Discover Cuba: Its People and Culture
Feel the entrancing rhythms of Old Havana on our unique people-to-people cultural exchange, where you'll meet with Cubans from many backgrounds and learn about the history, culture, and contemporary issues of this fascinating island nation.
WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY
I have been on a lot of very good tours but nothing compares with this Smithsonian experience.”
Discover Cuba was an intensely educational program that opened my eyes to this Caribbean country, its people, and its culture that for so long have been off limits to me.”
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With Cuba on the verge of dramatic change, this enigmatic and frozen-in-time nation is a compelling place to visit now. With Smithsonian Journeys, you will have a historic opportunity to enjoy the traditional Cuban culture of today. During our specially designed People-to-People program, you will explore Old Havana, charming Trinidad, and more. You’ll learn through firsthand contact with Cuban artists, musicians, students, teachers, environmentalists, and others who are eager to exchange views with you.
Plus, unique to our program! You'll attend a special panel discussion with a diverse group of experts, which takes place in Miami prior to your departure for Cuba.
This People-to-People Cultural Exchange is permitted by a license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Day 1 — Miami
Arrive in Miami and check into the Sofitel Miami airport hotel. This evening, begin your People-To-People program in Miami with a welcome reception and lively, thought-provoking panel discussion on the most vital issues facing Cuba today. Your Smithsonian Journeys expert joins two other Cuba experts to share insights into the Cuban economy, political structure, and culture. A lively question and answer session concludes the panel, preparing you for the week ahead. This valuable meeting with a range of Cuba scholars is an exclusive feature of Smithsonian Journeys’ Cuba programs.
Day 2 — Miami to Havana
Depart for Havana this morning on a charter flight to Havana. Take an orientation bus tour of the city, including Revolutionary Square and Morrow Castle. Arrive in Havana, after clearing customs and claiming your luggage, continue to lunch. This evening, enjoy a welcome reception, introductory talk by your Smithsonian Journeys expert, and dinner at one of the city’s paladars, or privately owned restaurants. (Lunch, Dinner)
Day 3 — Havana
Begin the day with an historical overview of the city of Havana with an architectural historian to discuss the city’s history, urban layout and architecture as well as the success and challenges of its preservation efforts before embarking on a walking tour of Habana Vieja to see firsthand the city’s Colonial architecture and plazas. After lunch at a local restaurant, meet with future entrepreneurs and instructors at a training and advisory center for those looking to expand into the private sector. Gather for a private performance by one of Cuba’s most well-known string orchestras.
(Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 4 — Havana
Meet with a representative from the US Interests Section to learn about the complexities of the U.S. – Cuban relationship followed by a visit to the National Museum of Fine Arts to explore the museum’s Cuban collection to learn how the country’s history and diverse cultures have influenced its art. Meet with farmers and members of the community at a local organiponico, or urban garden. This afternoon, meet with a journalist to discuss their experience working in Cuba and the challenges faced in a media-controlled society.
Day 5 — Havana to Cienfuegos
Today, head to the community of Guanabacoa to learn of the continent’s influence on Cuba and the Afro-Caribbean religion, Santeria. Enjoy a musical performance dedicated to the various deities of the religion. Take the opportunity to discuss the importance of the arts with the performers. Continue to Cienfuegos and after lunch, explore the French-influenced city center of Cienfuegos (a World Heritage site). Walk down the Paseo del Prado, a pedestrian-only boulevard lined with various stores, to Parque Martí. Some of Cienfuegos’ most prominent architecture frames this central square. Then visit an art school and meet with some of the region’s finest artists and performers. After dinner tonight, mingle with local residents at a community block party. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 6 — Trinidad
En route to Trinidad (a World Heritage site) stop at the Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens, the largest of its kind in Cuba, and learn of their efforts to maintain their rich biodiversity and extraordinary plant life. Afterwards, visit a former sugar mill town and with a historian, tour the town and meet the modern day inhabitants. Continue to Trinidad and discover its pastel-colored Colonial buildings, cobblestone streets, and beautiful plazas. Meet with a representative of the City’s Historian Office to discuss the achievements and the challenges of preserving this 16th-century city. During your exploration of Trinidad, meet with shopkeepers, owners of Casas Particulares, or privately owned Bed and Breakfasts, and other members of the community. (Breakfast, Lunch)
Day 7 — Cienfuegos to Havana
This morning, visit a community art project showcasing contemporary Afro-Cuban art. Meet with the director and several artists to learn of their work and how they are spreading contemporary art to small communities. Return to Havana and en route, stop at the Bay of Pigs and visit the nearby Playa Giron Museum. This afternoon, visit Finca Vigía, Ernest Hemmingway’s home for 20 years. With an expert, explore the 12 acre property and house that contains original furniture, artwork and personal memorabilia. (Breakfast, Lunch)
Day 8 — Havana
Begin the morning with a briefing at MINREX, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to learn about how Cuba views the prospects for a normalized U.S – Cuba relationship. Next, visit the campus of the University of Havana and after a guided tour of the grounds, meet with an economics professor to discuss Cuba’s economic history and ongoing reforms in economic law. After lunch, visit the University of Arts to tour the facilities with the director to learn about the University’s programs. This afternoon, visit a children’s performing arts center, providing instruction in dance and theater performance. After a performance, discuss the center’s work with the neighborhood’s youth and their development. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 9 — Depart for the U.S.
Bid farewell to Cuba and transfer to the Havana Airport today for your return charter flight to Miami. (Breakfast)