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: Nov. 30 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 5:30 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: Dec. 1 Walking the earthy back streets of the colonial quarter with our local Cuban photographer-guide, Chris will regale you about the city’s fascinating history while meeting every-day Cubans along the way. Chris will take you inside humble homes to photograph 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 to the famous 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. Overnight in Havana.
Day 3: Dec. 2 We’ll have an early morning photo walk through Habana Vieja, including the Mercado Agropecuario Egido farmers’ market. Later, we’ll visit tumbledown Gimnasio Rafael Trejo, an unlikely venue where Cuba’s future boxing greats train. After lunch, we’ll have a private photo shoot with the National Ballet and/or Raices Profundas Afro-Cuban dance company, then in late afternoon explore the streets of earthy Centro Habana before heading to the Malecón for sunset. From here we’ll walk to dinner. Overnight in Havana.
Day 4: Dec. 3 In the morning, we’ll visit a “lost in time” mansion gone to ruin and whose occupant lives surrounded by all-things pre-revolutionary: everything in the house dates from the 1950s (or older)! Here we’ll shoot one or more professional models for stunning travel portraiture in an astounding setting. We’ll then walk a few blocks to visit one of Chris’ closest friends–an ace mechanic, offering a chance to photograph him working on his 1948 Buick and collection of antique Harley-Davidson motorcycles. After lunch at the bohemian Bellevue Café (owned by ace photographer Sven Creutzman), we’ll continue to shoot in the Vedado neighborhood, ending with cigars and cocktails at Hotel Nacional. This evening dinner is on your own–a chance for 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 Viñales, arriving for lunch at a private restaurant with an amazing view over the Vinales Valley with its dramatic limestone formations called mogotes. We’ll stop at a tobacco farm, and get a cigar rolling demonstration, check in to our B&Bs and have the late afternoon to meet the locals in the town, through sunset time. Overnight in Viñales.
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”. Overnight in Viñales.
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. 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 8: Dec. 7 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. 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. Since on weekends Cuban families love to head to the beach, in late afternoon we may join them at La Boca, lingering to catch the sunset. Or maybe we’ll all head out to a farm ranch for lunch and an afternoon with the cowboys. 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 9: Dec. 8 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. The afternoon is free to photograph in Trinidad at leisure, meeting the local people and learning about their lives. In early evening, we’ll head to the colonial home of Trinidad photographer Julio Muñoz for image sharing before our farewell dinner together. Overnight in Trinidad.
Day 10: Dec. 9 This morning head back to Havana in time for an early evening departure for Miami and home.