ACE CAMPS TRAVEL COMPANY

CUBA 2017

EXPLORE CUBA |  LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY, ARTS + CULTURE | HAVANA, CUBA  |  NOVEMBER 15 - 21, 2017 or NOVEMBER 22 - 28, 2017

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About the trip:

Cuba is an enigma; magnificent but crumbling, determined, layered, gritty and simply complex. For the greater part of the last century, the country has been shrouded in mystery, intrigue, and nostalgia, but there is an undeniable pulse about it, a heartbeat. Today, Havana is the center of the nation’s busy political, scientific and cultural life. Museums, theatres and concert halls, art galleries and cultural institutions are popular venues, while some—such as the National Ballet of Cuba, House of the Américas, Foundation of New Latin American Film and National Folkloric Dance Group—have won international acclaim. 

Arriving in Havana is like stepping out of a time-machine and finding yourself back in the 50’s, surrounded by the slightly faded beauty and elegance of the crumbling colonial facades that have hardly changed since Hemingway strolled the elegant boulevards and narrow cobbled streets.  The unmistakeable aromas will capture your senses; tropical papaya mixed with tobacco leaf, musty carpets and petrol. Live music on the streets and in the restaurants is the norm, with people spontaneously dancing anywhere and everywhere. The city is alive, at all hours of the day, filled with life and colour. 

We will explore the magical culture of this country by spending our time wandering the streets of the bustling capitol, strolling through lush tobacco fields, sipping mojitos, riding around in vintage cars and visiting a intimate club to listen to some of Cuba's finest Jazz musicians. 

*UPDATE June 22, 2017 for all US residents + US Passport holders - we have worked with our partners to ensure our final itinerary is compliant with US law under the "educational activities/people-to-people" permitted reason of travel to Cuba. 

This Ace Camp includes:

  • 6 nights*  (based on shared occupancy)
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • 4 dinners
  • 5 days of locally guided tours 
  • Tobacco farm tour and cigar rolling lesson
  • Vintage Car driving tour
  • Evening at a Jazz club
  • Salsa Dance Lesson
  • Organic farm lunch
  • Admission and tour fees - local museums
  • Tips - Guides

*Rooms are shared with one other person. 

This Ace Camp is limited to 10 people.

Airfare not included.

 

TRAVEL NOTES

  • It is important to note that Cuba tends to be quite different to other areas of the world you may have travelled in. Buildings and infrastructure are generally old and may not have been maintained to the highest standard. Elevators, internet and A/C may not be available, things happen very slowly and water pressure and hot water can be minimal. Cuba is an amazing place to visit but to fully enjoy and relax, western expectations should be left at home and your sense of adventure should be your guide. 
  • You are required to get a TOURIST VISA for this Ace Camp.  
  • Foreign visitors wishing to travel to Cuba should be in possession of valid national passports valid for at least 190 days. 
  • We are not able to handle specific dietary requirements on this trip. There will be vegetarian options when possible.
  • Our Casa is located on the top floor of a four story building, with no elevator, so please be prepared for a little exercise :)  
image:  Michele Spinato

image:  Michele Spinato

WHERE WE'RE STAYING:

Located in the heart of Old Havana, a few steps from Avenida del Puerto and the much celebrated Plaza Vieja, our boutique Casa Particular is a small comfortable hotel with only six simple yet modern rooms, the perfect backdrop to experience the mood of the colonial past of Havana. We are close to the very best restaurants and bars, as well as the best shopping streets and music venues. The rooftop terrace provides stunning views that look out onto many famous Havana landmarks. 

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Traditional Cuban cooking is primarily peasant cuisine that has little concern with measurements, order and timing. A majority of the dishes are sautéed or slow-cooked over a low flame. Most Cuban cooking relies on a few basic spices, such as garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay laurel leaves. Many dishes use a sofrito as their basis. Sofrito, used as the basis for seasoning in many dishes, consists of onion, green pepper, garlic, oregano, and ground pepper quick-fried in olive oil. The sofrito is what gives certain foods their distinctive flavor. 

THE PLACES YOU WILL VISIT...the things you'll do.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (The National Museum of Fine Arts) – Artists to look out for are Guillermo Collazo, considered to be the first truly great Cuban artist; Rafael Blanco with his cartoonlike paintings and sketches; Ral Martnez, a master of 1960s Cuban pop art; and the Picasso-like Wilfredo Lam.

Ruta del Tobaco – A slice of paradise in the Valley of Silence, this is where the finest cigars in the world are rolled. 

Malecón – Long a favored meeting place for assorted lovers, philosophers, poets, traveling minstrels, fisherfolk and wistful Florida-gazers, the Malecón's atmosphere is most potent at sunset when the weak yellow light from creamy Vedado filters like a dim torch onto the buildings of Centro Habana, lending their dilapidated facades a distinctly ethereal quality.

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TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS

ACE CAMPS administration will email you when it is time to make your travel arrangements. This email will always be sent 60 days or more before your trip departs unless you book within 60 prior to the camp. 

You will be picked up from José Martí International Airport and taken to our Casa in Havana Vieja.

There will be no refunds for this Ace Camp due to the planning and logistics involved.

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WEATHER

Located close to the Tropic of Cancer, Havana has a typical subtropical climate, with a wet season in the summer and a dry season in the winter. Due to moderating trade winds, average temperatures do not fluctuate as much as rainfall does, making Havana a warm place to visit any time of year. 

November is generally a very pleasant month to visit the country as daytime highs average around 26C and lows around 16C. This month brings the end of the rainy season, but it is advisable to pack an umbrella or rain jacket just incase.

 

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ACE CAMP TOUR LEADER

The ACE CAMP TOUR LEADER is a part of your group and are there to look out for your safety, to help resolve issues, and to make sure you get what you want from your vacation. The Tour Leader will make sure that everyone who wants company has it, including dinners when no group meal is scheduled.

They also work with the local guides to insure the right combination of pace, information, and duration - and, well...keep the ball rolling.

 


ITINERARY

Day One

Arrival to Havana, Cuba
Transfer to hotel and settle into your accommodation.

Meet + Greet and dinner at our Casa

Day Two

Breakfast at the hotel

Grand architecture, famous cigars, rum cocktails and of course, classic American cars - today's guided tour is a great introduction to all things Havana.

Morning:  Discover Havana’s secrets by exploring its crumbling colonial buildings and learn about its revolutionary past. Stop to take photos and admire the architecture at many of the city’s most famous sights. Visit the historical city squares: plaza de la catedral; plaza de armas; plaza san francisco de asis; plaza vieja

Lunch – authentic Cuban Paladar

Afternoon: The classic American car is synonymous with Havana and its history. This iconic mode of transport is the perfect way to tour Havana and a very different side of the city. Here you will be chauffeured around some of the most famous areas of Havana including New Havana, Old Havana, the affluent neighbourhood of Miramar and the famous cemetery of Colon.

Then it is time for a classic cocktail in the garden terrace of the iconic Hotel National, with views of Havana Harbour, the seawall and the city.

Dinner – San Cristobal

Day Three

Breakfast at the hotel

Morning: We start with a visit to The National Museum of Fine Arts. It is a gorgeous building architecturally. Not only will a visit expose you to the painters since the beginning of Cuban history from the 17th century to today, but it will also help clarify the history and mood of its artists, a history often unexplored and misunderstood. You’ll find Cuban surrealism, contemporary abstracts, religious works, scenes from Cuban life, sculpture, landscapes. After this, we will walk through the streets of old Havana and discover small art galleries and visit some workshops of the artists themselves.

Lunch – Cuban Paladar

Afternoon: Callejon de Hammel, funky street murals and psychedelic art shops, the main reason to come to Havana's high temple of Afro-Cuban culture a shrine to Afro-Cuban religions through the art created by Salvador González. The buildings are lined with brightly-colored paintings, sculptures and objects, which depict rituals and deities. Today it has become a place where the Afro-Cuban art and Cuban traditions are practiced. We will also make a visit to a local Dance Studio and Papito's Arte Corte community project.

Dinner TBD

Tonight we will visit Havana's most iconic musical club, the freestyle jazz here is second to none, and in the past the club has hosted such big names as Chucho Valds and George Benson.

Day Four

Breakfast at hotel

This morning we visit an organic vegetable farm that supplies a local restaurant. We have a special lunch arranged for you at Ajiaco paladar [private restaurant]. It’s considered one of the best private eateries in Havana and ranks tops on many highly regarded restaurant lists. Hands down it’s a Cuban dining highlight. It’s located off the beaten path in the sleepy romantic coastal fishing village of Cojmar (the setting for Ernest Hemingway’s "The Old Man and the Sea"). 

After lunch we will make our way to the Museo de la Revolucion, which houses detailed exhibits tracing the events that led up to Castro gaining control of Cuba: the revolutionary war that he waged in the interior of the country and the urban insurrections that took place in Havana and other Cuban cities. Built in the 1920s and designed to look like Versailles, the building is imposing and overbearing, particularly its interior, which was decorated by New York’s Tiffany & Co.

Time to learn how to Salsa! Everywhere in Havana you hear infectious music from early in the morning until late at night. Salsa music seems to be in the blood of the Cubans. Like the dance, almost any Cuban older than 3 years dance the salsa: smooth and with the greatest ease. We will take a lesson to learn the basic steps and 'try' to move like a local. 

Dinner - on your own.

 

Day Five

Breakfast at the hotel

On this Vinales Day Tour you will set-off from Havana at 8:30am in the morning. The scenic drive along the “Ruta del Tobaco” will take you into the lush surroundings of the Pinar del Rio Province. It is hard not to be taken away by the stunning views of the Mogote valley, made famous for its pin-cushion shaped hills, tobacco fields and green vegetation.

Arriving at the lively town of Vinales, you will be greeted by hospitable locals on horse-back and a wonderful vibe that is unique to the town-ship. 

Lunch  - Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso, Organic Farm

In the afternoon we will visit a Tobacco farm and watch a cigar rolling demonstration. There is also the opportunity to visit the “Prehistoric Wall” as well as take a boat ride through some underground Indian caves before returning to Havana.

Dinner - on your own.

Day Six

Breakfast at hotel

Ten miles east of Havana is Ernest Hemingway's Cuba house - Finca Vigia, meaning "lookout house". Built in 1886 by a Spanish Architect Miguel Pascual y Baguer, Finca Vigia was purchased by Hemingway in 1940. There, Hemingway wrote two of his most celebrated novels: For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. A Movable Feast was written there as well.

From here we venture to the National Botanical Garden, a place to refresh your senses from the bustle of the city. This is a place that nature lovers will thoroughly enjoy, thanks to the park’s abundance of endemic plant species and foreign flora from all around the globe, and beautifully preserved Cuban species.

 Lunch – Santy,  one of Cuba's best seafood restaurants, and often frequented by Fidel Castro himself. 

After lunch we will transport you to a magical kingdom of mosaic creations called Fusterlandia. Created by Jose Fuster this 'neighbourhood' is a vibrant arts complex named after its originator and chief creative force, in fact, many call him the “Picasso of the Caribbean.”

Time for a cocktail, or two. We head to the official home of rum and learn more about the vision of the history and production process of Havana-Club-Rum. Havana Club is a brand of rum created in Cuba in 1934, and now one of the best-selling rum brands in the world. We end the afternoon with a traditional cocktail making lesson on the rooftop of our Casa.

We celebrate our final evening together with a farewell dinner at La Guarida

Day Seven

Breakfast at hotel

Departure from Havana.  After breakfast we say our final adioses and head our own way.

**NOVEMBER 15 - 21, 2017 - WAITLIST ONLY

**NOVEMBER 22 - 28, 2017  - WAITLIST ONLY

Nota Bene: this is a prospective itinerary. It is subject to modest modifications, dependent on local weather, new opportunities and the desires of the group.