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16 days/14 nights:

Self-drive holiday in Cuba

Highlights of this tour:

Havana, Viñales, Península de Zapata, Bay of Pigs, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, ‘Valley of the Sugar Mills’, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, Guardalavaca.

This package holiday includes the following:

  • Return flights from the UK to Havana (enquire regarding direct flights)
  • 1 domestic flight: From Holguin to Havana
  • Transfers from and to the airport in Havana (in small international groups)
  • Car hire from day 2 to day 11, including free km. When collecting your car, you will need to pay a deposit which will be returned to you when you return the car
  • 12 nights’ accommodation in good hotels and casa particulares incl. breakfast
  • 2 nights’ accommodation at a beach hotel in Guardalavaca with all-inclusive
  • 2 x dinner (day 3+6)
  • Tourist visa for Cuba
  • Individual tour, however, all excursions are in small international groups with local English speaking guides
  • Telephone hotline staffed 24/7 throughout your trip
  • ATOL certificate included
  • Departure guarantee – the tour will take place regardless of the number of participants
  • Daily departures

The following excursion is included:

  • City tour in Havana’s old quarter

You have the option to change your accommodation in Havana, Viñales, Cienfuegos and Trinidad from casa particulares to a hotel at a supplementary price starting from £500 per person


Single room supplement: £640

Choose this tour because…

A self-drive holiday on Cuba is a popular and different way to experience the country, and you will soon find out why the Cuban people are famous for their friendliness and hospitality. If you would like the freedom to explore the delights of Cuba at your own pace, then this is the way to go. The journey starts in Havana, the Cuban capital, where you will be given a guided tour of the city, taking in the modern and historical parts – the latter featuring on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Afterwards, it is time to make a start on the ‘self-drive’ part of the holiday, taking in the fertile countryside of Cuba and the numerous colonial and historical treasures. Old American cars, entrancing salsa rhythms and the gentle pace of everyday life combine to generate a very special atmosphere and experience. The trip concludes in Guardalavaca, famous for its white sandy beaches, shady palm trees and turquoise water.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Departure from the UK

Departure day, where you will fly to Havana with connecting flights along the way. In Havana, you will be met by a driver who drives you to your accommodations.

Overnight stay Casa Particular - Havana

Day 2: Tour of Havana - Car pick-up

After breakfast, you take a city tour of Havana’s old quarter. Put on your good walking shoes, and let the guide take you through Havana’s cobblestone streets to impressive sites with beautiful old colonial buildings. You experience the contrast between the newly-renovated and maintained streets and buildings, and the more dilapidated areas, that makes Havana so unique. You visit locations including the oldest part of the city, Plaza de las Armas, where the city museum and the governor’s palace are located. Plaza de San Francisco Asis at the port of Havana, Plaza Vieja and Plaza de la Catedral with its beautiful cathedral. It isn’t hard to see why Havana’s old quarter is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List of places worthy of preservation.

You pick up your rented car in the afternoon/evening, so you will be ready for a drive to your adventure the following morning.

You have the rest of the afternoon and evening to yourself.

Overnight stay Casa Particular - Havana

Day 3: Havana – Viñales Valley (approx. 180 km)

This day marks the start of the self-drive programme, and it is time to leave Havana and head for Viñales Valley, where delightful countryside awaits.

The landscape is predominantly made up of fertile valleys covered in banana palms and mango trees, tobacco fields and the huge limestone mountains known locally as mogotes. The farmers here still grow crops and tobacco in the old-fashioned way, using ox-drawn carts. The Viñales region is famous for the quality of its tobacco plants; it supplies the leaves that are subsequently rolled in the cigar factories of Havana to make world-famous brands such as Cohiba and Montecristo. We also have the opportunity to visit one of the most spectacular stalactite caves in Cuba, where the indigenous tribes previously made their homes, and to sail the long river that flows through this unique setting.

Overnight stay Casa Particular - Viñales

Day 4: Viñales on your own

You spend the day at your leisure in pleasant Viñales. You can explore this beautiful area on your own, or pick one of the excursions below.

Here is a selection of optional tours available for purchase:

Overnight stay Casa Particular - Viñales

Day 5: Viñales Valley – Península de Zapata – Cienfuegos (approx. 420 km)

Today, you will be driving from Viñales Valley to the Península de Zapata, site of one of the most important ecosystems in the country and the most extensive area of wetlands in the Caribbean.  The peninsula is famous for the richness of its flora and fauna, which comprises 900 different species of plant and 171 different species of bird, including parrots and humming birds – the smallest bird in the world. There is also a crocodile farm, and the swamps themselves are home to around 100,000 crocodiles. The farm provides insight into the life of the crocodiles in more protected surroundings, and if you are lucky, you may arrive in time to watch them being fed. The Península de Zapata is also ideal for hiking, bird-watching and water sports.

At the famous Bay of Pigs, which has played a key role in international events, you can see monuments to the United States’ invasion attempt in 1961. To find out more about the story, visit Giron Museum. The bay itself has two lovely beaches: Playa Larga and Playa Giron. It is a great place to go diving because of the geographical location of the peninsula, which is protected from the cold front from the north during the winter. On the beautiful seabed at Playa Giron, you can experience underground grottoes and rock formations, as well as all kinds of exotic fish. Another treat nearby is Caleta Buena, where you will find different species of coral, sea trees and sponges. Later in the day, you can continue on to the town of Cienfuegos, where you will spend the night.

Overnight stay Casa Particular - Cienfuegos

Day 6: Cienfuegos – Trinidad (approx. 90 km)

This morning, you can take the time to explore Cienfuegos, which is known as ‘the Pearl of the South’ because it enjoys such a beautiful setting on the Caribbean coast in the south of Cuba. Cienfuegos is immersed in architectural beauty, history and culture. It also features on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is one of the most peaceful and truly wonderful towns in Cuba. Cienfuegos itself is surrounded by colourful, fertile areas used to grow mangos, sugar cane, tobacco and coffee. The town was founded in the early 1800s by French settlers, which explains why the centre of town boasts the only miniature Arc de Triomphe in Cuba, erected in celebration of the birth of the republic. The centre is also distinguished by a range of stately villas, and the large square is ringed by impressive palaces, churches and houses that bear witness to a golden age in years gone by. Of particular note among the impressive buildings are the government palace, the Ferrer palace and the delightful Thomas Terry theatre.

In the afternoon, it is time to head for Trinidad.

Overnight stay Casa Particular - Trinidad

Day 7: Trinidad

Trinidad is the biggest sugar-growing area in Cuba, and probably the most beautiful colonial city on the island. It is set between the Caribbean Sea and the Escambray mountains. Like Cienfuegos and the old part of Havana, Trinidad is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city was founded in 1514 and is distinguished by pastel-coloured old houses and palaces dating back to the colonial age. The best place to start exploring the city is the picturesque Plaza Mayor square, which is ringed by a number of museums including the Museo Romantica, which houses collections of jewellery, porcelain, paintings and sculptures that once belonged to the Spanish nobility. The square is also the site of the cathedral: Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad, one of the biggest churches on Cuba. At Segarta square, you will find the oldest palaces in the city, beautifully decorated with wonderful chalk paintings. These magnificent palaces were all built by rich sugar barons between 1777 and 1850, i.e. during the golden age of the city.

Overnight stay Casa Particular - Trinidad

Day 8: Trinidad – Sancti Spiritus – Camagüey (approx. 270 km)

Today, you will be heading for Camagüey. En route, you will pass through Sugar Mill Valley, which is just outside Trinidad and has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. The fertile valley, which is bordered by lush green mountains, is dotted with old haciendas, slave quarters and sugar mills – of which more than 50 were built here in the 1800s. It was the Spanish who brought slaves here from Africa in the colonial years and established sugar production, quickly making Trinidad one of the richest cities in Cuba. You can also take a closer look at the sugar plantation hacienda called Manaca Iznaga, which was established in 1750 by Pedro Iznaga, one of the richest men in Cuba. The hacienda has a 44-metre-high tower used by lookouts to make sure that none of the slaves escaped while working out in the valley.

As you continue on towards Camagüey, take the time to swing by the town of Sancti Spiritus, which has long been an important centre of cattle, sugar cane and tobacco farming. Today, it is a market town for the local farmers. It is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List on account of its charming centre, which features old colonial streets, squares and churches. The best-known symbol of the town is Puente Yayabo, the 5-arched stone bridge over the river. The town centre also boasts the beautiful colonial palace known as Quinta de Santa Elena and the central square – Plaza Serafín Sánchez – which is ringed by neoclassical buildings.

Spend some time here before continuing on to Camagüey. Around 110 km east of the town you will find Santa Lucia beach. This is the third-largest beach in Cuba and ideal for snorkelling and water sports.

Overnight stay Hotel Camagüey

Day 9: Camagüey – Bayamo – Santiago de Cuba (approx. 320 km)

Camagüey is the third-largest city on Cuba. Before the revolution, the town grew rich on cattle breeding, and its streets and buildings still bear witness to its past affluence. The town is rightly famous for its numerous churches, beautiful palaces and winding streets, which are almost as intricately interlaced as a spider’s web in places. Some of the most notable sights and attractions include Agramonte Park, with its majestic bronze monument dedicated to Ignacio Agramonte, one of the most important figures in the Cuban independence movement, and the triangular Plaza de los Trabajadores, which is the site of Nuestra Señora de la Merced cathedral with its fascinating catacombs.

Having spent some time exploring Camagüey, head for Santiago de Cuba, the second-largest city in the country. On your way, see if you have time to stop off in Bayamo, an idyllic little provincial town with the most beautiful pedestrian street on the island. The Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Cobre church, where people come from all over Cuba to thank La Virgin de Caridad – as the Virgin Mary is known locally – is most definitely worth a visit. The pope declared the Blessed Virgin the guardian angel of the whole of Cuba in 1916.

Overnight stay Hotel Casa Granda

Day 10: Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba was founded in 1515 and is considered to be the most authentically Caribbean city in Cuba. It is surrounded by the Sierra Maestra mountains and bordered by Cauto, the longest river on the island. Mixed races and different cultures live in harmony here. Music is an important part of life for many of the people of Santiago de Cuba. The city is the birthplace of a number of important musicians and musical styles, and has become famous for its carnivals and the Caribbean Festival.

Santiago de Cuba is positioned high on a hill, overlooking the bay. As a result, many of the streets in the city are steeply sloping. Some of the best known include Aguilera, the longest street in the city, Enramadas, which is famous for its markets, and Padre Pico, a long flight of steps that is more than 100 years old.

Santiago de Cuba is also liberally sprinkled with historical buildings. Among the most famous of these are the Dan Pedro de la Roca fortress, from which the townspeople guarded the beautiful bay against pirate attacks, and the El Morro fortress, which is located at the entrance to Santiago Bay and provides a wonderful view out over the harbour, the town and the Sierra Maestra mountains. Other notable buildings are the Moncada barracks, which were attacked by soldiers led by Fidel in 1953 as part of his attempt to overthrow the dictator Batista, and Vivac, the former prison which is now an historical archive.

You would also do well to visit Cespedes park, which is surrounded by monuments and old buildings including the cathedral from 1522. Right nearby stands Casa Velazquez, which once belonged to Governor Diego Velazquez. This two-storey building is considered to be the oldest house on Cuba. Other attractions include Plaza de la Revolución square and Santa Efigenia churchyard, where many of the heroes of the wars of independence from Spain are buried, as well as key protagonists from Castro’s revolution and other important figures from the history of Cuba.

Overnight stay Hotel Casa Granda

Day 11: Santiago de Cuba – Holguin – Guardalavaca (approx. 200 km)

Today, you will be driving to Guardalavaca. On the way, you can take a break at Holguin, which is the third-largest city in Cuba and known as the ‘City of Parks’. In addition to its numerous parks, the city is also famous for Pancho, the beer-drinking donkey, and El Guayabero, the singer. From everywhere in the city, you can see the top of Loma de la Cruz, the nineteenth century fortress. Its history actually dates back to 1720, when a monk called Francisco Antonio de Alegria climbed to the top of the 272-metre-high Bayado hill with a cross on his back. He is also credited with starting Romerias de Mayo, a Spanish religious festivalthat has become a fixed tradition ever since his time. On 3 May every year, people climb the 458 steps to the cross.

You then continue to Guardalavaca, where you return the car. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy the beautiful white sandy beach, with palm trees and turquoise waters.

Overnight stay Hotel Brisas Guardalavaca

Day 12: Guardalavaca

Today is yours to do with as you wish – you can spend it simply relaxing on the wonderful beach, for example.

Overnight stay Hotel Brisas Guardalavaca

Day 13: Guardalavaca – Holguin – Havana

You will be picked up at the hotel and taken to the airport in Holguin, from where you fly to Havana. In Havana, you will be met by a driver who will take you to your accommodation.

The rest of the evening is yours to do with as you wish.

Overnight stay Casa Particular - Havana

Day 14: Havanna on your own

The day is spent at your leisure, and you can explore incredible Havana on your own, or choose to buy one of the following excursions from home.

Here is a selection of tours in Havana available for purchase:

Overnight stay Casa Particular - Havana

Day 15: Start of the journey home

Bid farewell to Cuba and begin the trip back to the UK. You will be collected from your accommodation and driven out to the airport to start your trip home. You will fly to the UK with connecting flights along the way.

Day 16: Arrival in the UK

You arrive in the UK after a fantastic tour around Cuba.

Highlights of this tour:

Havana, Viñales, Península de Zapata, Bay of Pigs, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, ‘Valley of the Sugar Mills’, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, Guardalavaca.

This package holiday includes the following:

  • Return flights from the UK to Havana (enquire regarding direct flights)
  • 1 domestic flight: From Holguin to Havana
  • Transfers from and to the airport in Havana (in small international groups)
  • Car hire from day 2 to day 11, including free km. When collecting your car, you will need to pay a deposit which will be returned to you when you return the car
  • 12 nights’ accommodation in good hotels and casa particulares incl. breakfast
  • 2 nights’ accommodation at a beach hotel in Guardalavaca with all-inclusive
  • 2 x dinner (day 3+6)
  • Tourist visa for Cuba
  • Individual tour, however, all excursions are in small international groups with local English speaking guides
  • Telephone hotline staffed 24/7 throughout your trip
  • ATOL certificate included
  • Departure guarantee – the tour will take place regardless of the number of participants
  • Daily departures

The following excursion is included:

  • City tour in Havana’s old quarter

You have the option to change your accommodation in Havana, Viñales, Cienfuegos and Trinidad from casa particulares to a hotel at a supplementary price starting from £500 per person


Single room supplement: £640