The Very Best of Cuba with a Veteran Pro and Guide
Join Juan Pons and our local guides as we photograph the culture, people, landscape, architecture, and history of this island nation and its beautiful people. Traveling to Cuba is a mesmerizing experience. Just 90 miles from the coast of Florida, the tense bilateral relationship and the U.S. embargo have kept many from visiting the island over the last 5 decades. The Cuban people, however, await U.S. visitors with open arms, ready to share their culture and history with their guests. Cuba is well known for its lively music, beautiful art, incredible architecture, success in sports, and pure culture. We'll spend 8 days capturing the essence of Cuba with our cameras. Expect long days full of great photo ops of all kinds! We have a full-time English-speaking guide with us for the entire trip, and Juan is also a native Spanish speaker.
But is it legal? You bet. The U.S. government authorizes people-to-people visits to Cuba, in which travelers are required to have a schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interactions between travelers and individuals in Cuba. We have partnered with Cuba Educational Travel, and their people-to-people license (No. CT-2012-294261-1) allows them to coordinate legal travel for Americans to meet the Cuban people and learn about Cuban society. We also work closely with Havana Culinary and Culture, another people-to-people license holder (No. CT-2013-300203-1), so that all of our trips are fully licensed by the U.S. Government. Yes, things are changing - but as of now this is the way that you can legally travel to Cuba from the US.
and Trinidad Cuba
November 2–10, 2018
Itinerary and General information
November 2, 2018: Fly from your home to Havana, Cuba. We will pick you up at the airport and board our private (and roomy) bus and head to Viñales, in the Pinar del Rio region. Considered by many to be the most beautiful place in Cuba, the Viñales Valley National Monument is full of stunning landscapes. The area is also famous for being the premier tobacco growing area in the world. We'll check-in at our “casas particulares,” or “private homes.” Since the 1990's Cuban families have been permitted to rent rooms out of their family homes to foreigners. Featuring comfortable accommodations and ample privacy, it’s a great way to interact with everyday Cubans. We have an evening photowalk in Viñales, and then a welcome dinner with our host families. We'll have the best accommodations and food available!
November 3, 2018: We will meet at one of the casas for a sunrise photo walk with two local residents of the community, who will take us to the top of the hill, for a view of the sun rising over tobacco farms in a beautiful valley with the unique Mogotes that surround it. We will visit the home of a local tobacco farmer who will teach us about the cultivation and production process, followed by a cigar rolling demo—he might even light up a cigar or two for the group. Afterwards, we enjoy a farm-to-table dining experience on the grounds of a local farm, Finca Paraiso Agroecologica (the agro- ecological Paradise Farm), where we will learn about Cuban agriculture and tobacco production, while indulging in an organic meal.
We spend the afternoon in Viñales, ultimately winding up at Los Jasmines hotel for a sunset photo shoot. Then we depart for Havana, stopping for sandwiches en route. We arrive in Havana and check-in at the Hotel Parque Central, Trip Advisor’s selection as the best hotel in Havana. Located on the corner of Central Park and along Prado Boulevard, the hotel is just steps from the Capitol building, the Great Theatre, and the famous Obispo Street.
November 4, 2018: Sunrise photo shoot at Morro Castle where we can get a view of the sun rising above the city and Eastern Beaches. Just after sunrise, we'll have a photo walk along Prado Avenue and Havana’s seawall (Malecon). Catch Cubans on their way to work and school, and all the hustle and bustle of the city, followed by breakfast.
After breakfast we take a walking tour of the Old City, wandering through the Plaza de Armas, a scenic tree-lined plaza formerly at the center of influence in Cuba. It is surrounded by many of the most historic structures in Havana as well as important monuments. See the Plaza de San Francisco, a cobbled plaza surrounded by buildings dating from the 18th century, dominated by the baroque Iglesia and Convento de San Francisco dating from 1719. Visit the Plaza Vieja, surrounded by sumptuous houses of the Havana aristocracy from the 18th and 19th centuries. Visit Plaza de la Catedral and the Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana.
Lunch and Photo workshop, at Hotel Parque Central conference room.
Our afternoon features a visit to local boxing gym, where we will meet with and photograph boxers training, working out, and sparring.
Dinner at Paladar San Cristobal. Located in the heart of Central Havana, this paladar has a reputation of excellence in both atmosphere and local cuisine. Enjoy great food while the local takes you back to the 1940's and 50's.
November 5, 2018: Sunrise photo shoot with models and old American cars. Our professional models will pose with this wonderful backdrop. We have a great location for this, found after many years of photographing in Cuba. Afterwards, we'll visit the agricultural market, 19 y B, Vedado to take in the local market, where Cubans buy fruits and vegetables.
Lunch and discussion with journalist Marc Frank. Author of Cuba Revelations and one of the longest- serving foreign correspondents in Cuba, Frank writes for Reuters, the Financial Times and the Economist, and is an authority on the Cuban economy. He will offer insight into important economic, political and social issues on the island and share colorful stories about being a reporter in Cuba.
In the afternoon, enjoy a performance by Habana Compás Dance, which encompasses the rich rhythm and flow of the island, performing traditional and modern dances born from their Spanish, Cuban and Afro-Cuban heritage.
We end the day with drinks and sunset photo shoot, from the rooftop of La Guarida, famous not only for its delectable dining, but also as the location for the film “Strawberry and Chocolate.” It is housed on the third floor of a large, old town house carrying the charming ambience of the early 1900's. Dinner at La Guarida.
November 6, 2018: Check-out and depart for Cienfuegos, one of the country’s oldest and most beautiful cities, which is located approximately three and a half hours from Havana. We will make stops along the way that allow for great photographic opportunities.
Lunch at El Lagarto. With views and breezes from the bay of Cienfuegos, the location of El Lagarto is unbeatable. We will be joined by Omar Valenti, a local photographer. Following lunch, a photo walk of Cienfuegos with Omar Valenti who will show us the ins and outs of this beautiful port city.
We continue on to Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its cobble stoned streets, pastel colored homes and small-town feel. We will stop at the lookout point to capture the sunset along the southern coast of the island. When we arrive in Trinidad, we'll check in at one of the most beautiful private hotels ever, Casa Lola. Dinner in the courtyard of Casa Lola.
November 7, 2018: City Sunrise photo shoot. We walk to the highest point of the city to shoot the sun rising over the bell towers and colonial homes of historic Trinidad. And then down again, shooting along the way. Back at our Casa Lola, breakfast discussion with Nancy Benítez, a local architect, historian and restoration specialist. Ms. Benitez will provide an overview of the city’s history from an architectural, economic, and infrastructural point of view.
We will visit and go inside some historic houses with Nancy Benitez. Families will allow us throughout their homes, where we can snap photos of a number of antiques from the 1950's and well beyond. Lunch at Sol Ananda, situated in one of the town’s oldest houses (dating from 1750) it tackles an ambitious cross-section of global food from traditional Cuban (excellent lamb ropa vieja) to South Asian (fish kofta and samosas).
We plan a visit to a cigar factory this afternoon as well. The rest of the afternoon free to explore and shoot. Evening photo walk to catch the sunset. Dinner in the courtyard of Casa Lola.
November 8, 2018: At sunrise time we head to Playa Ancon for a beach sunrise. Then, day trip to Topes de Collantes. In the Sierra Escambray rainforest, also known as the National Park of Guanayara. We will have a guided hike through the mountain, learn about the flora and fauna, and take photos at a gorgeous waterfall and inside a cave. We will also stop at a natural fresh-water pool for swimming, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and visit a coffee plantation and museum.
Afternoon free, and then a great dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Trinidad.
November 9, 2018: Visit to the archeological site San Isidro de los Destiladeros, near the city of Trinidad, it was a typical sugar plantation, operated with slave labor in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Remnants of this thriving and historically underappreciated industrial heritage survive: an impressive owner's house, three-story tower, cistern, main sugar factory, ancillary buildings, and dikes. Almost all are in ruins or in imminent danger of collapse. We will discuss about sugar cane in Cuba and slavery.
Free afternoon to explore and shoot in Trinidad.
This evening, a farewell dinner at Casa Lola. Fiesta time!
November 10, 2018: Morning street shooting in Trinidad followed by breakfast and check-out from Casa Lola. We will take you to the Santa Clara Airport for flights home.
- Double occupancy lodging (single available, just ask)
- All meals and transportation during the workshop
- Tips for local guide and driver
- Photographic guiding and instruction from Juan Pons
- Cuban Visa and in-country medical insurance
- Fun, inspiration, and a great time!
What’s Not Included?
International flights to Havana, Cuba and from Santa Clara, Cuba. Trip Cancellation Insurance (recommended). Alcoholic beverages, and any items of a personal nature. Anything not specifically listed as included.
This is an exclusive opportunity to see and photograph Cuba with Muench Workshops. If you've been thinking about it, now is the time to register by clicking on the Sign Me Up! button. ¡Nos vemos en Cuba!