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Uncovering Cuba

Bangkok Grand Palace
Bangkok tuktuks

Think of Asia and most travellers will think of Thailand. It is probably one of the most sought after destinations and it is not hard to see why as the country offers a perfect combination of ancient cities, tropical jungle, exotic foods and, of course, most famous for its lovely white sandy beaches. 

An in-depth exploration of Thailand, taking in the northern territories, is an ideal alternative journey to appreciate the full culture of what Thailand can offer. Whether you are a first time visitor or returning again, travel north from Bangkok working your way overland towards the 'Golden Triangle', where Thailand borders Burma, Myanmar, and Laos visiting the many important historical sites and national parks 

Start in Bangkok before heading into the jungle near Kanchanaburi. From there head north through the central region of Thailand, stopping off at Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, and onto Pai and Mae Hong Son where you can spend time trekking around the local villages and rafting. After exploring the north of the country return south for a welcome beach stay.

Your choose of which island or beach will be dependent on the time of year you wish to travel, as Thailand's monsoon climate affects the Peninsula, with either side experiencing the rains at different times. The good thing about this is that you can find sun on a beach somewhere!

‘At-a-Glance’ Illustrative Itinerary

DAY 1: Upon arrival at Havana airport you will be welcomed to Cuba by your guide, and transferred to your hotel. Once checked in you have the rest of the day at leisure to relax after your flight.

For your first taste of Havana take early evening stroll along the seafront, the Malecón. Thereafter return to Old Havana to Plaza del Cristo, unbeautified for tourists, and enjoy a mojito and possibly some food (depends on how you are feeling) in a local bar.

DAY 2: To know Cuba is to know its people and culture and your time in Havana will combine the key historical attractions with local hidden gems that the city has to offer. No better way to get to the heart of the Cubans is to discover their foods - meats, spices, vegetables and fruits that can be bought daily in the local markets. A visit to a food bank, Bodega de Alimentos, will illustrate how their food rationing works.

In the afternoon traverse the streets of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with handsome squares and magnificent colonial architecture contrasting with the 1950's american cars, derelict buildings and cyclists.

DAY 3: Today you will be able to step back in time and explore Havana's history and visit some of the most famous sites from the gigantic Plaza de la Revolución, with the famous murals of the Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. Visit the memorial to José Martí, Plaza de Armas and one of the largest cemeteries in the world, Cementario Cristóbal Colón which is an educational stroll through the annals of Cuban history.

In the afternoon explore the wealth of local life, art and music as you can experience a ride in a classic 1950's american car, visit a local village that has been transformed into a work of art and then enjoy dinner whilst listening to some traditional Cuban music.

Bangkok Mae Klong Railway Market -Tim

DAY 4: It is time to leave the bustling city on a full day excursion out to Viñales, famous of this mogotes, small limestone hills situated throughout the picturesque countryside. This landscape is majestic with rolling green pastures and expansive tobacco plantations, as the area is renowned for growing and processing the tobacco for the world famous Cuban cigar. A stop at one of the plantations offers first-hand experience in the process.

During the day out you have the option to also visit the underground river at El Indio caves, to take a hike or horse-ride through the delightful Viñales Naptional Park or taste some guarapo (sugar cane juice) produced by a local family

DAY 5: Today sees you leave Havana after breakfast to travel through to the Bay of Pigs. Not far from Havana you will stop in the small village of San Francisco de Paula, famous for the site of Hemingway’s House. Finca Vigia was purchased by Hemingway in 1940 from where he wrote two of his most celebrated novels.

Afterwards you will continue onto Playa Larga in to experience a nature walk in part of the vast Ciénaga de Zapata, a wetland ecosystem similar to the Florida Everglades offering an insight to the wildllife hidden within the mangroves and lagoons. The area is home to endemic and rare species such as the Manatees, Cuban parrot and Cuban crocodile.

DAY 6: In an area of outstanding beauty the vast Ciénaga de Zapata and Laguna de las Salinas offers a paradise of unspoilt nature. From November to April the laguna is home to hundreds of migratory birds, at times something like 10,00 flamingos plus another 190 other species can be seen.

Travelling on towards Trinidad where you will stay overnight, you will discover the beautiful sheltered cove of Caleta Buena, another area of beauty renowned for its incredible coral ridges and oddly shaped sponges. During the afternoon it will be possible to snorkel this spectacular area and experience the marine diversity for yourselves. 

At the end of the day, you will transfer to Trinidad (1,5 hour drive).

DAY 7: This morning you will meet your local guide, to walk around this colourful historic town, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore the cobbled streets, admire the colonial mansions and palm lined squares, you will soon see for yourself why Trinidad is so special.

Life moves slowly in Trinidad so after orientating yourself on the guided walk spend the afternoon visiting one of the museums or many art galleries. or just soak up the atmosphere on a café terrace with live music and salsa dancing.

DAY 8: The surrounding area of Trinidad is the Sierra Escambray National Park that offers an opportunity to either take a moderate hike to Topes de Collantes or to take a horse ride through the Valle de los Ingenios.

On either excursion the guides will be able to explain the historical significance of this area, whether that be the story of wealth generation from the sugar cane industry or about the incredible diversity of the region. Both excursions give you the opportunity to stop by a natural swimming pool to cool off before returning to Trinidad for the evening.

Elephant show and training with mahout

DAY 9: Today you will transfer from Trinidad to Santa Clara, a city dedicated to recognising Che Guevara and his efforts during the revolution. You will be able to visit his monument, mausoluem and museum. The afternoon is for your own leisure, alternatively you can taken onto the beach at Varadero or Cayo Santa Maria, or return to Havana.

DAY 10 & 11: Today you have the option to transfer out to the beach at Varadero or Cayo Santa Maria for some days R&R before returning home, or to go back to Havana for a couple more days of sightseeing, as 2 options make for a quite delightful end to your time in Cuba.

From Havana one day trip option is to take the Hershey Train, an electric rail-car which departs 3 times per day from the Casablanca station, and travels all along the north coast to the city of Matanzas, located about 100 km east of Havana. The rail road is steeped in history as the town once supplied the US chocolate giant with sugar for its bars – and Easter eggs and the train was the means of transporting the sugar through to Havana.

Another great day out is to Soroa, famed for its Orquideario – an orchid garden and research station with more than 700 orchid species that bloom between December and March. Definitely take your bags with you as the Soroa is on the international airport side of Havana.

DAY 12: This morning you will be transferred back to the International airport for your return flight home

Photos courtesy of Bamboo Travel

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