Start and end your trip in this iconic Latin American city!
This program is designed to give students an up close and personal “through the lens” look at Cuban life, architecture, and natural landscapes. Capture life in Havana’s old city and its surrounding neighborhoods, wander the Viñales Valley on horseback, and take in the sunsets and wildlife on the shores of Cayo Levisa. Each afternoon you will have a workshop and exposition, sharing your photos with your group and guides, learning techniques that will help you develop your photography skills.
Depart from Miami, USA, for Havana, Cuba on Tuesday evening (6:30pm). Your Rustic Pathways staff will greet you upon arrival and take you to the Hotel Copacabana for an introduction and to get some sleep before your real Cuban adventure begins.
You’ll unpack and begin your program with a brief orientation before visiting the Revolutionary Museum which is housed in the old Presidential Palace. You’ll then head out to explore Habana Vieja’s iconic plazas, colonial architecture, and forgotten alleyways. Learn tricks and techniques from your photo guide that are designed to help you refine and perfect your photography skills.
On your second day in Havana, you’ll take a ride in a classic car and visit Havana’s infamous Hotel Nacional and the city’s Museum of Fine Art. After dinner at a paladar and sunset shots along the malecón, finish the evening with the cañonazo, a cannon firing ceremony that dates back to the 18th century.
Head out early to the Valley of Viñales, one of Cuba’s most picturesque and breathtaking naturally protected areas. Explore the valley and its many mogotes and learn about the traditional agricultural techniques that are used in the region.
Wake up early and head to Cayo Levisa, an isolated, mangrove covered north coast key. Unlike other keys in the area, there is no causeway to Cayo Levisa, meaning students will have to make the 45-minute journey by boat. They will be welcomed by pristine beaches and crystal clear water, perfect for a relaxing swim or snorkeling.
Today you’ll begin making your way towards Havana, making a pit stop in Cienfuegos and at Punta Perdiz in the Bay of Pigs. Cienfuegos is known for its stunningly beautiful French-inspired architecture, magnificent boardwalk and spectacular bay. It is also home to singer Benny Moré, one of Cuba’s most famous singers.
Wake up early for a hike and an amazing photo opportunity at the Javira Waterfall in Parque El Cubano.
After working up a sweat, head down to the beach at Playa Ancón and enjoy amazing views and crystal clear water at one of Cuba’s best southern beaches.
At night, lose yourself to the rhythm of salsa and son as you listen to a live music performance at the Casa de la Música.
Wake up and explore Trinidad, a 500-year-old colonial city that is without a doubt one of Cuba’s most picturesque. Your group will stroll down the cobblestone streets, taking in sights of horse-drawn carriages and colorful facades. You’ll enjoy lunch and live salsa music at one of the town’s many paladares (private restaurants). Participate in a scavenger hunt and photo contest that is designed to help you interact with the local community.
Continuing along your journey, you will visit Cubas third largest city, Camaguey. Get lost in the towns medina like streets and explore baroque style, colonial cathedrals. Ride a cycle taxi around town and learn of the importance and abundance of the tinajones.
Set off on an exploration trip to one of Cuba’s most isolated areas that once served as the hideout to Fidel and his rebels. You will arrive at Villa Santo Domingo, the gateway to the Sierra Maestra National Park and an ideal base to begin your trek to Comandancia de la Plata, Fidel’s camp and rebel headquarters. Get lost in history as you marvel at the guerrilla camp that has been
kept much as it was left in the late 1950’s. Today you are able to visit 16 simple wooden building including a museum, Casa de Fidel, and rural hospital.
Spend time in the rural village of La Platica and participate in a photography exchange with locals.
Depart for Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s second largest and most important city. Spend your days exploring the city’s casco historico (“old town”) with highlights including visits to the infamous Moncada Barracks, Casa de Diego Velazquez (the oldest house in Cuba), and the Santa Ifengia Cemetery. In the evening, join your fellow travelers and a local folkloric dance group for a dance or percussion lesson.
Your stay in Santiago will include plenty of time to enjoy and document what is arguably the Caribbean’s largest carnival and one of Cuba’s biggest festivals.
Today you’ll take to the sky as you return to the capital city, Havana, where you’ll have the opportunity to visit the local market where you can barter for souvenirs. Head back to your hotel where you’ll present your best photos to your group and freshen up for one final dinner out on the town filled with lots of music and dancing.
Today you’ll say goodbye to your group and program leaders. Return home with many memories to share (and maybe even a few dance moves!).
Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.
The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.
“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.
“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.
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Cuba requires that all arriving travelers have a Cuban Tourist Card (Visa) to enter the country. Travel Visas can be purchased in-person at the airport (look for the ‘Cuba Ready’ Kiosk) or online through Cuba Travel Services. The Travel Visa has a cost of $100 if purchased at Charlotte or Miami airports (subject to change without notice). Alternatively, you can get in touch with our direct visa broker company, G3. Since working with them our visa processing has improved and the process is really easy. Please contact them here: http://www.g3visas.com/rusticpathways.html
Round-trips to Cuba originating in the U.S. to Cuba get:
If you are traveling from a different country check with your airline.
Cuban Health Insurance is included in the purchase of your airline ticket.
Upon arrival to Cuba, you will make your way to immigration with your visa and passport. Make sure to fill out the blue customs form (given on the airplane or upon arrival) and white health form prior to arrival. Be prepared for questions about your departure date (good to have your return ticket printed and available).
Official’s typical questions:
Access to internet will be very limited, as there is no WiFi at the hotels where we’ll stay. However, there are parks and public squares with WiFi, which you can use after purchasing state-issued internet cards. Please let your friends and family know about communication expectations ahead of time.
One of the legal currencies for Cuba is the Cuba Convertible, CUC (also the newest currency in the country). It’s what you exchange your currency for and make all your purchases with in Cuba. Most tourists will only ever deal with CUC (the other one is called Cuba Peso or CUP). Note that there is a 13% tax charged when exchanging US Dollars in cash, so, you will only receive 87 cents CUC for one US Dollar.
You can exchange money at the some hotels, currency exchange offices or banks. We suggest that you do not use Travelers Checks because they are not insured and may not be accepted. Therefore, it is essential to travel with enough cash during your entire stay in Cuba.
Remember that historically the U.S. and Cuba have had a very tenuous (strained) relationship. You and your group are a part of a new wave of global citizens and change makers that are ushering in a new era of establishing a diplomatic and social relationship between two nations that have long been considered foes. Much of what is portrayed about Cuba in the U.S. and global media is biased and untrue often leading to common misconceptions about the country – it is up to you to decide what Cuba is really like through travel, personal experience and research, and building relationships. Always remember that you are representing not only yourself and your school but also your country.
All meals and bottled water will be provided by Rustic Pathways. You should bring a one-liter reusable water bottle to refill. It is recommended to only drink bottled water, canned drinks, and packaged food when buying from local vendors.
Vegetarian options will be available at restaurants and local accommodations (plenty of rice, beans, lentils and other legumes, grains, vegetables, fruit, eggs, etc). Please understand that typically Cubans don’t adhere to a vegetarian/vegan diet and it is not common among the population. If you are a picky eater, it is recommended to bring plenty of snacks as there are no specialty food stores in Cuba.
They are available in gas stations for free and they’re usually really clean. Be prepared with toilet paper and small CUC coins ($.05 – .10) when using public facilities. All of our hotels and restaurants will have clean facilities and toilet paper available.
Cuba is a relatively safe destination to travel to and throughout, however, there is a risk of petty theft. Petty opportunistic crimes, such as pickpocketing and bag-snatching are primarily reported in the capital city of Havana, especially in Old Havana, on public transport, at major tourist sites and in nightclubs. Violent crime is rare and almost non-existent for foreigners.
Tips to protect yourself from petty theft: Travelers are advised to take sensible precautions to protect personal security and keep valuables out of sight, avoid carrying large amounts of cash, avoid wearing expensive jewelry (flaunting wealth) and leave valuables in the hotel safe.
Beware of thefts from rooms, particularly in private guest houses (‘casas particulares’) and/or hotels. Items like phones and laptops are highly sought after in Cuba and are particularly attractive. Theft from luggage during baggage handling, both on arrival and departure, is also common. Remove all valuables and lock all luggage.
No specific immunizations are needed to travel to Cuba.
We will provide you with plenty of bottled water.
Weather follows a similar pattern to the northern hemisphere, where November-March can be cooler months (min. 50 and max. 90) and April-October hotter months (min. 70 max 110). A light fleece and windbreaker should be enough for cool nights and mountain hikes.
Your internal flight will be from Santiago de Cuba to Havana, one way only.
All activities in the itinerary are included unless otherwise stated below.
200 should cover for light snacks and drinks on bus trips as well as souvenirs.
Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing long shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.
Laundry will be available twice on the program.
Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:
Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think!
Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing long shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.
Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.
Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.
Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, no problem! Bring these forms with you so they can be completed in-country.
Rustic Gear. Want to get all your shopping done for your program in one place? We’ve got you covered. Check out Rustic Gear and get all the essentials sent right to your door.
A school backpack or similar sized bag is ideal (15-40L)
A 70-90 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal
Toiletries (Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)
Our photo guides suggest that the most important thing would be to have a camera that has the full range of manual controls to get the most out of the workshop. Having a camera (DSLR or mirrorless) that allows you to set the shutter speed, ISO and aperture is ideal. It is suggested to bring a total of around 64 gigabytes of memory. Bring multiple SD cards so that if you lose one you don’t lose all of your pictures. A tripod won’t be necessary and you don’t need to bring a laptop or iPad. A portable hard-drive or USB drive (100+ gb) would come in handy for storing all photos in one place at the end of the trip, but this is optional.
Start and end your trip in this iconic Latin American city!
During your trip you’ll spend time in Trinidad, one of Cuba’s most picturesque colonial towns.
Explore Valle de Viñales National Park, one of Cuba’s most picturesque and breathtaking natural protected areas.