Essential Cuba & Colombia

Cuba | Colombia

Culture

Experience two of Latin America's most vibrant cultures.

14 days £2,095 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

Explore Latin America’s two most vibrant countries and cultures, Cuba and Colombia. Experience the rich colonial culture of Old Havana. Uncover the truths behind the famous Bay of the Pigs Invasion. Marvel at the eclectic architecture of Cienfuegos and walk the cobbled streets of UNESCO-listed Trinidad. Continue your journey in to Colombia, where you will stay on a coffee farm in the country's legendary coffee triangle. Discover the historic architecture of La Candelaria in Bogota, wander the colourful Caribbean streets of Cartagena and ascend to the heights of the fortress of Castilla San Felipe.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Explore colonial history of Old Havana
  • Eclectic architecture in Cienfuegos
  • Visit museum commemorating the Bay of Pigs invasion
  • Cobbled colonial streets of Trinidad
  • Visit Che Guevara's mausoleum in Santa Clara
  • Wander cosmopolitan Bogotá
  • Colonial villages in the Coffee Triangle
  • Marvel at Cartagena’s beautiful architecture
  • Wandering cosmopolitan Bogota

Places Visited

Havana - Cienfuegos - Bay of Pigs - Trinidad - Santa Clara - Bogotá - Alcalá - Armenia - Filandia & Salento - Valle de Cocora - Cartagena

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Domestic flights
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Arrival

Arrive in Havana, where you will be met at the airport by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon, take a walking tour of the Old Havana district, known for its pastille-coloured colonial buildings and its elegantly crumbling facades. Visit the some its enchanting plazas, including the beautiful neoclassical buildings in the Plaza de Armas and the baroque cathedral in the Plaza de la Catedral. Overnight in Havana.

Meal plan: n/a

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Day 2 : Havana

In the morning, take a walking tour of the Old Havana district, known for its pastel-coloured colonial buildings and elegantly crumbling facades. Visit the some its enchanting plazas, including the beautiful neoclassical buildings in the Plaza de Armas and the baroque cathedral in the Plaza de la Catedral. After lunch, the rest of the day is free to explore Havana at your leisure. Stroll through its cobbled streets, shop for revolutionary literature or stop off for a cocktail in a local bar. Overnight in Havana.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Founded in the 16th century by the Spanish, Cuba’s capital Havana became the springboard for the Spanish conquest of the Americas because of its strategic location. It is often seen as being three cities in one with Old Havana, Vedado and modern suburban districts. Old Havana boasts a variety of different Western architectural styles such as Baroque and Neo-Classical and different features such as palaces, fortresses and squares. Its buildings and fortress walls were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and sit comfortably next to art deco and more modern styles.

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Day 3 : Bay of Pigs - Cienfuegos

In the morning, leave for Cienfuegos, driving through many citrus fruit and sugar plantations on the Zapata Peninsula. On the way, stop at Cueva de los Peces, a large sinkhole containing hundreds of multi-coloured fish. Continue on to Playa Giron and visit a museum dedicated to Cuba's victory at the infamous Bay of Pigs Invasion. Drive on to Cienfuegos and check into a casa close to the Punto Gorda. Evening is free to spend as you wish. Overnight in Cienfuegos.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Cuba's ‘Perla del Sur’ (Pearl of the South), Cienfuegos was officially founded in 1819 by Frenchman Don Louis de Clouet and the influence the European settlers had on the city is still clearly evident to this day. The historic old town, cited as an outstanding example of 19th century urban planning, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a botched attempt to overthrow the Cuban Communist government. Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Castro became increasingly antagonistic towards the US who saw his close relationship with the Soviet Union as a threat to their interests. After many failed attempts to usurp Castro, on 17th April 1961, CIA trained Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs armed with American weapons. It was hoped that the exiled force would act as a rallying point for Cuban Citizenry. However, the plan quickly fell apart as the exile force was met with an unexpected Cuban counter-attack and the small Cuban air force sank their supply ships. As a result, 100 soldiers were killed, over 1,100 captured and the uprising never happened. This failure cost the US dearly as Castro used the attack to solidify his power and requested Soviet aid which eventually sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis. It also affected US relations with other countries in Latin America as Castro was now considered a hero for standing up to US interference and imperialism.

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Day 4 : Cienfuegos - Sierra del Escrambray - Trinidad

Morning sightseeing tour of Cienfuegos. The focus of this tour is the city's main square Parque Marti, recently declared a UNESCO heritage site, which is surrounded by the impressive Palacio del Ayuntamiento, the elegant Italian style Teatro Tomas Terry and the neo-classical cathedral. Stroll through the bustling Paseo del Prado, which is lined with colonial buildings and shops. You may also hear music from Benny Moré, Cienfuegos' most famous musician, being played on the public speakers. 

Leave for the tropical mountains of Sierra del Escambray, just 30 mins from Cienfuegos. Have lunch there and then take a soft trek (2-3 hours) around El Nicho, which has waterfalls and natural lagoons. Pack your bathing costumes and towel should you decide to take a dip in one of the lagoons (note, water is cold). Look out for endemic birds and enjoy panoramic views of the lush green mountains. Late afternoon leave for Trinidad. Evening free to stroll around the cobbled plaza in Trinidad. Overnight in Trinidad.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 5 : Trinidad

Morning walking tour around Trinidad, a justifiable UNESCO heritage site, with a charming colonial central plaza, cathedral and pastille-coloured buildings that line the cobbled street. Afternoon, visit the Valle de los Ingenios. Climb the watch tower for panoramic views of the stunning landscape. Stop off at other vantage points and at the local pottery making workshop where you can buy handicrafts. Return to the centre of Trinidad. Evening free. Overnight in Trinidad.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Founded in 1514, Trinidad prospered from the sugar trade in the 19th Century. Set between the Escambray Mountains and the beautiful Caribbean coastline, the city was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. Its architecture is a mix of 18th Century Moorish and Andalusian influences and 19th Century European neoclassical forms. The irregular pattern of the city’s squares and cobbled streets make it a great city to explore. It is a perfectly preserved example of a Spanish colonial settlement with its illustrious colonial style mansions full of Italian frescoes, wedgewood china and French chandeliers which hark back to the city’s heyday.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills) comprises three valleys about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) outside Trinidad. The valleys - San Luis, Meyer and Santa Rosa - formed the centre of Cuba's sugar production from the late 18th century until the late 19th century. At its peak, there were over fifty sugar mills in operation across the valleys, with over 30,000 slaves working in the mills and the surrounding sugar cane plantations. With the abolition of slavery, sugar production declined and many of the mills fell into disrepair, but some have been carefully preserved and provide a fascinating insight into Cuba's Colonial-era slave trade.

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Day 6 : Trinidad - Santa Clara - Havana

After breakfast leave for Santa Clara, home to Ché Guevara's Mausoleum, where the Latin American hero was re-buried. Learn about his influence on Cuba and why he is so revered. After lunch, continue the drive on to Havana. Evening free. Overnight in Havana.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Located in the heart of Cuba, Santa Clara was founded in 1689 by citizens of the coastal city of Remedios, who wanted to escape regular pirate attacks. One of the city's famous former inhabitants was the philanthropist, Marta Abreu de Estévez, also known as the Benefactress of the city. Wishing to improve the lives of Santa Clara's citizens, Marta Abreu donated large sums of money to the city, and her influence can still be seen throughout Santa Clara today; an asylum, several schools and a theatre still stand. The city is most well-known as the final resting place of Ché Guevara, who captured Santa Clara during the final battle of the Cuban Revolution in 1958, toppling Batista's regime.

Ernesto 'Ché' Guevara was a revered and controversial historical figure. Born in Argentina, he became radicalised when, as a medical student, he witnessed the terrible poverty, hunger and disease during his travels around South America. This fused with his interest in Marxism and he realised that the only way to solve South and Central America's problems was through armed revolution. In 1954, he travelled to Mexico, met Fidel Castro and joined his 26th July Movement. He played a key role in the guerrilla war against the Cuban dictator Batista, capturing Santa Clara in the final battle of the revolution and toppling the dictator's regime. He guided the country towards a friendship with the Soviet Union which, thanks to US sanctions, damaged Cuba's economy and, along with some unsuccessful reforms, caused him to fall out with Cuba's leaders. He left the country in 1965 to spread revolution to parts of the developing world. After an unsuccessful guerrilla campaign in the Congo, Guevara travelled to Bolivia to lead forces fighting against the government. He was captured with the help of the CIA and executed on 9th October 1967. His remains were exhumed in 1997 and reburied in Santa Clara. During his life, Ché Guevara was a prolific writer and wrote a manual on guerrilla warfare as well as a memoir of his time travelling as a student. Today, he is still a hero in Cuba and has become a worldwide symbol of anti-imperialism and revolution. His image has become a commodity over the years and is found on an endless array of items that contribute to the consumer culture that he hated.

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Day 7 : Havana - Bogota

Transfer to the airport for flight to Bogotá. On arrival at Bogotá airport, you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Bogotá.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Nestled high in the Andes at 2620 m. (8646 ft), Bogotá, or Santafé de Bogotá to give it its full title, is a city of contrasts, with high-rise buildings standing next to colonial churches, museums and artisan cafés. Its influences range from Spanish and English to Indian. It is a city of wild traffic and calm oases reflecting a bygone era.

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Day 8 : La Candelaria

Spend the day touring La Candelaria which is Bogotá’s old town, including the Gold Museum, Botero Museum and church in Monserrate from where you have excellent views of Bogotá’s skyline.  Evening free. Overnight in Bogotá.

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

La Candelaria is an historic neighbourhood in downtown Bogotá. The architecture of the old houses, churches and buildings utilises Spanish colonial and baroque styles, with iron windows, sturdy wooden doors and internal patios with beautiful yet hidden gardens. This vibrant district hosts the Botero Museum, which showcases not only the works of Colombia's most famous painter but also paintings by Monet and Picasso from Botero's private collection. The 'barrio' is also home to the largest and most impressive gold museum in the world, showcasing an enormous assortment of pre-Hispanic gold work, the church of Monserrate, with its stunning views over the city, many government buildings and an array of cafés and restaurants to suit every taste.

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Day 9 : Armenia - Hacienda La Recuca

Transfer to the airport for flight to Armenia in the Coffee Region. Transfer to hotel and take a tour of the coffee plantations and learn about the coffee-making process. Overnight in coffee region.

Meal plan: Breakfast



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Day 10 : The Coffee Triangle

Spend the day touring the Coffee Triangle, visiting the coffee towns of Filandia and Salento. Also explore the Cocora Valley renowned for its endemic wax palm trees. Overnight in Alcalá.

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Filandia and Salento are two small pretty colonial style villages in the coffee region of Colombia, both set in stunning surroundings. Salento is the oldest village in the Quindio region with cobblestone streets and a wealth of restaurants, cafés and bars. Filandia is home to the beautiful María Inmaculada church and its streets are lined with colourful buildings with wooden balconies.

Colombia's coffee triangle is so named by the triangle formed by the region's three main towns - Armenia, Manizales and Pereira. Between these is the region that produces the majority of Colombia's coffee, arguably the best coffee in the world. Coffee growing contributes to more than one in three jobs in agriculture in Colombia, and coffee is an integral part of Colombian life and culture. UNESCO inscribed Colombia's "Coffee Cultural Landscape" into its World Heritage List in 2011.

The harvest in Colombia takes around a year, although the main period is between October and May/June. Most of the plantations in Colombia cultivate Arabica beans, which produce a delicate and light-tasting coffee that is widely recognised and consumed. The process begins when the bean is planted and takes approximately 75 days to germinate. The seedling is then placed in a plastic bag and placed in partial sunlight until its base dries. Two years after plantation, the tree bears its first fruit, which is harvested when the bean is red in colour, dry and ripe. Once the fruit has been picked, the pulp is stripped away and the bean is cleaned and dried in the sun (the big haciendas now use special machinery to strip and dry the beans quickly). The beans are dried or exported in preparation for sale, before being ground up and prepared for human consumption.


In a country full of beautiful landscapes, the Valle de Cocora stands out as one of the most picturesque. The valley stretches east of Salento into the lower reaches of Parque Nacional Natural de los Nevados. Everywhere, you’ll see the famous Quindian wax palm, Colombia’s national tree and the largest palm in the world (up to 60 metres tall). Valle de Cocora is also home to a trout farm and the trout dishes are particularly good. Local fauna includes mountain tapirs, spectacled bears, pumas, sloths, yellow-eared parrots, black-billed mountain-toucans, Andean condors and hummingbirds.

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Day 11 : Cartagena

Transfer to the airport for flight to Cartagena. Transfer to hotel. Evening free. Overnight in Cartagena.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 12 : Castillo San Felipe

Take a half day tour of Cartagena, exploring the Old City and Castillo San Felipe. Your guide will explain the history of the fortress walls and the many monuments, plazas, and buildings within them. Afternoon taking a walking tour through Cartagena's famous streets and beautiful plazas. Overnight in Cartagena.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Meander through Cartagena’s picture-perfect streets, and admire the city that is famous for both its beauty and its history. Founded in 1533, Cartagena became the main port on the Caribbean coast during Spanish rule. Treasure was stored in the city until it could be taken to Spain and for this reason, in the 16th century, Cartagena suffered five sieges including one led by Francis Drake in 1586. This is why the Spaniards then built the forts (Fuertes) and walls (Las Murallas) that still encompass the old town. The Puerta Del Reloj (Clock Gate) signifies the entrance to the inner part of the walled city, also called Calamari. Just behind this is the Plaza de los Coches which used to serve as a slave market. The Plaza de la Aduana and Plaza de Bolivar also have fascinating historical context as well as the numerous churches, museums, convents and monuments.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is a fortress located on the Hill of San Lázaro, built by the Spanish. It was built there because its strategic location dominated access to the city by land or sea. The fortress has been expanded over the years and was named in honour of King Philip IV of Spain. It has been attacked many times throughout history by French, British and Spanish forces. The blocks used to build the castle are said to be splattered with the blood of slaves as Cartagena was a major port during the Slave Trade. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the rest of the city of Cartagena.

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Day 13 : Cartagena - Bogotá

Morning free to wander the streets of Cartagena at leisure. In the afternoon transfer to the airport for flight to Bogotá. Transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Bogotá.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 14 : Departure

Transfer at the appropriate time to airport for return flight.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation Title

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Bosque del Saman

The Bosque del Saman can be found in the middle of a coffee farm. The hotel is made up of a typical house, a colonial house and a rustic house - all of which are surrounded by scenic coffee plantations. Its interior has been designed in such a way as to replicate the authentic character of the region. The bedrooms offer a real Colombian experience to guests, whilst also providing the modern facilities, including an ensuite, television and access to wifi. There is a restaurant and bar on site, along with a swimming pool for guests to enjoy after a day of exploring.

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Monterrey Hotel Cartagena de Indias

Following the architectural local traditions, the Hotel Monterrey was born of the restoration of an elegant republican building, work of the French architect Gastón Lelarge at the end of the 19th century. Featuring a rooftop terrace, the Monterrey Hotel Cartagena offers air conditioned rooms with cable / satellite channels and a flat-screen TV. This modern hotel is close to everything Cartagena De Indias has to offer. Guests can enjoy a drink in the on-site bar, sample fusion and French cuisine in the restaurant or relax in the heated pool. The hotel also offers a safe, a lift and a 24-hour reception. There is a rooftop bar and laundry service, and Wi-Fi is available.

Visit hotel's site
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84 D.C

The 84 DC hotel is situated in the La Cabera district of Bogota, near to many of the cities sights and shopping areas. Both its exterior and interior are modern in design. The bedrooms are spacious and clean. They are furnished with basic facilities, along with wifi and satellite television to allow for a comfortable stay. The hotel restaurant serves a breakfast buffet and Colombian coffee, it also offers a variety of cuisine options throughout the rest of the day. 

Visit hotel's site
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Reviews

Travel the Unknown offered us an excellent itinerary, clearly and competitively priced without any surprises or changes. Staff were very helpful and ensured we had all the necessary information. Will be first port of call for any holiday on their list. Unreservedly recommend.

Winston Peters , Tailormade Cuba

Our trip to Cuba was well arranged with a thoughtful collection of places and experiences to maximize our understanding of the country. Travel the Unknown arranged accommodations that were unique, giving us wonderful opportunities to experience Cuban family life.

Duncan & Nora Etches , Eastern Cuba Explorer, Cuba
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