- Viva Cuba
Cuba is a land of contrasts, pulsing with the energy of its Spanish and Afro-Caribbean roots, yet peppered with reminders of its revolutionary past and Communist present. Take in classic Cadillacs, the faded grandeur of colonial-era buildings and the ever-present sounds of salsa as you tour Havana, explore the country's revolutionary past in Santa Clara, experience rural Vinales and make your way to Caribbean shores in Cienfuegos, all on our tour of this unique and fascinating island.
Depart London on your scheduled flight to Havana. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your beachfront city hotel. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure to settle in and unwind, then re-join your group for tonight's welcome dinner at a local restaurant, where you'll get a chance to venture out into vibrant Havana and sample the local cuisine.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Havana teems with iconic symbols of Cuban life - old Cadillacs rumble past colourful colonial-era buildings, live salsa music pours out of restaurants and cafes, locals lounge on balconies smoking the country's famed cigars, and murals of Che Guevara adorn walls and T-shirts. Today starts with a walking tour through Old Havana, or Havana Vieja, an area of the city built during the 16th-century Spanish occupation. Wind your way along the cobbled network of streets, through wide squares and past the faded grandeur of old buildings. Stop at Floridita's Bar, the famous hangout of Ernest Hemingway which boasts a life-size bronze statue of the writer seated at the bar. Enjoy one of the bar's famed daiquiris before lunch at a local restaurant. Make your way to the city's lively craft market and browse through the multitude of stalls hawking everything from linen shirts and cigars to paintings and percussion instruments. Continue on to Revolution Square where the towering Jose Marti memorial pays homage to this national hero, looked over by a huge steel casting of revolutionary Che Guevara. This evening, after a festive dinner at a local restaurant, witness the Nine Cannon Ceremony at Morro Fortress, where soldiers dressed in 18th-century military regalia fire a cannon over Havana Bay. Next, experience Cuba's rich musical culture with a rhythmic live music performance at the Buena Vista Social Club Show before returning to your hotel for the night.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Following breakfast, you'll journey to the nearby fishing village of Cojimar, the inspiration behind Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea". Visit Finca Vigia, the writer's former home which now serves as a dedicated museum, and delve into his life at this hilltop villa where many of his belongings are on display. Next, learn the secrets behind Cuba's world-renowned drinks as you participate in an entertaining cocktail lesson before lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, depart for Vinales, stopping en route at Las Barrigonas, a tobacco farm that grows some of the world's finest tobacco using traditional farming methods that have existed in this valley for hundreds of years. Explore the tobacco plantation and farmhouse then travel onward to Vinales for your overnight stay.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
After the energy of Havana, soak in the slower pace of rural life in breath-taking Vinales, a town framed by limestone hills and dotted with the greenery of tobacco farms. A scenic drive through the rural landscape takes you to the cigar factory and tobacco plantation in Pinar del Rio where you can witness how Cuba's famed cigars are toasted and rolled. Travel onward into the surrounding valley then board a boat and float downriver to Cueva del Indio, an otherworldly river cave that was once an ancient, indigenous dwelling. Your boat ride then carries you to Mural de La Prehistoria, a fantastic 120-metre-long rock mural that took over four years to paint. After lunch at a local restaurant, return to your hotel for an afternoon at leisure with dinner at your hotel.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Depart Vinales and drive onward to spectacular Soroa, whose natural beauty has earned it the name "Rainbow of Cuba". Wander the fragrant pathways of Soroa's Orchideary, surrounded by the delicately coloured foliage of over 700 orchid species then travel to Las Terrazas, a small rural community set in the heart of a picturesque 25,000 hectare UNESCO biosphere reserve. Explore one of the many trails that crisscross this verdant area as a local guide takes you through its nature, community and history. After lunch, drive onwards to the seaside city of Cienfuegos, your home for the next two nights.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
The nearby town of Trinidad has charmed visitors for decades with its brightly coloured buildings, lovingly restored plazas and churches, and donkey-drawn carts rolling down cobbled streets. After breakfast, make the short trip from Cienfuegos to Trinidad for a morning tour of the city. Admire the stately architecture and fascinating artefacts of the Romantic Museum, which offers a window into the world of the wealthy sugar baron, Conde de Brunet, who once owned this mansion. Catch a glimpse of the pretty yellow and green bell tower of Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, located a stone's throw from the museum, as you continue on to Bar La Canchanchara for a taste of the bar's signature cocktail, made of local rum, honey, lemon and water. Visit the soaring bell tower of Manaca Iznaga before lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon, return to Cienfuegos for a tour of this city on the shores of the Caribbean. Enjoy a leisurely walk down the central boulevard as you make your way to the magnificent Palacio de Valle. Wander the towers and hallways of this lavishly designed marble and alabaster mansion, built by a wealthy businessman in the early 1900s, before returning to your hotel.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
After breakfast, travel to Santa Clara, the centre of revolutionary Cuba. In 1958, the revolutionary forces of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos attacked the city and derailed a train carrying military supplies for the dictator Fulgencio Batista, a move that led to Batista's fall. Explore the Che Guevara Square, Museum and Mausoleum - the memorial and resting place of the revolutionary and the museum which retells his life's work, then visit the Armoured Train Monument where the remnants of the derailed trains lie. Make your way to tranquil Parque Vidal, the city's central park, and take in the elegant neo-classical buildings which line its borders. Drive onward to the seaside resort town of Varadero for your overnight stay and an afternoon at leisure, allowing you to enjoy the powder-soft sands and warm waters of the town's spectacular beaches.
A morning at leisure gives you ample time to soak up some sunshine on the nearby beachfront. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport in Havana for your return flight to the UK, or continue on to your chosen extension.
Elizabeth May18 Oct 18
An excellent holiday. An experience only second to our India holiday with Mercury. We would like to return to Cuba & would most certainly travel with Mercury again. Although we travelled in a minibus for hundreds of miles around the island, this was not uncomfortable and was also an enjoyable experience. We were a small group of five, plus the tour guide, and this added to a good, fun-filled time.
A visa (Tourist Card) is required for entry into Cuba. British passport holders will need to obtain a tourist card for travel to Cuba. We work closely with The Travel Visa Company who will be able to arrange your visa for you on your behalf. Please call them on 01270 250 590 and quote Mercury Holidays. The cost of the visa is £39 per person. The visas take around 10 working days to issue and are only valid for 2 months from the date of entry. We therefore recommend that you apply for your visa 8 weeks before travel. However, please be aware that your passport will be required for the application so make sure that you will not need it during this time. Alternatively, you can visit the Embassy of Cuba in London: 176 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6PA. Your passport must be valid for at least 2 months after departing from Cuba. Visa requirements are subject to change and obtaining a visa is the responsibility of the traveller and not Mercury Holidays. We recommend you check with your destinations' Tourist Board or Embassy prior to departure for the most up-to-date guidelines regarding visas and passport validity.
We strongly recommend that you and all members of your party are suitably insured as soon as you book your holiday. It is a condition of booking that you must have suitable travel insurance. It is important that you purchase travel insurance that suitably covers your participation in whatever activities you may undertake at the time that you make your booking. To assist you with this, we have arranged travel insurance in partnership with Holiday Extras. To arrange your travel insurance with Holiday Extras, please call 0800 781 4237 and quote 'WK830' for preferential rates. Please ensure you provide us with the name of your insurer, policy number and their 24 hour emergency contact number as soon as possible. Mercury Holidays will not be liable for any costs incurred by you due to your failure to take out suitable travel insurance from the date of booking.
If booking more than 10 weeks before departure a deposit of £250pp will need to be paid at the time of booking with the full amount payable at 10 weeks prior to departure. The deposit applies to adults and children. If you are within 10 weeks of travel then the full balance of the holiday will be payable.
Your flight to Havana is with Virgin Atlantic departing from London Gatwick (North Terminal). Final flight details will be confirmed on your e-ticket and final documentation which will be sent to you approximately 10 days before departure. Each passenger is entitled to 23kg of hold luggage and one piece of hand luggage not exceeding 10kg and with maximum total dimensions not exceeding 115cm (56cm x 36cm x 23cm). If you wish to take additional luggage you will need to pay extra at check-in.
It is your responsibility to check any health and vaccination requirements applicable to your booked arrangements. We can only provide general information about this. Health and hygiene facilities and disease risks vary from country to country. You should take health advice about your own needs as early as possible and in good time before your departure. Sources of information include; www.fco.gov.uk, http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/, www.hpa.org.uk, your General Practitioner or a specialist clinic.
This tour is accessible to most people with a good level of fitness and normal mobility. It involves climbing of steep stairs and getting on and off coaches and boats. This tour is not suitable for anyone with walking difficulties.
The minimum number of travellers in your group will be 9, and the maximum will be 40. If in the unlikely event there are less than 10 people booked on your tour date, you may be asked to change to a different date. A full refund will be made available to you should this alternative not be suitable.
This is a fully escorted tour, meaning that you will be met on arrival by your national guide who will remain with you for the duration of your trip. You will also be joined by a local guide in each of the cities which you visit, ensuring that you have first-hand knowledge at all times.
There is currently a two-currency monetary system in Cuba: the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). The most used of these by tourists is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Cuban currency is not traded internationally so you cannot buy it in advance before you travel. You will be able to buy local currency when you arrive in Cuba. We recommend you avoid taking US dollars to exchange in Cuba as they are subject to an additional 10% tax. The best currency to take is either Euros or Sterling (in small denominations) since these are the most common major currencies and the exchange rates are generally quite reasonable. The notes should not be damaged as some places will refuse them if they are not in perfect condition. There will also be cash machines available throughout the tour in major cities where you will be able to withdraw money in the local currency. However, it is not recommended to rely on them as your sole source of funds as cash machines do not always work and may not be available in the more remote locations.
You will need to take some extra money with you to cover any personal purchases, such as souvenirs, laundry and extra drinks and snacks. Approximately £300-£400 per person will be sufficient for the duration of the tour. Tipping is at your discretion; however, we would recommend approximately £28 per person for the duration of your tour. For any accompanying guides, we suggest approximately £3 per person per day and for the driver, we suggest approximately £1 per person per day. All tips will be collected by your guide at the beginning of your tour for your convenience. Tips are accepted in the local currency; however, it is asked that if you do not tip in the local currency and pay only with notes, as coins cannot be exchanged.