6 Days / 5 Nights
Optional Extensions include:
Matanzas & Varadero
*Itinerary can be customized according to number of days and inclusions desired.
*Itinerary order and inclusions are subject to change.
(Breakfast = B, Lunch = L, Dinner = D)
DAY 1: JFK or MIAMI / HAVANA, CUBA
Welcome to Havana, Cuba!
Begin the tour of the Vedado and Modern Havana districts. Found within Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución municipality is the district of Vedado. Our first stop will be at the La Plaza de la Revolución (Revolution Square). See the famous Obelisk (Monumento José Martí) where many a speech has been made. Surrounding the Plaza are the government buildings with the huge metal profiles of the two most important Cuban revolutionaries; Ché Guevarra and Camilo Cienfuegos.
The vibrant downtown neighborhood is one of the nicer districts in Havana, with a fairly modern and upscale feel. Together with Old Havana (Habana Vieja), it is a top neighborhood for attractions. Its location is convenient for trips to Central Havana and Old Havana, and is bordered to its west by the even more upscale Miramar district. The Vedado district is where you will find “Embassy Row” which is a wide tree lined street with mansions that once belonged Cuba’s wealthiest families. Today, these homes are occupied by embassies from various countries and it is where you will now find the recently opened United States Embassy.
On our drive to the hotel, you will pass by the Malecón, a broad esplanade, roadway and seawall which stretches for 4 miles along the coast in Havana, Coppelia Park, a massive open-air ice cream dispensary and the Havana Libre Hotel (the old Hilton) in the Rampa district.
Enjoy a welcome dinner the evening at one of Havana’s top Paladares or at the famous Hotel Nacional. This historic hotel is located in the middle of Vedado district. It stands on a hill just a few feet from the sea, and offers a great view of the Havana Harbor, the seawall and the city. The Hotel stands out due to its refined elegance and its ancient splendor, which since 1930 has attracted a large number of personalities from the arts, science and politics, such as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, artists Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Johnny Weismuller, Maria Félix, Jorge Negrete, and scientist Alexander Flemming.
Before or after dinner, enjoy a cocktail in its famous and world known Hall of Fame Bar and see the photos of all of the hotels famous guests from Hollywood actors, gangsters and even a picture of our beloved Patriarch, His All Holiness Bartholomew. (D)
Day 2: HAVANA, CUBA
After breakfast, buses depart the hotel for a walking tour Old Havana. Old Havana’s architecture spans four centuries of styles, it is an eclectic mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments Old Havana (Havana Vieja) consists of four main plazas that comprise Cuba’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site: Plaza de San Francisco de Assis (where St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is located), Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de Armas, and Plaza Vieja.
Begin the tour at the Plaza Vieja. Plaza Vieja (Old Square) was laid out in 1559 and is one of Havana’s most architecturally eclectic square, where Cuban baroque architecture is nestled seamlessly next to Gaudí-inspired art nouveau styles. Originally called Plaza Nueva (New Square), the plaza it was initially used for military exercises and later served as an open-air marketplace.
Continue to the Plaza de San Francisco de Assis where St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is located. This plaza was once the core of commercial life in Havana. The Terminal Sierra Maestra cruise port has two piers. Dominating the plaza is the Lonja Del Comercio, a former commodities market, which provides office space for foreign companies with joint ventures in Cuba.
Continue to the Plaza de Armas (Square of Arms) built in 1584 for military exercises and the site of the oldest Spanish fortress in the Americas and the 1519 locale of the first mass in Cuba. See the massive baroque seat of government, known as Palacio de los Capitanes Generales. At its heart is the Parque Céspedes shaded by palms and tall kapok (ceiba) trees which surround a white marble statue of Manuel de Céspedes, hero of the Ten Years War.
Next visit the cobbled-stone Plaza de la Catedral (Cathedral Square). Its historic streets span five centuries of historic architecture. This Plaza is the most visited in Havana Vieja. The Cathedral of Saint Christopher, a Baroque Cathedral, has been described by one Cuban writer as “music set in stone”. The church’s asymmetrical towers, one wider than the other, allowed the water that accumulated on the plaza (a former swamp) to flow freely through the streets. Cathedral Square is surrounded by some of Havana’s oldest buildings where the wealthiest families built their mansions. The cathedral towers are lit up every night making it a great spot to visit after dark. Some shopping time will be given at the square. There is a market where you can purchase prints from local Cuban artists. Restaurants have tables set outside where locals and tourists relax over drinks and listen to music. La Bodeguita Del Medio, Ernest Hemingway’s old haunt, is just a block away (northwest corner of the plaza). It exhibits pieces by the internationally renowned Cuban artist Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982), who captured the Afro-Cuban spirit. He came of age in Paris, where he was close friends with Picasso. The buzzing open-air market at Calle Tacón (Wed.-Sat.), a good place to shop for arts and crafts, from hand-made jewelry, paper-mache 1950s autos to paintings, is around the corner. The tour will end with a walk down Obispo Street, a main shopping street in Old Havana. At the end of the street is the El Floridita Bar & Restaurant, frequented by Ernest Hemingway and famous for their daiquiris. Time will be given to enjoy one of their famous daiquiris on your own, at the same place Hemingway did!
Walk to the Hotel Florida Restaurant for lunch. The Hotel Florida Havana was built in 1836 and is situated in Old Havana. The elegance of the property, common to all restored mansions in the Old Town, is now operating as a hotel. The elegance of the hotel carries over to the interior courtyard restaurant where lunch will be served along with a Cuban Trio band and Flamenco dancers.
After lunch, buses will return to the hotel. You may opt to stay in Old Havana and stroll around the streets and make your own way back to the hotel. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure.
This evening, dinner is on your own. We highly recommend dining at one of the Paladares! Most restaurants in Cuba are run by the State, but in recent years, “Paladares”, privately owned restaurants in people’s houses, have sprung up. This represents a new personal entrepreneurship growing amongst Cubans bridging the gap between a public and private economy. It is a great way to see inside a Cuban home. Our guide can recommend some Paladares. (B, L)
Day 3: HAVANA, CUBA
After breakfast, buses will depart the hotel for a tour of the municipalities of Old Havana and Central Havana. This area is notable for containing numerous architecturally and historically significant buildings that exemplify a mid-19th century urban center. Begin at the 1877 Central Park and then continue along the 1772 Prado Promenade (a large pedestrian boulevard modeled after Las Ramblas in Barcelona) to see the Moorish-style Hotel Inglaterra, the oldest in the city. Close by is the National Theatre (Teátro Nacional). Walk by the Capitolio for a photo opt. The Capitolio was built in 1929 to house the island’s Senate and House of Representatives. Its dome dominates the Havana skyline and is modeled after the Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. but built on a smaller scale. After pass by the famous Bacardí building, which was the pre-revolutionary headquarters of Bacardi rum, and is the best example of tropical Art Deco architecture in Havana.
Continue to the Cigar Factory where you will see the cigar rollers in action. You will have the opportunity to taste or purchase authentic habano cigars, coffee and aged Cuba rum. (remember that you are only permitted to enter a maximum of $100 of these goods combined into the United States)
Break for lunch on your own.
After lunch visit the Rum Museum and taste the famous Havana Club Rum and enjoy a lesson in cocktail making. The barman will teach everyone how to make their own authentic Cuban cocktail and you can sample local Cuban rums.
This evening enjoy dinner at the El Aljibe Restaurant, well known for its traditional Cuban chicken, rice and beans. People like Danny Glover, Jimmy Carter, and Jack Nicholson have dined here! (B, D)
Day 4: HAVANA, CUBA
Buses will depart the hotel for St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church to attend Divine Liturgy.
The Church is located in Old Havana adjacent to The Plaza de San Francisco de Assis. Upon the official invitation of former President Fidel Castro, in January 2004, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew made a five-day official visit to Cuba, consecrating the new St. Nicholas Cathedral. Former President, Fidel Castro, presented the key of the Cathedral to the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians. His All Holiness invited Archbishop Demetrios of America to accompany him on his historic first-ever visit to a Latin American nation. During the consecration ceremony, the Patriarch circled the new Cathedral three times accompanied by His Eminence Athenagoras, the Cuban President and other dignitaries and church members. The giving of the church by Fidel Castro was a historic event marking the potential for a new era in Cuban history and accentuating the increasing role of Orthodox missions around the world. This was the first time since the Cuban Revolution that permission was given for the building of a new church in Havana. In his letter of invitation to His all Holiness, President Fidel Castro wrote that: “This Church is a gift of the people of Cuba to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and to His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.”
St. Nicholas of Myra was donated by the Cuban government to the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, Colombia and the Islands of the Caribbean, led by His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras, as a gift from the Cuban people to the Orthodox Church. The church was the result of the collaboration between Metropolitan Athenagoras and the Havana City historian, Eusebio Leal. The new Byzantine-style Cathedral is decorated with Greek mosaics, icons and candelabras, and has a hand-carved wooden altar paid for by the Metropolis. It was built in a garden of the Basilica Menor of San Francisco de Assis, at the port side in Colonial Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
St. Nicholas became known for his abundant mercy, providing for the poor and needy, and delivering those who had been unjustly accused. No less was he known for his zeal for the truth. Because of the many miracles attributed to his inercession, he is also known as Nicholas, the Wonderworker. He is the protector of sailors and is considered the patron saint of the Greek navy, military and merchant marines alike. His name day is marked by festivities aboard all ships and boats, at sea and in port. St. Nicholas is one of the best known and best loved Saints of all time. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus, became the model for Santa Claus.
St Nicholas was born a Greek in Asia Minor during the third century in the city of Patara (Lycia et Pamphylia), which was a port on the Mediterranean Sea, and lived in Myra, Lycia (part of modern-day Demre, Turkey). He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents and so, was very religious from an early age. According to legend, St. Nicholas was said to have rigorously observed the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays. When Nicholas was young, his parents died in an epidemic and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the Bishop of Patra.
After Liturgy, enjoy coffee, soft drinks and sweets prepared by the faithful of the St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.
After, depart for lunch at a nearby Paladar.
After lunch, visit the Mercado Artisanal or Craft Market and shop for some souvenirs and handcrafts, return to the hotel with the buses or stay in the city center.
Or, take an optional side trips to the outskirts of Havana to see the town of Jaimanitas transformed into a “Gudi style” artistic marvel by local Cuban artist Jose Fuster. The artist used the neighborhood as his canvas and decorated the walls, plazas and houses with ornate ceramics, mosaics and bold splashes of color. His unique work transformed this sleepy town into a dreamlike streetskape.
Dinner is on your own this evening. We highly recommend dining at one of the Paladares! (B)
Day 5: HAVANA, CUBA
This morning, following breakfast, there will be an audio-visual presentation by His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras. His Eminence will detail the Metropolis’ work in Cuba and throughout the region. You will be amazed and impressed at the successful projects and work of our church. At the time of the church’s consecration in 2004, there were only four Cuban Orthodox faithful in the country. Today, the Metropolis has five Cuban clergymen and membership of over 2,500 Cuban members. Besides the Church in Havana, new ministries have been established and are flourishing in the cities of Santa Clara, Holguín, Pinal del Rio and San Fuegos. After the visit of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Cuba and the consecration of the church, Metropolitan Athenagoras received a letter from an elderly lady living in Cuba but far from Havana. She said, “I am old and sick and I could not travel to Havana to witness the consecration of your Church, but I wanted to thank you for bringing the Orthodox faith to the people of Cuba.”
After the presentation, depart for the Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) and the Museo de la Revolución (Museum of the Revolution), housing items from the Revolution including weapons. The Museum of the Revolution was once the Presidential Palace of former Cuban President Batista.
Enjoy a farewell dinner at La Ferminia, a beautiful old mansion converted into a restaurant, situated on the elegant 5th Avenue of Miramar. Enjoy dinner while listening to traditional Cuban music by a Cuban Trio band which will be playing all night! (B, D)
Day 6: HAVANA / MIAMI or JFK
After breakfast depart for the airport for you flight home. (B)
This pilgrimage will operate under the United States Department of Treasury Office Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) under 31 C.F.R. 515.566 (a) general license provision for religious activities. Our visit includes a full schedule of religious activities consistent with U.S Regulations. PLEASE NOTE: Our religious visit will be arranged through a legally licensed TSP or Travel Service Provider Licensee: Miramar Travel & Tours (CU-2014-314692) authorized by OFAC, CST 2073790-40. FAC: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_tr_app.pdf