Havana is an exciting city with many interesting neighbourhoods. However, to experience the "real" Havana you should stay in Habana Vieja. Here you are located next to the best bars and nightlife, and during the daytime you will be living among the real Habanos working in shops, bars, art galleries and going about their daily lives in this atmospheric part of the city. Havana has a unique distinction, being the safest city in the Caribbean and Latin America generally. There are a number of reasons for this, but what it means for the curious traveller is that you will be able to enjoy unprecedented access to local people as you wander around the ‘barrio’ that makes up Habana Vieja.
Our ‘Learn Spanish, Culture & Dance’ 2 & 4 week program let's you get the most out of your time in Old Havana (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Upon arrival at Havana International Airport you will be picked up for a transfer to your Casa Particulares or Casa Jakera which will be your home in Havana. If you book the 4-week option which starts on the first Sunday of the month, you have the option the spend the whole of week 3 in Viñales. During this week return transfer to Viñales on Sunday is included, as are Spanish lessons that continue Monday to Friday while after lunch we explore; hiking, horse-riding and cycling through some of the most wonderful landscapes in Cuba.
On your first day in Havana you are taken on a short walking tour - usually within 24 hours of your arrival - to familiarize you with your new surroundings, such as money change and internet services, and to give you a flavor of the opportunities to enjoy your free time in this exciting location.
Your Spanish classes take place in the morning from Monday to Friday 09:00-11:45. The sessions comprise of 3 x 45-minute lessons spaced with 15 minute breaks, which makes 15 hours per week. The lessons are held at Casa Jakera by an accredited and licensed Cuban teacher. On the first morning there will be a short test to establish your level and requirements. We cater for students at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. The discover Cuba sessions will feature additional Spanish conversation opportunities. (approx. 4 hours per week).In Vinales your Spanish lessons are held at your Casa.
There are 2 dance classes per week that take place on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, usually from 14:00-15:00 (Ratio of instructor to student 1:1). You will be taken through your paces - lessons will feature Salsa but depending on your progress you may also be introduced to Son, Rueda de Casino, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha, and Rumba and perhaps a few moves you haven’t even heard of! The lessons are delivered a short walk from your Casa by a licensed dance instructor, and in the evenings there are many free live music venues where you can do your homework. Please note that for dance classes you should dress appropriately as you would if you are going out. Look good, feel good!
Hop onto a Wah-Wah (fume belching local bendy bus) or Colectivo (classic car/communal taxi) and take to the streets to discover the real Habana. Understand how Habaneros live; the practical day to day issues they face living in this complicated country at this exciting time, and help us take away some answers to our own ‘first world’ problems!
Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 14:00 (plus the occasional nighttime tour) we will take you on an adventure to help you understand and enjoy the history of Cuba and Habana. Understand the source of her amazing wealth, the rich cultural mix, marvel at the faded patina of Habana’s famous gorgeous neo classical architecture, the rumble of classic American cars, curious soviet era high rise buildings, unbiquitous live music on every street, dance, exotic religions etc etc the list is endless.
These cultural experiences and excursions are with our trained local guides who will show you how to buy (and spend!) local peso’s, take local transport and generally make you feel at home and comfortable with your new surroundings. You will quickly feel comfortably at this home, gain the knowledge and confidence to enjoy the city during your own time, with new found traveller and Cuban friends. You have been immersed into the Cuban culture - enjoy!
During the 4 week program* you will have three weekends, and we have included activities for each of these. For two weekends you will be accompanied on a daytrip to a beach directly east of Havana. Journey time is 30 minutes by bus and you will enjoy the exhilarating rollers that break on these pristine sandy beaches. One weekend will feature a two night trip to Viñales, a three hour drive to the central western region of Cuba. Viñales is a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing to the outstanding landscape, traditional architecture and agricultural techniques still used. This trip includes a horseride into the valley to drying houses where you can learn about the art of curing tobacco and rolling cigars, and an early morning hike to view a spectacular sunrise.
* The 2-week program includes two guided trips to the beach. On the 2-week program you can also join the trip to Viñales (price CUC 140 paid locally).
If you book the 4-week program, you have the option the spend the whole of week 3 in Viñales. During this week, return transfer to Viñales on Sunday is included
as are Spanish lessons that continue Monday to Friday while after lunch we explore; hiking, horse-riding and cycling through some of the most wonderful landscapes in Cuba.
Step back in time and enjoy traditional Cuba. Viñales is a beautiful agricultural town utilising horse power to cultivate plantations including the best tobacco fields in the country. The perfect contrast to your time in Havana here we enjoy the fresh air and natural world including stunning UNESCO heritage status limestone mountains and tobacco drying houses. Spanish lessons continue Monday to Friday at your Casa but after lunch we explore; hiking, horseriding and cycling through some of the most wonderful landscapes in Cuba.
The afternoon schedule for the week is as follows:
Monday - Horseback Finca Tour
The best way to explore the valley and lush plantations is as the local formers do; on horseback. This is a gentle trot through the countryside to take in the scenery and traditional farming techniques. We stop at one of the distinctive tobacco drying houses and learn more about this famous crop - and the processes involved in cultivating tobacco, drying/curing and finally how to roll a cigar. We then continue to the spectacular ‘Mirador’ viewing point before returning home late afternoon. If you prefer, this activity can be taken as a walking tour - without the horse!
Tuesday - Trek Valley of Silence
This time we enjoy exploring the valley on foot. Learning more about the various crops cultivated here including sugar cane - a refreshing cane juice helps energise us along the way. As we walk, your local guide will help you understand how people live here, some of the challenges and the importance of agriculture and tourism to create a balanced and sustainable economy.
Wednesday - Sunrise & Prehistory Mural
This morning we have a particularly early start as we aim to catch a spectacular sunrise with a local community, Los Acuáticos. We enjoy stories about the history - and mythology - of this community. After a coffee or fruit juice we continue to the famous ‘prehistory mural’ - actually an art piece created in the 60’s and often hyped but nonetheless a popular attraction and the location itself is very special.
Back to our Casa ready for breakfast… and Spanish classes. As the afternoon is free any sleepy heads can enjoy a well-earned siesta!
Thursday - Bicycle tour to Indian Cave
This time we hop on bicycles and head out of town and explore one of the many limestone caves that make Viñales so distinctive. Some of these caves were used as shelters for indigenous peoples and used as hideouts for runaway slaves. There is also a cave that doubles as a nightclub!
Today we take a boat trip to admire one of the most extensive cave formations with distinctive mineral and limestone formations.
Friday - Viñales Village & Botantical Gardens
Our final activity during this busy week is to learn more about the evolution of the town, different construction techniques and pointers to her future. We also learn more about the indigenous flora at the beautifully manicured botantical gardens.
Saturday - Optional Activities
There are lots of optional activities available, or you can relax in town.
Sunday - Return to Havana
After breakfast, we return to Havana, and the rest of the day is free.