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Atacama & Cuba

Overview

Tour Departs: 11 May 2020.

Tour Length: 20 Days.

This is a stunning tour that encompasses diverse areas of South America and the Caribbean. It is a brand-new tour and one we are very excited about. Beginning in Santiago, we spend 3 nights exploring this cosmopolitan city and it’s surrounds before we move on to one of the special highlights of the tour – the Atacama Desert. We stay for 4 nights, at the Alto Atacama Hotel, a magnificent desert retreat offering an all-inclusive experience. Then there is Cuba, the land of Castro and Hemingway – full of surprises and revelations. The country may be poor in economic terms, but its history and culture are rich indeed. We spend 9 days on the island, and you will be enthralled by its beaches, mountains, architecture and music, but most of all by its people with their welcoming smiles and love of life, despite the hardships of the past.

HIGHLIGHTS

Chile:

  • Santiago – a 3-night stay in this cosmopolitan city
  • Day tour to Valparaiso – known as “The Jewel of the Pacific”
  • Atacama Desert – the driest non polar desert in the world and a favourite spot for star gazing

Cuba:

  • Havana – 5-nights in total, the centre of the revolution
  • Cruise the city in old American cars
  • Ernest Hemingway’s home
  • Che Guevara Mausoleum
  • Bay of Pigs
  • Trinidad, reflecting its colonial past

Itinerary

Monday 11 May:  Auckland – Santiago (D)
Today we fly to Santiago, arriving mid-afternoon. On arrival in Santiago, we are met and transferred to our hotel for a 3-night stay. We enjoy dinner together this evening at the hotel.

Tuesday 12 May:  Santiago (B)
After breakfast you will be taken on a panoramic city tour. The excursion begins with a tour of the main avenues of the city’s civic center. When leaving the downtown area, the tour proceeds to Forestal Park passing in front of the Fine Arts Museum towards Bellavista, the bohemian quarter of Santiago. We then travel to San Cristobal hill, a beautiful public park dominated by the monumental sculpture of Virgin Mary. Continue toward the modern residential neighborhood of Pedro de Valdivia Norte, Las Condes and Vitacura. The rest of the day is at leisure

Wednesday 13 May:  Santiago – Valparaiso Day Tour (B,D)
Today we travel out of Santiago past the vineyards, farms, orchards and olive plantations of Curacavi and Casablanca valleys. We arrive later in Valparaiso, a port christened by the Spanish in 1536 and known for its steep funiculars and colourful, clifftop homes. A city of narrow twisting streets, it is balanced on some 400 hills. We return to Santiago late this afternoon and will enjoy dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

Thursday 14 May:  Santiago – Calama (B,D)
After breakfast, we transfer to the airport to join the short flight to Calama. Welcome to the Atacama Desert! On arrival we are met and transferred to our accommodation for 4-nights – Alto Atacama, the only lodge in the San Pedro region that is totally enveloped by natural surroundings. Time to rest and freshen up before we enjoy dinner at the lodge.

Friday 15 May:  Atacama (B,L,D)
Immerse yourself in the desert today by taking part in one of the included excursions.Alto Atacama has created a program so you can enjoy as much of the local area as you want, in any way you want. There is something for everyone, from visiting museums to volcano climbing. The excursions are designed for people who love nature and extraordinary landscapes, but the vast majority do not require any special physical training or abilities. All are classified by type (on foot, vehicle or bicycle), length (half or full day) and difficulty. Each night meet with the guides in the bar to discuss options for the following day. There are eight choices per day and a total of 23 excursions.

Saturday 16 May:  Atacama (B,L,D)
Another opportunity for you to take part in the included excursions on offer.

Sunday 17 May:  Atacama (B,L,D)
Optional excursions. Our final day in the desert! One last opportunity to take part in your preferred excursions.

Monday 18 May:  Calama – Santiago (B)
This morning we transfer back to Calama Airport to join our flight to Santiago. On arrival in Santiago, we are met and transferred to our hotel for a 2-night stay. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Tuesday 19 May:  Santiago (B,L,D)
Today we visit Casa de Isla Negra, one of Pablo Neruda’s three houses in Chile. Pablo Neruda was a famous Chilean poet-diplomat and politician. Located at Isla Negra, a coastal area of El Quisco commune, about 96 km west of Santiago, it was his favourite house and where he and his third wife, Matilde Urrutia, spent the majority of their time in Chile. Neruda originally intended the house to be used as a meeting point for writers and dedicated the place to his original publisher Carlos George-Nascimento as a token of his gratitude. The house is now a writer’s home museum, managed by the Pablo Neruda Foundation. We finish the day with a visit to Pomaire Village, a town in the commune of Melipilla. Abundant natural clay in the hills surrounding the town bolster a thriving pottery industry in the community.

Wednesday 20 May:  Santiago – Lima – Havana (B)
An early start this morning as we transfer back to the airport and join the flight to the Cuban capital, Havana, via Lima. On arrival, we are met and transferred to our hotel for a 3-night stay. Located in the very heart of the city, our hotel offers the chance to take a wander through the local area and sample Havana’s amazing street life before retiring for the night.

Thursday 21 May:  Havana (B,L,D)
There is no better “scene setter” than the Museum of the City so this is the first stop on our unique Havana city tour. It is the official former residence of Havana’s Captain General during the Cuban colonization, holding collections that illustrate the historical background of the city. We return to the sunshine for a fascinating, guided stroll through Old Havana, visiting the four famous historical squares, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza De San Francisco, Plaza Vieja and Plaza De Armas. We have lunch followed by a special treat as we explore Havana in chauffeur-driven old and colourful American cars for which the city is renowned. The cars will take you to the impressive Revolution Square overlooked by the mural of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and through the downtown Vedado district of the city. We continue past the elegant mansions and embassies in Miramar district before a spectacular drive along the “Malecon”, Havana’s seafront promenade. This afternoon visit one of Havana’s famous working cigar factories to see firsthand how the world-famous cigars are still hand rolled! In the evening, we have another truly unique experience as we head to La Terraza at the Asturias Centre for dinner overlooking the famous Prado Boulevard. Strolling through old Havana to the restaurant there is a chance to enjoy a pre-dinner drink at the Floridita Bar, famed throughout the world for its close links with Ernest Hemingway and reputed to be the birthplace of the Daiquiri!

Friday 22 May:  Havana (B,L)
We start the day on a somber note with a visit to the Colon Cemetery, one of the great historical cemeteries in the world. The cemetery is the final resting place of noted Cubans from all walks of life and boasts over 500 memorials, mausoleums and chapels. We then leave the city and travel to “Finca Vigia” in San Francisco de Paula, Ernest Hemingway‘s winter home from 1939 to 1960. We see the author’s 9000 volume library, his typewriter and his yacht “Pilar”. We then return to the city and visit Hotel Ambos Mundos and room 511, Hemingway’s first home in Cuba which he rented between 1932 and 1939 and where he began his epic novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. There will be some free time to stroll through Old Havana before returning to the hotel.

Saturday 23 May:  Havana (B,L)
Today we enjoy a full day tour to the picturesque Vinales countryside. Discover the dramatic landscape of limestone formations” – dominated by strange limestone mountain formations called “Mogotes” and the home of Cuba’s tobacco plantations. We visit a typical tobacco drying house to see how the tobacco crops are turned into the world’s best cigars. Take a leisurely guided walk through the valley stopping off at a farmer’s house for coffee and a chat and enjoy a boat ride through the impressive El Indio cave system. A rustic Cuban lunch will be served in a local restaurant in the valley, before we head back to Havana.

Sunday 24 May:  Havana – Trinidad (B,L,D)
After an early breakfast, we head east through the heart of Cuba and down the very quiet motorway to Santa Clara, a city of major historical significance in Cuba. After lunch, we visit the final resting place of Che Guevara at the very symbolic Mausoleum with time to visit the museum dedicated to his life before continuing to “Tren Blindado”, the train that was attacked by Che Guevara in the last battle of the Cuban Revolution. We travel around the Escambray mountains via the small town of Sancti Spiritus. A perfect place to stop for a while and absorb the delightful river setting of this city founded in 1514, with the historic bridge over the Yayabo river and the small cobblestoned streets leading to the centre. We then continue to Sugar Mill valley where the 145 ft Manaca Iznaga Tower stands as a silent witness to Cuba’s history of slavery where over 30,000 slaves worked in the sugar plantations overlooked by the tower. We have a 2-night stay in Trinidad.

Monday 25 May:  Trinidad (B,D)
Today we explore the UNESCO preserved centre of Trinidad with visits to the Romantic Museum (if open) depicting the lifestyle and architectural design of Trinidad’s colonial past and the Museum Cantero housed in the beautiful neo-classical Palacio Cantero, once home to the colourful figure Justo German Cantero. Here, you can climb the bell tower for the very best views across Trinidad and the bay. Sample the unique Trinidad rum and sugar cane cocktail at La Canchanchara, an old house dating back to the 18th Century but beware – it’s lovely but very strong!

Tuesday 26 May:  Trinidad – Cienfuegos (B,L,D)
This morning we head along the south coast road to the colonial city of Cienfuegos stopping at the Botanical Gardens which has its roots as an “Experimental Garden” funded by Harvard University from the early years of the 20th century. The garden welcomes visitors to a soothing setting of palms, orchids, bamboos, and a myriad of other tropical plants. Cienfuegos overlooks a beautiful bay and we enjoy a tour of the central city before lunch at the Nautical Club. We visit Palacio de Valle, an architectural jewel reminiscent of Spanish-Moorish art with influences of Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque and Mudejar arts. This afternoon, we take a pleasant and scenic ride on the ferry around the bay before we check into our hotel for an overnight stay. Evening at leisure.

Wednesday 27 May:  Cienfuegos – Havana (B,L)
Leaving Cienfuegos, we pass the Bay of Pigs, where a failed US backed invasion took place in 1961, foiled by Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries. We visit the Museum of Playa where most of the important documents, testimonies, photos, captured weapons, and other objects related to the invasion are exhibited. We stop at Guama for an interesting boat ride through the mangroves that will take us to a replica Taino Indian Village. Later, we arrive in Havana for our final night.

Thursday 28 May:  Havana – Lima (B,D)
This morning we return to Havana Airport to report for the afternoon flight to Lima. On arrival in to Lima this evening, we are met and transferred to our hotel for an overnight stay. We enjoy a final dinner together tonight.

Friday 29 May:  Lima – Santiago – Auckland
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. The morning has been left at leisure. This afternoon we transfer to the airport to begin our journey home.

Sunday 31 May:  Arrive Auckland
We arrive in Auckland early this morning.

Tour Costs:

 

Tour Cost Per Person

Share twin / Double room: $16,950
Supplement for Single room: $2,750

 

Costs Include
  • Economy class air travel from the tours international departure point. Cost to upgrade to Premium Economy or Business Class available on request.
  • Prepaid airport, government, security charges and fuel surcharges.
  • Superior Grade/First Class accommodation.
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary B=Full Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner.
  • First Class air-conditioned coach transportation.
  • Sightseeing and entrance fees as indicated in the itinerary.
  • Baggage handling of 1 piece per person.
  • All tips to drivers and local guides.
  • Fully escorted by Maher Tours Leader.
Costs Exclude
  • Any meals and sightseeing not specifically mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Travel insurance (advice and assistance supplied).
  • Visa fees.
  • Items of a personal nature such as room service, laundry, drinks, telephone, charges.