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. On this trip, we will experience the very best photo destinations that Cuba offers. Join us 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. This tour starts 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. Lastly, we’ll 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. This trip will comply with the “Support for the Cuban People” travel sanctions.
Day 1: Nov. 30 Arrive on your flight to Havana, you’ll be picked up at the airport and transferred to private accommodations in Havana. We’ll have an early evening orientation meeting, then ride in classic American cars to dinner at La Guarida – Cuba’s most famous (and photogenic) restaurant, and the set for the Oscar-nominated movie “Strawberry & Chocolate”. We’ll spend the night in Havana. Day 2: Dec. 1 Walking in Old Havana with our Cuban guide/photographer in the morning, learning the history of the city, and meeting every-day Cubans along the way. In the afternoon an excursion to Revolution Square, and the famous Hotel Nacional. We’ll finish the day with a walk to the famous Malecon, the walkway along the sea. We’ll photograph the sunset, with musicians and fisherman along the wall, and the old cars rumbling by in the street. We’ll spend the night in Havana. Day 3: Dec. 2 In Havana we’ll have an optional early morning photo walk. Later in the morning we’ll visit a boxing gym where some of the top boxers in Cuba train. After lunch, we’ll visit and photograph a dance performance. We’ll spend the night in Havana. Day 4: Dec. 3 In the morning we’ll go with a Cuban photographer for a model shoot in a gorgeous old mansion. We’ll then walk a few blocks to visit Chris’ friend Luis Enrique Gonzalez’s home to witness and photograph how he maintains his beat-up 1948 Buick and fleet of pre-revolutionary motorcycles. In the afternoon there will be free time for optional activities and we’ll have dinner on our own. That evening we can have an optional excursion to the famous Tropicana floor show. Overnight in Havana. Day 5: Dec. 4 In the morning we’ll drive from Havana to Vinales, arrive for lunch at a private restaurant with an amazing view over the Vinales Valley with its dramatic limestone cliffs, or mogotes. We’ll make stop at a tobacco farm, and get a cigar rolling demonstration, check in to our hotel and have the late afternoon to meet the locals in the town, through sunset time. We’ll spend the night in Vinales. Day 6: Dec. 5 We’ll get up early and visit tobacco farmers and photograph them in the morning light. We’ll have lunch at a beautiful restaurant where all of their organic vegetables are grown in their adjacent farm. In the afternoon we’ll visit more farmers and photograph them in and around their homes and barns. They will invite us into their homes, where we will learn about their daily lives. We’ll have dinner at a tobacco farmer family “restaurant”. We’ll spend the night in Vinales. Day 7: Dec. 6 We’ll drive from Viñales to Trinidad, with a lunch stop on the way. Passing through Cienfuegos in mid-afternoon, we’ll stop briefly to photograph a former sugarcane community, including inside a ration store adorned with astonishing revolutionary murals. We’ll then drive along the Caribbean shoreline, arriving the colonial town of Trinidad in time for the last light. Overnight in Trinidad. Day 8: Dec. 7 We’ll rise early for a golden hour walk, letting serendipity guide us through the streets of Trinidad, immersing ourselves in the local life as we shun the touristy quarter in favor or lesser visited quarters. Chris will introduce us to an artist friend whose ingenious one-of-a-kind wood-crafts are to be seen to be believed—a sublime photogenic experience. We’ll spend the rest of the day in and around this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site, meeting the local people and learning about their lives. Overnight in Trinidad. Day 9: Dec. 8 We’ll have the whole day to photograph in the colonial gem of Trinidad, some time with the group, and some of the time on your own. Cubans love to head to the beach on weekends. We may join the Muñoz family for lunch and the afternoon at La Boca, where we’ll feast beside the sands among other Cuban families. Or maybe we’ll all head out to a farm ranch for lunch and an afternoon with the cowboys. Our final night in Trinidad. Day 10: Dec. 9 This morning we journey over the Sierra Escambray mountains to Santa Clara, the city famously associated with Che Guevara. We’ll make a stop to visit the monument, and masoleum of Che on Plaza de la Revolucion before lunch at a private restaurant. In the afternoon we depart for the airport to catch flights home.