NOTE: This trip is authorized by the US Government under the category of Support for the Cuban People.
Experience Cuba with the locals in three of the island’s most iconic sites… Havana, Viñales and Trinidad. Cuba’s frozen-in-time stage-set backdrop lends a twilight zone ambiance that Hollywood couldn’t dream up if it tried. It guarantees superb photography. But Cuba’s real magic isn’t its crumbling architecture, one-of-a-kind revolutionary icons, or spruced-up vintage cars. It’s the seemingly mundane, quintessential experience a lo cubano that provide for the most authentic grass-roots photography and which you’ll forever cherish as favorite take-aways.
No-one knows Cuba as well as renowned travel journalist, National Geographic photographer, and Cuba expert Christopher P. Baker. Chris has authored and illustrated six travel books on Cuba, and has written about and photographed Cuba on behalf of entities from the BBC and CNN to National Geographic, New York Magazine, and Playboy during three decades of travel to Cuba.
Join Christopher on this memorable one-of-a-kind photo tour, inspired by research for his magazine assignments and guidebooks. Of course, we’ll get to see many of the finest iconic sights that Cuba has to offer. But Chris shuns the usual tourist locations to explore off-the-beaten-path Cuba and interact with Cubans from all walks of life, while taking advantage of the best light, and with a flexibility that allows us to make the most of opportunities as they arise.
On this trip, we will experience the very best photo destinations that Cuba offers. We will start in Havana, with its world-class street shooting and so much more. We will organize photo shoots, such as the most important boxing gym in Cuba, Afro Cubano dancers in an old colonial building, and ballet dancers from the Cuban National Ballet posing in an old mansion. We will be assisted local Cuban photographers, and everywhere we go we will meet and photograph the friendly people of Havana.
Next we will explore the tobacco-growing region of Vinales – with its stunning limestone cliffs, or Mogotes. Vinales would be an important photo destination just for the scenery alone, but it is the traditional farmers that make it so great. We are friends with many of the farmers in the area, and they will invite us into their homes, affording photo opportunities that the typical group will never have. Also we’ll be working with a local photographer who was born and raised there. Finally we will journey to the colonial city of Trinidad. Many consider this Unesco World Heritage site the most beautiful city in Cuba. With the backdrop of the perfectly preserved colonial buildings, we’ll photograph cowboys riding horses and pulling horse-carts through the cobblestone streets, along with the classic American cars. We’ll meet a local photographer there and visit a cowboy ranch outside of town, where we’ll be served an authentic country-style lunch. Trinidad also hosts a thriving local live music scene, and we will have the opportunity to photograph local musicians there.
Day 1 (Mar. 12): Arrive on your flight to Havana, you’ll be picked up at the airport and transferred to our B&B in the heart of Old Havana. We’ll have a 5 p.m. orientation meeting, then ride along the Malecón in sexed-up Eisenhower-era convertibles for a welcome dinner at La Guarida—Cuba’s most famous (and photogenic) restaurant and the set for the Oscar-nominated movie “Strawberry & Chocolate.” Overnight in Havana.
Day 2 (Mar. 13): Walking the main plazas and back streets of the colonial quarter with our local Cuban photographer-guide, Chris will regale you about the city’s fascinating history while introducing you to Cubans along the way–a chance, perhaps, to poke and photograph inside humble homes, speakeasy nail salons, santería shrines, etc. We’ll finish the day with a late afternoon shoot of classic American cars around Parque Central, then walk along the Prado and through Centro Habana to the Malecón. We’ll photograph the sunset, with old cars rumbling by along this seafront boulevard offering a microcosm of Cuban life: the elderly walking their dogs; fishers casting their lines, or casting off in great inner tubes; musicians practicing their instruments; and, since this is Cuba, no end of lovers canoodling. From here we’ll walk the short distance to dinner. Overnight in Havana.
Day 3 (Mar. 14):We’ll have an early morning photo walk and bicitaxi ride through southern Habana Vieja en route to a tumbledown and uber-photogenic gymnasium where Cuba’s future boxing greats train. Time permitting, after lunch, we’ll visit Galería Raúl Corrales, a studio dedicated to the famous photographer’s work and run by his granddaughter and contemporary photographer, Claudia Corral. We’ll then enjoy a private photo shoot with an exciting Afro-Cuban dance company. The rest of the afternoon is free for you to photograph Havana at leisure. Overnight in Havana.
Day 4 (Mar. 15): In the morning we’ll drive from Havana to Viñales, arriving for lunch at a private restaurant with an amazing view over the Viñales Valley, with its dramatic limestone formations called mogotes. We’ll stop at a tobacco farm, where we may get a cigar rolling demonstration, then check in to our B&Bs and relax before a late afternoon stroll in this quintessentially Cuban small rural town. Our sunset shoot will be at a hilltop organic farm-restaurant. Overnight in Viñales.
Day 5 (Mar. 16): We’ll get up for sunrise and visit tobacco farmers to photograph them in the early morning light. We’ll breakfast at one such farm before heading to another tobacco farm, whose owner is one of Cuba’s most colorful and photogenic personajes (personalities), The early afternoon is free before we visit more farmers and local residents, and photograph and interact with them in and around their homes and barns. We’ll have a roast suckling pig dinner at a family “restaurant”. Overnight in Viñales.
Day 6 (Mar. 17): We’ll drive from Viñales to Trinidad, with a stop en route at the Las Terrazas ecological mountain community. Passing through Cienfuegos in the early afternoon, we’ll then drive along the Caribbean shoreline, arriving at the colonial town of Trinidad in time for the last light. We’ll reward ourselves after a long-drive today with dinner in one of Trinidad’s most sensational private restaurants (paladares). Overnight in Trinidad.
Day 7 (Mar. 18): We’ll rise early for a golden hour walk, letting serendipity guide us through the streets of this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site, immersing ourselves in the local life as we shun the touristy quarter in favor or lesser visited quarters. We hope to be accompanied by Chris’ long-time friend, local resident, and internationally-known photographer, The afternoon is free for you to explore Trinidad at leisure before we reconvene for a special themed shoot with a cowboy at a fantastic river venue, plus a visit to a nearby rustic former hacienda. This evening you may visit one or more of the thriving live music venues in the center including the famous Casa de la Trova. Overnight in Trinidad.
Day 8 (Mar. 19): This morning we’ll journey into the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), a UNESCO World Heritage Site where we’ll shoot a quinceañera–a girl celebrating her fifteenth birthday–at Chris’s favorite 18th-century hacienda. We’ll lunch at a ranch farm, after which the afternoon is again yours to explore and photograph in Trinidad at leisure. Overnight in Trinidad.
Day 9 (Mar. 20): This morning head back to Havana, stopping in Cienfuegos for a brief exploration of the town’s colonial center and for a bayside lunch. We’ll precede lunch by photographing a former sugarcane community, including inside a ration store adorned with astonishing revolutionary murals. We’ll then continue to Havana, where the balance of the day is at leisure. Dinner is on your own. Overnight in Havana.
Day 10 (Mar. 21): In the morning, we’ll shoot two ballerinas of Cuba’s Ballet National for stunning travel portraiture in one or two astounding settings, including a “lost in time” mansion. Your afternoon is at leisure for last-minute purchases of cigars, coffee, and/or souvenirs… or perhaps an optional museum visit. This evening we’ll have an image-sharing slide show before our farewell dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. Overnight in Havana.
Day 11 (Mar. 22) Guests will be transported to the airport for their flights home.