Cycle Cuba Map
Day 1 Havana
Arrive in Havana at any time. There are no planned activities, so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Your guide will organize a short meeting at approx 9:00 am on Day 2.
One of the oldest cities in the Western Hemisphere, the Spaniard Diego Velázquez moved San Cristóbal de la Habana to its present location in 1519. The port city remained in relative obscurity within the empire until gold and silver began to flow from New World mines back to Spain. At the peak of Spanish power in the Americas vast fortunes were controlled from here, and Havana's deep water port served as an assembly point for massive armadas laden with New World plunder before their perilous journey back to Spain. Much of the treasure came from the ports of Cartagena (Colombia) and Veracruz (Mexico). The great flow of wealth bequeathed the city an architectural heritage unequalled in the region.
Soon pirates turned their attention to the port and the city of Havana and its annual treasure trove became the number one target for Dutch, English and French corsairs. Eventually the Spanish began construction of various forts and a protecting wall to repel the invaders. Nevertheless, the city was sacked in 1762 and held by the British under the command of Lord Albermale for nearly a year. Eventually, the Spanish exchanged the Florida territory in trade for the island. The end of the British occupation also signalled the beginning of more economic freedom for the islanders, as they were given the right to trade with cities other than Cádiz in Spain. The ensuing economic boom translated into steady growth in population and material progress.
Left to decay after the revolution, in 1982 Old Havana became Cuba’s first UNESCO world heritage site, with its mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments, arcades, balconies, wrought-iron gates and internal courtyards. Today the restoration of the quarter-mile-square district is in high gear. The main area of interest to visitors is La Habana Vieja (The Old City), where walking or taxi tours are the best modes of transportation. Points of interest in this part of town include La Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana, the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras (which now houses a restaurant), the Museo de Arte Colonial and the Plaza de Armas, with its statue of Manuel de Céspedes (one of the leaders of the Cuban independence movement).
The Palacio de los Capitanes Generales is also located on the Plaza de Armas, which now houses the Museo de La Ciudad (city museum). The oldest colonial fortress sits on the plaza’s northeast sector, the Castillo Real de la Fuerza, whose construction began in 1558. The city is home to various museums, and depending on your area of interest, there is practically a museum for everyone.
Day 2 Pinar del Río/Viñales (B,L,D)
Depart Havana after breakfast and a morning briefing with your tour leader. A short journey west brings us to Pinar del Río, the “Garden Province” of Cuba. Enjoy a city tour with a visit to the must-see tobacco factory. Transfer to our hotel for lunch. Spend the afternoon cycling around the pincushion hills of Viñales, a beautiful small town perfect for outdoor activities. Return to our hotel for dinner.
Pinar del Río province has some of the most beautiful landscapes and scenery in the country. The area is also the most famous tobacco-growing region in this, the undisputed world champion of cigar producing nations. Due to the richness of the soil, Pinar del Río accounts for 59% of Cuba’s tobacco plantation, with the first factory opening here in 1760. Pinar del Río is also well known for its mogotes, or limestone pincushion hills, which make for an otherworldly landscape.
The small village of Viñales sits in a fertile valley, lined with mogotes, making for some spectacular views. On the main plaza is a cultural centre as well as a municipal museum, however most visitors to the area come for the views and the nearby outdoor activities. Because of the limestone geology the region has many extensive cave systems, formed by the slow deterioration of the limestone bedrock by underground rivers. The striking mogotes, remeniscent of the hills of Guilin in southern China, are formed by the same processes.
Approximate Distance: 189 km
Approximate Distance Biked: 5-10 km
(Note that any cyclist can choose to ride in the support vehicle during part of all of any bike ride.)
Day 3 Cayo Jutías/Viñales (B,L,D)
Cycle to Cayo Jutías, on the North coast, a virtually unspoiled beach. Take in the breathtaking scenery as we cycle past dramatic mountain vistas, stopping en route for a picnic lunch. This coastal route ends at a beautiful white beach with crystal clear water. Transfer to our hotel in the Viñales Valley for dinner.
Cristobal Colón (Columbus) found the main island of Cuba in October of 1492, following a route indicated by the Arawak people he first encountered in the Bahamas. Looking for the fabled Cipango, he noted in his log book that this newly found island was one of the most beautiful he had ever set eyes upon. The Spanish settlement and exploitation of the island began in earnest with the founding of towns such as Baracoa, Santiago and Havana. The Arawak population was soon decimated by both disease and enslavement and the Spanish replaced the native work force with African slaves.
Though they did not find the metal treasures found in other conquered lands such as Mexico, Bolivia and Peru, the island did become a hub for the transportation of the New World wealth and treasure, via galleons, back to the Old World. It soon became the focal point for pirate activity in the Caribbean and eventually the islanders began to export their own wealth in the form of agricultural produce such as tobacco, sugar cane, and coffee.
The unique blend of cultural traditions on the island continues to this day, with vibrant rhythms and a rich heritage of literature and dance. The island’s character is also influenced by the social injustice of its past and the present generation’s efforts to address that situation.
Cuba, and Cubans are unique among Latin Americans in many ways, and though the country has been a magnet for sun seeking tourists for some time, it is only slowly opening up to less traditional tourism. We sincerely hope you will take the opportunity to explore this uniquely beautiful and captivating land and its friendly and open people.
Approximate Distance Biked: 50 km
Day 4 La Palma/Viñales (B,L,D)
Cycle over Jagua Vieja road to La Palma. Enjoy a break for a picnic lunch, after which we make our way back to Valle de Ancón. Transfer to our hotel for dinner.
Approximate Distance Biked: 28km
Day 5 Cueva de los Portales/Las Terrazas (B,L,D)
Transfer to Cueva de los Portales, where Che Guevara commanded Cuba’s occidental army during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. We stop en route for a picnic lunch, and then continue cycling over Carretera Central to Las Terrazas. The group will enjoy dinner at a farmhouse.
Originating in a 1968 reforestation project, Las Terrazas was created as part of a government funded conservation and reforestation project. Today residents are encouraged to play an active role in the preservation of their local environment. The site became an ecotourism resort in 1990, providing jobs to the 850 inhabitants of the area. At the resort is also located a centre of ecological research and investigation, which offers great hikes and guided trips to the nearby coffee plantation of Cafetal Buenavista. Some local pottery, silkscreen and painting workshops are also offered to visitors where you can participate, shop, or just watch.
Approximate Distance Biked: 93km
Day 6 Las Terrazas/Soroa (B,L,D)
Cycle around Las Terrazas, site of Cuba’s first UNESCO sanctioned biosphere reserve. Visit the 19th century ruins of coffee plantations and coffee houses. Enjoy a picnic lunch surrounded by majestic mountains and beautiful scenery, then continue cycling to Soroa.
Soroa is known as the “rainbow of Cuba,” because of its heavy rainfall and resulting rainbows. The region is endowed with clear rivers and tall trees, and features Cuba’s most complete orchid garden.
Approximate Distance: 65km
Approximate Distance Biked: 16km
Day 7 Havana (B,L,D)
A short trip east takes us back to the capital to soak up some culture. Enjoy a walking tour of old and modern Havana for full appreciation of this vibrant city, including a visit to a rum museum.
One of the city’s (and the island’s) most prominent attractions is its music and clubs. Everywhere you go you hear and feel music, and people dance in the streets. The island literally pulses with the beat and blend of Afro-Hispanic rhythms and movement. Tonight have one last traditional Cuban dinner, and enjoy one last musical night on the town with the group.
Approximate Distance: 56km
Day 8 Havana (B)
Depart at any time.