Note – Cuba tours are run by UK-based Cuban Pioneers, and are not associated in any way with Young Pioneer Tours.
Join Cuban Pioneers to celebrate with the Cuban people the quintessential person of the Cuban revolution, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and join YPT for our specialist FARC tour of Colombia. This takes us through the capital Bogota to the former cocaine capital of Medellin, and finally the colonial town of Cartagena, with us checking out a whole host of FARC related stuff, indigenous peoples, and stunning nature along this 9 day adventure.
Our trip starts in Old Havana, before we go off to the Bay of Pigs, the mausoleum of “Che”, where we not only see his final resting place, but the legendary train that he derailed, as well as take part in the celebrations of his life, before visiting Trinidad, after which we return to Havana, where we not only take in iconic places such as the revolutionary museum, but also continue with our Che based theme by visiting the San Carlos de la Cabana, where Che held his office (and allegedly shot people sentenced to execution), but also his home in the city.
For those familiar with YPT’s DPRK tours, we stick with the revolutionary theme of these, but also incorporating the much more relaxed environment that Cuba offers us by giving ample time for free exploration as well as providing a great chance to party the night away as much as you wish.
The tour is accompanied by YPT’s local representative and Cuban guide Roger, as well as one western guide, and our very own bus that will stay with us for the duration of the journey, meaning lots of flexibility and chances to get very off the beaten Cuba track.
This tour also includes the Viñales extension gives you the opportunity to visit some extra sights in Havana, including the secret bunker where the nuclear missiles that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis were stored, and the upcoming town of Viñales in the Pinar del Rio Province. We’ll explore the sights and the nightlife, including Cuba’s second famous cave nightclub!
Colombia might have had a chequered past, with landmines, and the remnants of the civil war and organized crime still very much omnipresent, but it is slowly waking from its past and hitting the challenges of reform head-on.
Join our adventure before either of these countries is changed forever!
Guests arrive/transfer to their homestay accommodation
Free afternoon in Havana
Meet up with group
Dinner and drinks in top local paladar (private restaurant)
Overnight in Havana
Tuesday 6th November
Early morning the group departs for the historic city of Cienfuegos, a UNESCO world heritage (5 hour drive via Bay of Pigs)
On the way to Cienfuegos we firstly travel along the flat central plain of Cuba where there are lots of citrus plantations. We turn off the main highway and shortly after this the scenery changes to a densely vegetated swamp where the natural fauna includes boa snakes and crocodiles. We have the opportunity to visit a crocodile farm here at Boca de Guamá.
Once reaching the Caribbean coast we travel along the picturesque Bay of Pigs past the site where the landing of counter-revolutionary exile militia occurred in 1961.
Today we visit the museum here that recounts the events of this conflict which resulted in the first defeat of a US-backed takeover in Latin America. There are some beautiful places to stop for a swim along the way including a sink hole which resembles a huge natural tropical fish tank, so make sure to pack your swim wear. SCUBA diving and snorkelling are optional activities here.
Cubans are known to be very proud people, and the citizens of Cienfuegos call their town La Perla del Sur (the pearl of the south). Founded by the French, Cienfuegos’ appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial hub, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades, and there is an ambiance to inspire Cuba’s most celebrated Son singer to write the words “Cienfuegos is the city I like best”.
After checking-in with your host family, you will have a short time to walk around the city and take in the atmosphere.
Go with the guide or explore on your own.
Dinner in a local paladar private restaurant
Night out drinking in the bars of Cienfuegos
Wednesday 7th November
Morning – walking tour around Cienfuegos. Visit the historic Teatro Tomás Terry.
Depart Cienfuegos for Trinidad – stop en route at Palacio de Valle, the outlandish house of an eccentric millionaire. (1.5 hours)
Lunch on arrival in Trinidad
We head off on our walking tour of Trinidad.
La Villa de la Santisima Trinidad was founded by Velazsquez in 1514 and the defender of indigenous rights in the Americas, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, attended over the settlement’s first mass. The future conqueror of Mexico, Hernan Cortes, recruited sailors here for his future expedition into that land. It is a charming, small town with the green mountains in the background, and the turquoise waters and pure white sand beaches of the Caribbean Sea just a short distance away. The town was fairly inactive until the 1800s, when French refugees fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti landed here en masse and brought with them sugar cane cultivation. The new residents settled and farmed in the Valle de Los Ingenios, just northeast of the town. Vast wealth flowed into the local economy from sugar cane cultivation and the area produced one third of the country’s sugar at one point. The sugar boom was terminated by the two wars of independence, but the wealth generated by the industry remains visible in the town’s once grand mansions, colourful public buildings, wrought iron grillwork and cobble-stoned streets. The town and area also saw a lot of action during and following the triumph of the Revolution, as gangs of counter revolutionaries hid out and struck from the safety of the mountains.
Visit to The Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos and the which chronicles the struggles of this period in the town’s history. The best part is the view from the tower!
Dinner in a local top private restaurant.
The nightlife in Trinidad is probably the most accessible and intense in all of Cuba, with numerous live music venues and many dance performances every day of the week, all amongst the enchanting setting of old colonial buildings and cobblestone streets.
It’s optional but we very strongly recommend a visit to the unique and (in)famous Disco Ayala, an nightclub in an underground cavern!
Overnight in homestay
Thursday 8th November
Free day in Trinidad.
Suggested activities: trip to the beautiful Valle de los Ingenios in the morning (by classic train ($10), if it’s working), followed by afternoon horse riding or salsa dancing.
Other possibilities include a visit to the beach (Playa Ancón), salsa dancing lesson ($25) or just exploring the city.
Overnight in homestay
Friday 9th November
Today we travel to the city of Santa Clara, which was a key city in the triumph of the Revolution.
Depending on road conditions we can take a number of different routes around or through the Sierra del Escambray perhaps making a few stops along the way.
Upon entering Santa Clara there is a huge statue of Ernesto Ché Guevara, beneath which is the mausoleum where he is buried.
We visit the museum here that is dedicated to his life.
We take a walking tour of Santa Clara where we come across significant sites such as the armoured train derailed by Che and his troops, in the final battle of the Cuban revolution.
Dinner and optional evening of local music.
Overnight in Santa Clara
Saturday 10th November
We head back to Havana in the morning, stopping at open air October Crisis museum overlooking Havana bay, featuring Soviet nuclear missiles (thankfully now inert!) of the period in 1962 when the world came closer than ever to the brink of nuclear war.
Lunch in city
Visiting San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress where Che had his office.
Visit to the Havana Club Museum of Rum! Free samples optional
Meet up for dinner and evening out at the iconic Hemingway Bar amongst other places
Overnight in homestay
Sunday 11th November
In the afternoon we have a city tour of Old Havana, encompassing the Plaza de las Armas, complete with a statue of Manuel de Cespedes, one of the leaders of the independence movement. We pass the spot where the city of Havana was founded almost 500 years ago. We pass the open air exhibit of the Museo de la Revolución to see the yacht Granma and learn about its importance in Cuban history.
We spend the rest of the day exploring the city and very much taking part in the biggest celebration of the year in Cuba.
Afternoon free time for some rest and relaxation or to wander some more.
Dinner at our favourite secret private restaurant
Optional but very strongly recommended visit to Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC – Cuban Art Factory, $2). This is one of the coolest art and night venues in the world right now.
Goodbye drinks, Havana style, on the Malecon
Overnight in homestay
Monday November 12th
We aim to leave at 11.00 am, depending on Cuban bureaucracy!
Our first stop is Lenin Hill, which is where the first ever statue of Lenin was erected following his death, this is very derelict and not at all touristy!
Lunch at a Cuban style street restaurant
#TRIP HIGHLIGHT# We now visit the incredibly secret bunker where the Soviet Union stored the nuclear weapons that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis. This site is of extreme historical significance and was only recently discovered. This is not on the tourist trail!
We now visit the former Soviet embassy, a huge example of socialist architecture, as well as some other Soviet-era tower blocks for some great fusion photos of Havana’s rich history
We now take the 2-3 hour scenic drive to Viñales. On arrival, we check into our casa before heading out for dinner and drinks in this formerly sleepy town that whilst still relaxing now has a bustling nightlife.
Overnight in Viñales
Tuesday November 13th
In the morning we head to the prehistoric wall for some amusing photos before heading over to a tobacco farm for a chance to see the process of cigar making, as well as have a try of the produce
Another great reason to come to this farm is for the stunning views of the surrounding rolling hills that you get from here
Lunch at farm accompanied by great views
Viñales is famous for its stunning caves, with a number being big tourist attractions, we avoid them like the plague grab our local guide and head to a cave that is (currently) relatively unknown. It takes an hours hike and then heading through the cave network with lights before we hit the swimming part of the adventure. Truly stunning, so don’t forget the go-pro!
We head back to the casa for a shower before heading out to a great vantage point to enjoy our last sunset with a cocktail as a group
We finish our last night in Viñales with an authentic home cooked Cuban meal at our casa.
Drinks and conversation in the rocking chairs on the patio to end our last evening
Wednesday November 14th
Head back to Havana after breakfast
Free time until flight to Bogota, Colombia
Thursday 15th November – Bogota
Head out for a walking tour of La Candelaria at 2pm. This is where Simon Bolivar – El Liberator, the original Latin American revolutionary – was almost caught, and where various figures of Colombian history met their fate.
We explore the alleyways and museums and head for dinner and drinks for a very local Bogota experience
Overnight in Bogota
Friday 16th November – Bogota
Head to the Military Museum where we even learn about the not commonly known role of Colombia in the Korean War!
Walk around the Parque Simon Bolivar and see what the locals get up to outside of work
Stop by the Congress and Supreme Court, which was seized by the Marxist guerrillas in 1985
Lunch in the city
We visit the Colon Theatre, which is where the peace process between the government and FARC was signed, as well as the Museo Banco De Republica, the main modern art museum
Head to the south side of the city, the main working-class area, for a bit of people watching. We head for dinner and then for a Friday night salsa night to remember in the Colombian capital. If you can’t dance don’t worry, rum will be available
Overnight in Bogota
Saturday 17th November – Sierra Nevada National Park
We get up early for the under two hours 9am flight from Bogota to Cartagena
On arrival we transfer directly to the Sierra Nevada national park, which is home to many of the indigenous peoples of Colombia as well as its most diverse biosphere.
Lunch in Sierra Nevada
We will have lots of opportunities to explore the area and see wildlife
At night we not only camp out in the reserve, but also do the whole BBQ and rum thing
Sunday 18th November – Sierra Nevada National Park
We visit one of the local indigenous peoples the Wiwa in an Indian Reserve in the mid-highlands to learn about how they live
Local lunch with the Wiwa
We head back to Cartagena, where we check into the hotel before heading out for dinner to a Peruvian restaurant and drinks in Café Havana
Overnight in Cartagena
Monday 19th November – Cartagena
Cartagena is an old colonial city, so we spend the day touring around this historical city
We check out the old town and the city walls, as well as its 500-year-old coral stone forts from the Spanish era
Lunch at Interno, a restaurant staffed by former political prisoners
Climb La Popa Hill for a great view of the area and visit the 17th century Santa Cruz monastery
Check out the Spanish Inquisition Palace, where people were tortured and executed for crimes against Catholicism
Head out for local food and drinks in the Cartagena old town
Overnight in Cartagena
Tuesday 20th November – Medellin
Take a 10am flight to Medellin, Colombia’s second city
Medellin was the notorious crime-ridden home of drug lord Pablo Escobar, but since the mid 1990s things have calmed down a lot.
Head to the famous Museo de Antioquia including the world-famous sculptures by Fernando Botero in the park outside the museum
Go for dinner and drinks in Medellin
Overnight in Medellin
Wednesday 21st November – Medellin
Breakfast in the hotel before we jump on our bus to begin the tour of Medellin
In the morning we drive out to visit a project that helps farmers change from cocoa growing to coffee, part of the plan to eliminate the drug trade in Colombia
Lunch in a roadside almuerzo
After lunch, we visit a village that was recently de-mined by a charity, and learn about the impact that the civil war has had on the people
Before dinner we meet 2 former FARC soldiers who discuss their experiences during the civil war
Dinner and overnight in Medellin
Thursday 22nd November – Medellin
You can’t go to Medellin without learning about its most infamous resident, so we do the full Pablo Escobar tour!
Our first stop is La Paz, the very modest community where Pablo grew up, with our local expert giving us a few interesting insights
We then go to explore the many luxurious buildings used to launder his money, as well as check out his bombed out safe in the Monaco building, which was where the first car bomb in Colombia was detonated
After visiting Pablo´s prison or the “Cathedral”, get spectacular Medellin views and get ready to visit a private cemetery where siblings and cousins of the mafia boss finally rest even near Griselda Blanco or “black widow”, who was once Pablo´s mentor.
We finish off the tour by visiting the infamous La Manuela Mansion, where the notorious drug lord lived his somewhat over the top lifestyle
We take a boat over to the mansion where we will have enough free time to explore, take photos, and who knows maybe bump into a Hippo
Overnight in Medellin
Friday 23rd November
We get up early for our morning flight to Bogota, where the tour ends, with YPT being able to arrange ongoing transport or accommodation for those that need it.
•Accommodation: Every night of the tour.
•Transport: To complete the itinerary.
•Breakfasts: for each day of the tour, except the arrival day.
•All lunches (excluding arrival and departure day)
•Local English-speaking guide throughout.
•Experienced, western Cuban Pioneer guide throughout.
•All entrance fees as per itinerary
Flight from Havana to Bogota
Breakfasts and lunches
Transport including domestic flights
Experienced YPT guide and local English-speaking guide
•Visa/Tourist voucher (we can advise/provide depending on your passport and country of residence)
•All dinners (unless otherwise stated)
•Tips (we suggest $8 per day for guides and drivers)
•Optional activities, day-tours and excursions (such as horse-riding and crocodile farm)
International flights out
Visa (YPT can provide assistance)
Drinks and personal expenses
Tips for the guide
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.