Don’t Miss these Awesome Spots in Cuba
When we first visited Cuba, we knew it was the perfect place for a Gondwana Ecotour. Meet local artists, musicians and farmers that love to share their culture and live alongside Cuban families. Taste delicious home cooked food, see beautiful beaches and parks and explore colorful Old Havana. The combination of all these experiences makes for an unforgettable adventure. Here are some of the locations you definitely don’t want to miss on your Cuba tour:
Havana was founded in 1519 and first known as “Villa de San Cristobal de La Habana”. Cuba was a critical port along the way from the Old World to the New World, and the Spanish turned it into one of the biggest shipbuilding centers during that time period. Old Havana is the historical center of the city, full of Baroque and Neo-Classic architecture, and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among the important spots to see in this area are the Plaza de Armas, the site where Cuba was founded and named for the military activities that took place there in the 16th century. It is surrounded by Havana’s most important colonial buildings. There are also historic fortresses like Castillo El Morro, that were built after French pirate Jacques de Sores captured the city during its early years. This incredible castle, built in 1587, sits perched above the Bay of Havana, a prime spot for spotting incoming armadas. While in Old Havana you want to make sure to get to know the locals. That’s why on our Ecotour we have a dinner party at our guide’s family home with home cooked food, fresh mojitos and dancing. We also visit a local musician’s house for an intimate private performance and lesson on the history of Cuban music.
This fertile valley is located strategically between Piñar del Rio region and the the vital trade port of Puerto Esperanza. For centuries before the Spaniards arrived, tribes of the Taino people lived in the caves here. Starting in the early 1800’s, settlers from the Canary Islands region began growing tobacco in nearby areas, due to the ideal nature of the soil and climate. By 1871 the first ranch in the Viñales had been established. The tobacco industry boomed here through the 19th and 20th centuries, many of the colonial buildings and original railroad station still stand in town. Fidel Castro once called it his favorite place in all of Cuba. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and has become a popular destination for horseback riding, stunning scenery, rock climbing, and traditional music and crafts. On our tour we visit a working coffee plantation and a 4th generation tobacco farmer to learn the process of growing and harvesting. You will even have an opportunity to roll your own cigar!
This incredible white sand beach an hour from Viñales is known for its seclusion, white sands and turquoise waters. At the end of a bumpy access road you reach this Caribbean paradise – rent snorkeling gear or kayaks and explore, or just kick back with a coconut or mojito in hand and soak it all in. This mangrove covered key is far from the crowds and is an ideal place to relax, read and swim. Don’t forget to walk along the shoreline in both directions to experience the serenity of an empty beach, and get that perfect postcard shot!
Cienaga de Zapata National Park
At over 4,500 square kilometers, this massive swamp is a paradise for birdwatchers, snorkelers and divers. The protected parklands are home to an incredibly diverse array of bird species as well as many “cenote” pools. As limestone caves formed over the years, they released the crystal clear groundwater underneath. The pools are deep and great for rock jumping. Many of these swimming holes actually feature vast underwater cave systems popular with expert divers. The Mayan people considered these formations sacred, believing they were an entrance to the underworld. This area also features white sand beaches and some of the best reefs in all of Cuba. We stay right on the beach here during our Ecotour, perfect for relaxing after mornings filled with exploration and adventure.
Travel Agent Central Features Our New Cuba Tour
We were recently featured on the website “Travel Agent Central” where they list some of our unique activities and explain what sets us apart from other Cuba tours. Gondwana founder Jared Sternberg says it best: “If you are not into cruise-ship style travel…join us for an authentic, off-the-beaten-path experience where you’ll get an insider’s view into the unique culture and nature of this incredible island.” We are excited to offer our guests a tour where they can connect with local culture bearers, taste authentic home cooked cuisine and stay in a family owned Casa Particular. This is like a home stay, with plenty of cultural exchange with your hosts, but in these homes each guest will have their own private room and bathroom. Ride horses through a picturesque valley to meet a fourth generation tobacco farmer and see how he hand rolls his cigars. Explore Old Havana, snorkel colorful reefs, enjoy a private concert from Cuban musicians and more activities that you won’t find on any other Cuba tour.