Day 1. Arrival – Welcome to Havana!
Welcome to Havana, where we will be greeted by our Chill Expeditions guides. Start our adventure by traveling to the Morro Fortress to enjoy the Cannon Ceremony, an old Havanan tradition that marked the closing of the walls of the city. There are many differences between Cuban and American cultures, and part of the orientation will be to discuss, as a group, noticeable differences in the way Cubans spend their free time together. This will also give us the opportunity to set the tone for the trip and get to know each other a little better.
- Your guides will introduce the Story Approach and the teaching themes that will cohesively link together the incredible wealth of information you will learn on the trip.
- Your group will be introduced to the Expedition Mentality, our nuanced strategy for creating the strongest possible group culture.
- Our first nightly circle and bandana ceremony will reinforce the Expedition Mentality and set the tone for the best possible experiential learning trip
Day 2. Exploring Havana
Today we learn about Havana in context- from education, to architecture, politics, and modern day culture
Today we’ll head out to the western suburbs of Cubanacan to visit ENA (Escuela Nacional de Arte) or National School of the Arts, for a cultural exchange with students and professors there. ENA has a rich history, dating back to its establishment by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in 1961. The buildings themselves are known as the most outstanding architectural achievements of the Cuban Revolution. After that, we will learn about modern Havana by visiting Miramar, Vedado, and Plaza de la Revolution. This is where most political figures, including Castro, address the public. We will then ride the American Old Cars by Malecon towards Old Havana. Finally, in the historic center, we will visit the Four Plazas of Old Havana. After some free time in the Craft Market (where we can practice our Spanish searching for souvenirs!), we return to our “casas” to get ready for dinner.
- Educational system in Cuba: art schools
- Cuban Art and Architecture through changing times
- Modern Cuba versus Old Havana
Day 3. Dance Lessons and “Santeria”
Immerse ourselves in music, arts, and religious rituals of Cuban culture today
There is no better way to experience Cuba than through its music and dance, so we will start the day by enjoying dance lessons. We will have the chance to learn traditional and popular Cuban dances, such as Salsa, mambo, rumba or Cha-Cha-Cha.
We will have some free time to explore Havana city before we head to the “Callejón de Hamel”, a neighborhood that has been converted into a cultural center rich in Afro-Cuba religion, art and dance. Spend the afternoon learning about Santeria and other Cuban religions. We will also have the chance to practice some of the Rumba moves that we just learned in the morning.
- Spanish in context: key vocabulary and language skills for our time in Cuba
- Popular Cuban music and dance.
- Communism and impact on religious practice
Day 4. Las Terrazas Eco-Community & Puerto Esperanza
Contrast the bustle of Havana with rural Cuba, and learn about sustainable communities
After an early morning breakfast, departure to Las Terrazas eco-community, located an hour west of Havana in the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve. Las Terrazas is located in an area of around 5,000 hectares, in which a project of sustainable rural economy is being developed, based on the rational use of its natural resources for tourism.
At Las Terrazas we will enjoy a guided hike and we will have the chance to visit Lester Campa’s home-studio. Campa’s work features the rich landscape of Las Terrazas with its flowing waters, soaring Royal Palms, and beautiful forests.
Early afternoon, continue driving to the northern coastline of Pinar del Rio. Lodging at Casas Particulares in the small fishing town of Puerto Esperanza.
- Strategies for sustainability
- Community involvement: working towards a better future
- Resourcefulness: making the most of limited resources and opportunities
Overnight: Puerto Esperanza
Day 5. Puerto Esperanza
Experience life as a local in a small fishing village
Today we’ll meet Florito, the owner of Finca La Veronica, where we’ll have the opportunity to participate with him and his family in their regular agricultural activities and learn more about food production in Cuba. We will have a delicious lunch with Florito’s family, while enjoying a fantastic view of the Viñales Valley.
This day is also a wonderful opportunity for cultural engagement, sharing time and games together with the local community, learning our similarities are far greater than our differences. We’ll learn more about Puerto Esperanza Community Project, visit a local artist or enjoy some typical dances at the Salon Comunal.
- Life in a rural Cuban Village: what to expect
- Agriculture and food production in Cuba
- Coastal communities
Overnight: Puerto Esperanza
Day 6. Viñales Valley
Island ecology: how the geology and biology of Cuba shapes culture
After breakfast, we will say goodbye to our new friends in Puerto Esperanza and depart for Havana. On the way, we visit Santo Tomas Cave -the most extensive cave system in Cuba. There are over 46km of galleries on eight levels, with a 1km section accessible to visitors. There’s no artificial lighting, but headlamps are provided for the 90-minute guided tour. Highlights include bats, stalagmites and stalactites, underground pools, stunning rock formations and a replica of an ancient native Indian mural.
After a delicious lunch at Agroecological Farm “El Paraiso”, we will visit one of the several tobacco producers in the area, to learn about this traditional crop and the way it goes from green leaves into the final product: a fine Cuban cigar.
- Island Life: the impact of Cuba’s geographical setting and geologic makeup on the environment and human history of the island
- Eco-Tourism in action
- Regional differences in Cuba
Day 7. Trinidad
We focus on the rich arts and culture of Trinidad with hands-on activities
Today we will experience the magic of Trinidad, by walking through the stone streets of this perfectly preserved colonial town. Trinidad was declared World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1988 and we will discover why.
In Trinidad we will learn the art of pottery at the Santander Family Pottery House and we will visit “Pincelada Colonial” Art Gallery – Yudit Vidal’s Studio. Yudit is one of the most talented Cuban artists, whose artwork has been exhibited in many cities around the world. This is a great opportunity to learn more about Trinidad and Cuba through her beautiful paintings.
- Colonialism: conceptions from different perspectives.
- Contemporary Cuban Arts.
- Artisan traditions: keeping craft alive
Day 8. Topes de Collantes National Park
Today we explore the stunning ecosystems of this national park and learn about endemic species
We will start our day with a drive out to Topes de Collates, located in the Sierra del Escambray which is Cuba’s second-largest mountain range. Topes de Collates has caves, rivers, canyons, waterfalls, grottos and crystal clear water. We are picked up in a specialized truck to travel one of the paths. The opportunity to enjoy the flora and fauna of this area of Cuba is unmatched during this drive. We enjoy a nature hike with local experts, who help us spot the famous Tocororo Trogon, the Cuban national bird.
On our way back to Trinidad we’ll visit “El Manantial” Farm to learn about organic farming and sustainability practices. Here we will meet Oscar and Aray who will show us how their dream of a sustainable living is becoming a reality. We enjoy a cup of coffee and learn about sustainable construction and how they build their own house.
- Comparing forms of agriculture
- Flora and fauna of Cuba
- Sustainable Living
Day 9. Santa Clara
Today we focus on the forces driving the Cuban revolution, and the status of present-day politics and government in Cuba
After an early morning breakfast, departure for Santa Clara city, where our first stop will be at the Mausoleum. Here we will learn more about the executed marxist revolutionary, Ernesto Che Guevara. We will visit the Armored Train Memorial and we will take a walk through the Boulevard. This will be our last chance to buy some souvenirs to bring back home.
Check into our “casas particulares” in Santa Clara, before heading out to our farewell dinner in the city.
- History and Government: Politics of Cuba
- Perspectives on Cuba: from a variety of local sources
- Taking it all back home: what will we bring back from our experience?
Overnight: Santa Clara
Day 10. Farewell to Cuba!
After a quick breakfast at our “casas”, we depart for the airport to board our flight home. We return filled with inspiration and memories to last a lifetime of our wonderful Cuban Expedition!
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