This tour takes place on November 2019. If that doesn’t suit your plans, see our similar tours in May 2019, May 2020 and November 2020 or contact us to ask about a private tour to suit your time, interests and budget!
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 Cabaña, where Che held his office (and shot people sentenced to execution).
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, 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 organised 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 5th November 2019 – Cienfuegos
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 6th November 2019 – Trinidad
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 7th November 2019 – Trinidad
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 8th November 2019 – Santa Clara
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 9th November 2019 – Havana
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 10th November 2019 – Havana
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.
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 11th November 2019 – Viñales
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 12th November 2019
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 13th November 2019 – Havana
Head back to Havana after breakfast
Optional activities include: * Visit the spectacularly restored Capitolio building, modelled on the US Capitol in Washington DC * Hemingway tour for fans of the famous author * SCUBA diving with certified instructors – both for complete beginners, or wreck diving for experienced divers * Cigar and rum tasting * Cooking class in the restaurant where the Obamas ate during their visit * Trip to the beach…See the decaying grandeur of one of Havana’s former elite private beach clubs from the 1950s – very non-touristy!
Thursday 14th November 2019 – Havana
Free time in the morning in Havana.
Head to the airport for the flight to Bogotá (3 hours).
The group convene at 6pm in the lobby to go through the itinerary for the week, and head out for dinner in the old town.
Ceviche, or raw fish cooked in lime juice is a very South American, and Colombian thing, so we head to a restaurant to try this delicacy. For non-fish lovers there will be other options.
Beer and explosives go together like peas and carrots, so we finish our first night in Bogotá by playing the local traditional sport of tejo, which is literally throwing iron balls at explosives while drinking beer. Great stuff!
Overnight in Bogotá.
Friday 15th November 2019 – Bogotá
Breakfast in the hotel.
Walking tour of La Candelaria. This is where Símon Bolívar – El Libertador, the original Latin American revolutionary – was almost caught, and where various figures of Colombian history met their fate.
Head to the Military Museum where we even learn about the not commonly known role of Colombia in the Korean War!
Bogota is famous in Colombia and beyond for its fabulous street food, so we take a staggered street food lunch trying almost everything they have on offer, including Mick Jagger’s favourite “oblea”.
Stop by the Congress and Supreme Court, which was seized by the M19 Marxist guerrillas, allegedly on the orders of Pablo Escobar.
We visit the Colón Theatre, which played an important part in the peace process between the government and FARC and get a detailed explanation from our local guide about what achievements and failures have followed the peace process.
Bogota has now shaken off its image of danger, and is a vibrant place for a night out, so we head to one of the many bars for dinner and drinks.
Overnight in Bogota.
Saturday 16th November 2019 – Sierra Nevada National Park
We get up early for the 90-minute 9am flight from Bogotá to Santa Marta
On arrival, we transfer directly to the Tayrona national park, part of the Sierra Nevada range, which is home to many of the indigenous peoples of Colombia as well as its most diverse biosphere.
Lunch in Sierra Nevada.
Hiking time! We head out for a hike around the national park, where we can spend some time on a deserted beach, as well as see how the indigenous Wiwa people live.
Following a full day of hiking and relaxing on the beach, we head to our eco-resort, surrounded by fresh fruit trees, and a swimming pool for us to relax in.
For dinner our hosts will cook us a traditional Colombian meal to your liking, with the rest of the night spent enjoying our serene surroundings
Overnight at eco-resort.
Sunday 17th November 2019 – Santa Marta
We take a relaxed start to the day with breakfast at the resort and time to enjoy the pool before we leave for the next part of the trip.
We take the scenic drive from Tayrona to Santa Marta city, which takes about an hour, with us stopping for some great views of the bay.
We visit the gold museum, to learn about how gold has been mined from indigenous times to present.
For lunch, we head to one of our favourite restaurants in Colombia, Radio Burger, for a full lunch!
Our last stop before leaving Santa Marta is the Quinta de San Pedro, which was where Simón Bolívar, the liberator of the Americas, died and was originally buried. We also visit the surrounding gardens for a quick look at the huge (but friendly) cat-sized lizards that live there!
We board our air-conditioned luxury bus for the 4-hour drive from Santa Marta to Cartagena. The journey itself is a fascinating look into contemporary Colombian life, with us passing through the numerous barrios, before hitting the rich parts of the city.
On arrival in Cartagena we transfer to our hotel situated near the old city
Cartagena is street food heaven, particularly if you like meat, so we head for street food dinner and drinks in the city.
Overnight in Cartagena.
Monday 18th November 2019 – Cartagena
Cartagena is an old colonial city, so we spend the day touring around this historical city.
We check out the old colonial walled city, as well as its 500-year-old coral stone forts from the Spanish era.
We head to the female prison, where it may be possible to go inside, meet the prisoners, and speak to them about their lives in this semi-open facility.
Lunch at Interno, a restaurant located inside the women’s prison, which is staffed by inmates as a way of integrating them back into society.
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.
Following a hot day of touring the old city we head to one of the bars on the wall to witness the beautiful sunset of Cartagena.
Dinner in the old city before we head for drinks at the legendary KGB bar, which is full of the kind of old Soviet stuff YPT just love!
Overnight in Cartagena.
Tuesday 19th November 2019 – El Peñol
Take a 10am flight to Medellin, Colombia’s second city and home to the infamous drug-lord Pablo Escobar.
We head for a traditional and hearty Medellin lunch consisting of rice, soup, plantains, salad and the meat of your choice.
#TRIP HIGHLIGHT# We take the 90-minute drive through the ranches of Medellin to the La Manuela estate, and former home of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar for some serious Narco-tourism. To get to the estate we need to take a boat, which offers some great photo opportunities, before we spend a few hours exploring the lavish estate that was largely destroyed during the Medellin-Cali drug cartel wars.
La Manuela is now owned by Escobar’s former butler, who has embraced tourism in a big way, and part of the estate is now set up for paintball! So, we offer this! (Optional, extra cost). For those not inclined there is a bar.
After Ayers Rock in Australia, El Peñol offers the second biggest rock in the world (there used to be a nightclub at the top), which we shall climb!
At night, we head to our ranch hotel in the countryside to enjoy dinner, and drinks in a relaxed atmosphere.
Overnight in El Peñol.
Wednesday 20th November 2019 – Medellín
Breakfast at the ranch before we head off for the next Pablo Escobar part of the tour.
We drive for three hours to get to the notorious Hacienda Napoles ranch, where Pablo Escobar created his own zoo, complete with the infamous hippos that have been a menace to the local farmers. The site is now government-owned and boasts, aside from the wildlife, the Pablo Escobar museum, as well as his former private aircraft runway.
Lunch at the park.
Aside from the animal park, and museums there is also a huge water park, so we take a rest from museums and city tours with a few hours at the water park.
We now embark on the 3.5-hour drive back to the cloud city of Medellin, where if we are lucky we will get to stop and witness one of their famous sunsets.
Dinner at a roadside restaurant serving traditional Medellin fare.
On arrival in Medellin we check into our hotel in the hipster district of El Poblado, which is full of great bars and restaurants.
Overnight in Medellin.
Thursday 21st November 2019 – Medellín
#TRIP HIGHLIGHT# We get up early to take part in the legendary Pablo Escobar tour, which was set up by his trusted lieutenant “Popeye”, who fans of Narcos might remember. The tour is led by one of his former drug mules, who is very open to answering questions about his time working for the notorious drug lord.
Our first stop is the “Monaco” building where Pablo Escobar formerly lived, and which was blown up by the Cali cartel.
We now head to the notorious La Catedral prison, that Pablo Escobar built and paid for himself in 1991, to serve his agreed 5-year sentence in luxury. The site is now an old peoples’ home run by monks, but there are still signs of what it used to be such as the watchtower, and his personal helipad, which offer some of the most amazing views of Medellín.
We finish the Pablo Escobar tour by visiting his grave and final resting place, where our local guide, and former henchman of Pablo will regale us with stories about his time working for the cartel.
Lunch in Medellín.
After lunch, we head for a city tour of Medellín, with our first stop being riding the legendary cable-metro, which again offer great views of the city, particularly the poorer parts of it.
Our next stop is Cerro Nutibara, which offers great ice-cream as well as views across the bustling city.
We finish our tour in the old town, where we will get a chance to try some coca tea, before heading back to our hotel.
We head for farewell dinner and drinks around our hotel for our last night in Medellin, and Colombia.
Overnight in Medellín.
Friday 22nd November 2019 – Departure
We get up early for our morning flight to Bogotá, where the tour ends, with YPT being able to arrange ongoing transport or accommodation for those that need it.
Alternatively continue your tour with our extension to Cali where you can find out about the Cali cartel and find out how Kim Il-Sung was responsible for the invention of salsa dancing!
•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
•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)