be found in Cuba may want to try by leaving in the early hours of the day and being picked up by the group later. We start cycling on the highest sections of the road with some ascending still to go, near Topes de Collantes, a village and mountain retreat built in the early 1950s. From the village it is one of the most scenic downhills through the jungle to be found anywhere in Cuba. Before leaving the mountains we can stop at a local coffee farmer's home to enjoy a meal (not included) and see the process of coffee tasting and of course we will try it as well! Then heading north, passing through the village of Jibacoa we finally reach the provincial town Manicaragua where we finish our final ride. We will take a short bus transfer to our hotel on the outskirts of Santa Clara. The town of Santa Clara is less visited by tourism and therefore has the authentic feel of a busy Cuban provincial town. It town played an important role in the Cuban revolution, as it was here that Ernesto 'Che' Guevara won a decisive battle in December 1958 which led to the fall of Havana a few days later. Depending on the time we finish our ride and arrive here we will either visit the sites today or tomorrow morning. The 'Tren Blindado' site explains the decisive battle to take Batista's armoured train. The most remarkable site is the Che Guevara monument and mausoleum together with a museum dedicated to the life of this hero of the Cuban revolution. The first 10 km of the ride today is generally ascending and while not steep, there is one section of a couple of kms of ascent. For those clients that prefer, it is possible to ride in the bus for this section. The rest of the ride is generally descending, but with some undulations later.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 35 kilometres (Total accumulated ascent 450 metres)
Los Caneyes Hotel (or similar)
There is no cycling planned today and depending on our activities yesterday we will either drive straight off after breakfast or visit the remaining places of interest. The Che Guevara Monument is the final resting place of one of the world's most iconic figures and one of the country's most emotive shrines to its revolutionary heritage. Continuing on to Havana (three hours), we then spend this afternoon wandering through the heart of the old capital, exploring the neo-classical architecture of the Vieja district and taking in the baroque grandeur of the 18th century Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana among other fine buildings from another age.
No cycling today.
This morning you'll say good bye to those that are not extending their stay as they transfer to the airport with the local leader. You'll then travel to Playa Jibacoa for our stay on the beach. This extension is not escorted by a local Leader, but the staff in the hotel will be more than happy to help with anything that you may need. Around an hours drive brings us to our beach hotel, the 4* Memories Jibacoa, where we will be spending the next two nights relaxing after the week of cycling. Whether you would like to lie in the sun, soaking up some warmth, or take a dip in the beautiful ocean; your time at Jibacoa can be as active or as relaxing as you feel. If you fancy stretching your legs the town is backed by a limestone ridge, with excellent cliff top views and some easy paths for you to enjoy.
Memories Jibacoa (or similar)
Today we have the full day at leisure on the beach. Our hotel here is an all-inclusive, which means that you are at your leisure to enjoy everything that the beach and hotel have to offer. The area is blessed with a coral reef located just a few metres from shore, and the hotel provides snorkelling gear and kayaks for you to explore the turquoise waters and reef. Nestled between the leafy mountains and golden sands, the hotel is beautifully situated with a tempting pool and lush green hills with easy-to-follow trails for keen hikers, offering spectacular views over the ocean.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Playa Jibacoa.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Playa Jibacoa at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) which is a one-and-a-half hour drive from the hotel.
Total distance : 183 kilometres
The dry season is from November to April. Average temperatures are 22-26C. Though the sky is often cloudless during the dry season, cold wet snaps do come in from North America especially in Dec and Jan, when the temperatures can drop to as low as 5C at night. From May to October there are normally fine mornings and clear evenings, afternoon rains tend to be short & heavy. Temperatures are hot and humid.
2 Pin Flat and 2 Pin Round
Havana - Entrance to the Tobacco factory $10 cash; Museo de la Ciudad CUP10 cash; Colonial art museum CUP10 cash; Museo del Ron CUP350 cash; Bay of Pigs invasion Museum CUP200pp cash Soroa - Entrance fee to Orchids garden CUP400 cash; Viñales - Excursion to Cayo Levisa $65USD card (with transport) Trinidad - Catamaran trip to nearby islands: CUC 50 card; Cayo Las Iguanas catamaran excursion near Trinidad - 55 CUC; Cayo Blanco 50CUC; transport not included - extra cuc 10pp cash Jibacoa - Beach Diving $25USDpp; boat diving $45USD 1hr card Please note - most museums in Cuba charge for use of Camera's and Camcorders, this can be up to 7 CUC per usage.
Pack for warm and hot conditions. Bring cycling gear such as padded shorts, cycle gloves and quick drying cycle shirts. Remember weather is changeable in the mountains and it can be cool and wet in the high altitude of the Sierra Escambray or even on some evenings in Havana, so bring some warmer clothing too. Wet weather gear is essential at all times in case of rain. Don't forget your swimming costume.
If you are not bringing cycle shoes then try to bring stiff-soled shoes as these are better for cycling - transmitting your energy into the pedals more efficiently. This becomes more relevant and recommended the more demanding the grade and distances to cover. SPD cycle shoes are not well suited to tours that combine sightseeing with cycling. Comfortable shoes, trainers, sandals or flip flops are useful when not on the bike.
We recommend you bring a daypack and one main piece of luggage (total allowance: 44lb/20kg) which will be transported between hotels while you cycle. Check the bike details section to see if a pannier or handlebar bag is provided on the bike.
On all Explore cycle holidays we strongly recommend you bring along and wear your cycle helmet. In case of an accident resulting in personal injury, certain insurance policies are invalidated in cases where a helmet was not being worn. Cycle glasses to protect against dust, pollen and the sun, padded cycle gloves and a water bottle or water delivery system (e.g. camelback or platypus) are also useful. You may choose to bring your own gel seat cover for added comfort. If a handle bar bag or pannier is not provided (check bike details) then you may like to bring a small rucksack to wear while cycling. Other items to consider bringing are a sunhat and sun cream, torch, earplugs and insect repellent. Please carry some or all of your cycling equipment e.g. helmet as part of your hand luggage. It's also worth noting that it's almost impossible to find any isotonic or sports drinks in Cuba, so if this is something that you like while riding then we'd recommend you bring your own tablets along with you.
Accommodation and service levels in Cuba have improved in recent years but there is an ongoing trade embargo and lack of investment in infrastructure. Accommodation can be basic, particularly in some rural areas, occasionally with unreliable water and electricity supply. Service levels in government hotels, shops and restaurants are generally poor as this is not a service-oriented western culture. Of course, this is all part of seeing the 'real Cuba' and while we think you'll be pleasantly surprised by most of the hotels we use, you should be prepared for simply furnished rooms, some out-dated furniture and varying levels of service. Most of the hotels do have air conditioning and en-suite facilities. Casas particulares - This is a Spanish term meaning private accommodation or homestay in Cuba. Staying in a casa offers the visitor a unique opportunity to experience Cuban hospitality in local accommodation adapted for tourism. The number of rooms, quality, facilities and access to other areas of the house such as the living room varies massively but as a general rule the majority of Casas are clean, basic, centrally located and can host only a handful of guests. Casas are generally run by the owner and members of the family that live there and the standard of English spoken will vary from zero to fluent, which is a good opportunity for you to practice your Spanish. Virtually all of the rooms have private facilities but on rare occasions it may be necessary to share. Your Explore Leader will coordinate accommodation arrangements on tour.
Food supplies to Cuba are sometimes in short supply as a result of their economic situation as well as the restrictions due to the US embargo. It's not uncommon for restaurants and hotels to run short of ingredients, or to have a lack of variety in breakfast buffets. You usually won't have your pick of the menu as supplies can change on a daily basis. You certainly won't go hungry, but lowering your expectations and having a bit of flexibility is necessary. All that said, what is served in private establishments is usually fresh and often organic, and the food at the haciendas is particularly good.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Cuba: Visas or Tourist cards are required by all nationalities travelling to Cuba. Explore can only supply the Cuban Tourist Cards to citizens of the EU, Canada, Australia and New Zealand who are resident in the UK. This currently costs £15. Please contact Explore or your Travel Agent to arrange this service and we will send your tourist card with your final documentation. Alternatively they can be obtained directly through Cuban embassies and consulates. Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate. You are required to complete a health declaration for in order to enter Cuba - This form can be found here - https://www.dviajeros.mitrans.gob.cu/inicio Due to US Treasury Department Regulations we are unable to accept bookings from US passport holders. These Regulations set out different categories under which it is possible for US citizens to travel to Cuba; our trips do not fall under any of the permissible categories. As a tour operator we have an obligation to follow legal procedures, and as such we are unable to sell our trips to US passport holders. Travelling for tourism reasons directly from the USA to Cuba isn't allowed under US law. The law applies to US nationals and all foreign nationals who are either resident in the USA, or travelling through the USA en route to Cuba. Those travelling on direct flights between the UK and Cuba, or via other countries excluding the USA, are unaffected by this US legislation. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure. Canada: An electronic travel authorisation (ETA) is required by British citizens transiting via Canada. For more information see the official Canadian government website: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, TB, infectious hepatitis and polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please note many countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean require a yellow fever vaccination certificates if travelling from infected areas. A detailed list of these countries can be found on the NaTHNaC website - http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries. Also on the NaTHNaC site there is a list of Countries (and specific areas within a country) which are at risk of infection and a vaccination is therefore recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.