PhotoZoomCuba Workshop and Photo Tour
Days 1 – 4: Workshop.
Day 5: From Havana, we drive due west along the coastal road then up into the hills of the Sierra del Rosario, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, heading for the community of Las Terrazas [>] where we shall spend the night.
Day 6: We begin the day with a nature tour accompanied by an official forestry guide and make a visit to the famous Orchidario to admire and shoot one of the world’s most important collections of orchids. From there, we drive to the National Park La Guira, where an eccentric collection of statues and gardens, all in poor state of conservation, offers unusual photographic opportunities. Mid-afternoon, we begin the zigzag drive up through wooded hills heading for Viñales [>], supper and a good night´s rest.
Day 7: The “must see” town of Viñales gives its name to the picturesque Valle de Viñales National Park, a UNESCO-approved World Heritage Site nestling among the hills of the Sierra de Los Organos, well worth spending the day camera-in-hand. A nice evening meal and another peaceful night.
Day 8: Today is given to the longish drive to Trinidad, on Cuba’s southern coast [>]. On the way, we shall take a break at the ruins of the Cafetal Angerona, the largest 19th century coffee plantation in Western Cuba housing over four-hundred and fifty enslaved Africans. Having hopefully seen the sun setting over the Caribbean Sea, we should arrive in Trinidad in time for a shower and cocktail before settling down to dinner at one of the town’s most characteristic restaurants. Music is already filling the evening for everyone to enjoy.
Day 9: Probably one of the most visited cities in the West Indies, Trinidad is an exquisite showcase of colonial taste and extravagance, and it is certainly worthwhile for the photographer to be up and about, camera-in-hand, well before the narrow, cobbled streets begin flowing with tourists. The early morning light is also somehow magical. The rest of the morning will be spent walking around soaking up the patchwork of atmospheres until it’s time to head up the steep road into the Escambray mountains where we shall take a break for lunch before zigzagging westwards down towards the Zapata marshlands and Guamá [>], a reconstructed Indio settlement immersed among the islets of Treasure Lagoon.
Day 10: After a night spent under the stars in a reed-thatched cabin, the morning will be spent drifting among the islets spotting an amazing variety of birds and, possibly, a crocodile! Then lunch at a nearby crocodile breeding centre and the three-hour drive back to Havana in time for supper.
PhotoZoomCuba “Landscape and Nature Tour” itinerary.
In addition to the following itinerary, we should like to propose participation in our initial Workshop.
Day 1: Our first day together will be spent walking around Havana’s [>] fascinating and vibrant Old Town and making a visit to the city’s woodland flanking its main river, Almendares.
Day 2: We leave the capital and head west into the Sierra del Rosario, a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, arriving with plenty of time to enjoy a nature tour accompanied by an official forestry guide. Our hotel will be in the locality of Las Terrazas [>] community, a social experiment in self-contained, ecologically-sustainable development.
Day 3: Before leaving the Sierra, we visit the Orchidario, one of the world’s most important orchid gardens from where we begin a zigzag (and a little bumpy!) drive through the wooded hills and into the Valle de Viñales [>], with its fascinating landscapes.
Day 4: We spend the day discovering the natural and photogenic wealth the valley offers, a wealth meriting the Unesco World Heritage Site denomination it boasts.
Day 5: After our second night in Viñales, we head into the Sierra de Los Organos, stopping first to climb into the Caverna de Santo Tomás, one of the longest cave systems in the West Indies and still not entirely explored. Then on through the Sierra foothills, destination Cabo San Antonio at the extreme western tip of Cuba where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet, embrace and tussle.
Day 6: We are now in the Guanacahabibes National Park [>], a peninsular where time stood still a million years ago. Almost uninhabited, an expanse of low, dense brush with hidden lagoons and contoured by fabulous, deserted beaches, its claim to fame is its treasure of fauna and flora. Not to mention that its beaches and coves were also home to notorious pirates and buccaneers. We shall spend the whole day venturing into its mysteries and wonders under the watchful eye of an official forestry guide.
Day 7: Today, we return along the peninsula’s only road taking us to the far end of the Bay of Currents, our destination Maria La Gorda [>], a tiny but fully equipped tourist centre named as one of the world’s top scuba centres. Here the choices are a walk into the natural park surrounding it, snorkelling, scuba diving or simply a swim and a rest up on the beach waiting for the sunset, supper and a peaceful night in a pleasant wooden bungalow.
Day 8: As we have the whole morning to enjoy before heading back to Havana, we can take advantage of any or all that Maria La Gorda has to offer. We shall be back in Havana in time for an evening meal (and some entertainment!).
Landscape and Nature Tour Part 2: As an option, we suggest extending your Nature Tour a further three days and nights to take in a day among the islets of Guama [>] in Treasure Lagoon, immersed in the vast Zapata marshlands, a wonderland of aquatic birds (and crocodiles!), a walk around Cuba’s most extensive botanical garden near Cienfuegos [>], and a day touring and hiking, camera-in-hand, among the crests and valleys of the Escambray mountains.
PhotoZoomCuba “Jewels of Historical Cuba” itinerary.
Day 1: Our first day together will be dedicated to touring Havana to photograph some of the fortresses, palaces and mansions built during the four-hundred years the city was the capital of one of Spain’s most valuable, and wealthy, colonial possessions; “Key to the Americas” [>].
Day 2: After a fairly early start, we shall drive directly to the south coast initially to spend a few hours in the centre of the port city of Cienfuegos [>] to look closely at its outstanding examples of 19th century architecture, a blend of neo-classicism and French styling, trends which together create a relaxed and elegant atmosphere of light and space. Then, we shall continue east along the coast to arrive in Trinidad [>] early evening.
Day 3: Probably one of the most visited cities in the West Indies and accorded the World Heritage Site qualification by Unesco in 1998, Trinidad is an exquisite showcase of colonial taste and extravagance, and it is certainly worthwhile for the photographer to be up and about, camera-in-hand, well before the narrow, cobbled streets begin flowing with tourists. The early morning light is also somehow magical. Late morning, we shall head further east with a stop for lunch at the reconstructed mansion of sugar planter Manaca Iznaga before continuing towards Sancti Spíritus where we shall spend the night [>].
Day 4: In contrast to Trinidad, the city of Sancti Spíritus is not tourism-oriented and the upkeep of their notable historic buildings has been simply for the pleasure of the population. It boasts Cuba’s first Christian church built five centuries ago, a fascinating Colonial Museum and the residence of the Iznaga family dating back to the early 17th century. It also has a 90-metre long brick bridge that has stood up to three centuries of traffic, floods and earth tremors. After a light lunch, we head due north across extensive plains to the quaint little medieval town of Remedios [>] where we shall spend the night.
Day 5: With a dramatic history of pirate attacks and subsequent oblivion, Remedios is a jewel of unpretentious, colonial elegance built around a small church considered to be one of the most beautiful churches of Latin America. In the afternoon, we shall first make the short trip north to take a look at the fishing town of Caibarien and its nearby museum of antique locomotives, lined up and polished for photo ops. Then we shall double back to reach the city of Santa Clara [>] by early evening having stopped for a while to contemplate the impressive bronze statue of Ernesto “El Che” Guevara.
Day 6: We are now in one of the most vibrant Cuban cities after Havana. However, unlike the other cities we have visited, Santa Clara was not founded during the early decades of the 16th century but almost two hundred years later. Its architecture and city layout are consequently more sophisticated and sedate representing the tastes and pretensions of an educated Cuban Creole political class rather than those of the early conquistadores and the medieval Catholic Church. We shall spend the day soaking up the pleasant atmosphere of Santa Clara and photographing its most prominent buildings until mid-afternoon when we begin the three-hour drive back to Havana [>].
Day 7: After three decades of Independence wars, at the close of the 19th century Cuba was economically and socially in a dreadful state. Spain had been defeated and Cuba was now a sovereign state, but in name only as its economy and politics were directed by Washington. American investors injected huge sums into the country’s sugar and coffee production so empowering the class of Cuban Creole landowners whose personal wealth exploded with the outbreak of World War One in Europe during which Cuba supplied sugar to both sides. Cuba’s next break came with America’s prohibition of alcoholic beverages throughout the States, its so-called “dry law”, thanks to which the Italo-American mafia families transformed Havana into its off-shore liquor and drug warehouse and gambling and prostitution playground. Now the Sugar Barons were part of the Mobster Money Boom, making Havana one of the world’s wealthiest vice and entertainment centres, a situation the victory of the 1959 Revolution and the constitution of a socialist republic put an end to. These three periods are clearly reflected in Havana’s post-colonial architecture; the super-wealthy elites competed with each other to show their real power by importing Europe’s top architects and decorators and the world’s most precious materials. Europe’s Belle Époque spilled into Havana’s suburbs with fabulous mansions and constructions inspired by Modernist trends of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, many of which today house foreign embassies and their functionaries. In addition, a new generation of Cuban architects were building prize-winning high-rise residential buildings while the mafia were investing their wealth in hotels and cabarets, still a mainstay of the city’s tourism along with hundreds of 1950’s classic cars, an automobile museum in movement. We shall spend our last day together shooting as much as we can of all that.
PhotoZoomCuba “Jewels of Historical Cuba”, special year-end proposal itinerary.
Day 1: (22nd. December) Our first day together will be dedicated to touring Havana to photograph the capital of one of Spain’s most valuable, and wealthy, colonial possessions; “Cuba. Key to the Americas!”.
Day 2: (23rd December) Today will be taken up by the 380 kilometre drive east to the Santa Maria [>] Cays on the north coast famous for their beautiful beaches and hotels where we plan to spend three nights.
Day 3: (24th December) Our plan today is to enjoy the sun and sea until late afternoon when we head back to the small colonial town of Remedios [>] just as the crowds are gathering. Crowds, because tonight is the closing event of the Parranda of Remedios considered to be one of Cuba’s most spectacular traditional festivals. Probably exhausted with excitement, shortly after midnight we shall be bussed back to our hotel on the Cayos.
Day 4: (25th December) “Happy Christmas!” Besides stretching out and recovering from our late night, today offers various options of snorkelling, a cruise round the cays, some of which are nature reserves, swimming with dolphins and so on, all photo opportunities.
Day 5: (26th December) Presumeably revived and rearing to go, after breakfast we shall return to the mainland first to visit the fishing town of Caibarien and the nearby locomotive museum before moving to Remedios to photograph its picturesque square and church, said to be one of the prettiest churches of Latin America. After lunch, we drive to the city of Santa Clara [>], stopping on the way to admire the bronze statue of Ernesto “El Che” Guevara.
Day 6: (27th December) After photographing the most important examples of Santa Clara’s colonial architecture, mid-afternoon we shall drive due south to spend the night in another antique city, Sancti Spiritus [>].
Day 7: (28th December) Sancti Spiritus boasts Cuba’s first Christian church, built five centuries ago. It also has a fascinating Colonial Museum, the residence of the Iznaga family dating back to the early17th century and a 90-metre long brick bridge that has stood up to three centuries of traffic, floods and earth tremors. After lunch, we shall drive a short way west to another, smaller antique colonial town, Trinidad [>], making a stop at the sugar-planter’s mansion of Manaca Iznaga.
Day 8: (29th December) Probably one of the most visited cities in the West Indies and accorded the World Heritage Site qualification by Unesco in 1998, Trinidad is an exquisite showcase of colonial taste and extravagance, and it is certainly worthwhile for the photographer to be up and about, camera-in-hand, well before the narrow, cobbled streets begin flowing with tourists. The early morning light is also somehow magical. Early afternoon, we shall drive up and over the impressive Sierra Escambray to finally arrive at the port city of Cienfuegos [>].
Day 9: (30th December) We shall spend the morning strolling around the city renowned for the strong French influence in its late colonial architecture with wide avenues, open plazas and bay-side esplanade. Mid afternoon, we shall head back to Havana in time for the evening meal.
Day 10: (31st December) With the Year End celebrations in mind, we shall plan today as it comes. “Happy New Year!”
PhotoZoomCuba “Cuba’s Villas” Tour itinerary.
Day 1: Today we spend travelling to or grouping up in the eastern city of Holguín [>], “City of Parks”, where we shall spend the night.
Day 2: Making an early start, we shall first make a short journey to a point on the north coast, the Bay of Bariay, where, in 1492, Columbus stepped into the New World and where we find a monumental park dedicated to the meeting of two peoples, the Amerindians and the Europeans. We shall then begin the longish drive east to Moa and then along the coastal road to Baracoa [>] to spend a pleasant evening and a good night’s rest.
Day 3: Having photographed the main attractions of this small, historic town founded as Cuba’s first Villa in 1511 as Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, after lunch we begin the hair-raising drive over the mountains then along the eastern coast, passing Guantanamo and on to Santiago de Cuba [>].
Day 4: Santiago de Cuba was founded as a Villa in 1515 and later established as Cuba’s first capital city by Diego Velázquez. It is known to Cubans as the “Heroic City” and has a distinctive, somewhat defiant, Caribbean way-of-life. Almost giddy from so much to see and shoot, between plazas, mansions and the hill-top fortress, after lunch we make the short drive to El Cobre [>], a must-visit community which is home to the sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba’s much-loved patron saint. From there, we resume our drive over the verdant mountains of the Sierra Maestra, destination Bayamo [>].
Day 5: While not tourism oriented, the city of Bayamo, founded as Villa San Salvador de Bayamo in 1513, has an attractive elegance well worth admiring and photographing. In the afternoon, we continue our journey to Camagüey [>], set amidst Cuba’s fertile central plains.
Day 6: Camagüey, founded as a Villa in 1514 originally with the name Santa María del Puerto del Principe, is purposely laid out as a maze to confound invading corsairs and pirates, easy to enter but impossible to find the way out. Main streets, side streets, plazas and parks are jumbled higgledy-piggledy in what must certainly be one of Cuba’s most fascinating and photogenic cities. After lunch, almost sadly, we shall resume our journey towards Sancti Spiritus [>], with a quick stop at Ciego de Avila [>].
Day 7: Sancti Spiritus, founded as a Villa in 1514, boasts Cuba’s first Christian church, built over five centuries ago. It also has a fascinating Colonial Museum, the residence of the powerful Iznaga family dating back to the early17th century and a 90-metre long brick bridge that has stood up to three centuries of traffic, floods and earth tremors.
After lunch, we shall drive a short way west to another, smaller antique colonial town, Trinidad [>], making a stop at the sugar-planter’s mansion of Manaca Iznaga.
Day 8: Founded as Villa del Santísima Trinidad in 1513, Trinidad is probably one of the most visited cities in the West Indies. Accorded the World Heritage Site qualification by Unesco in 1998, it is an exquisite showcase of colonial taste and extravagance, and it is certainly worthwhile for the photographer to be up and about, camera-in-hand, well before the narrow, cobbled streets begin flowing with tourists. The early morning light is also somehow magical. Early afternoon, we shall drive up and over the impressive Sierra Escambray to finally arrive at the quaint colonial town of Remedios [>].
Day 9: Founded as a Villa in 1513 with the name San Juan de los Remedios, it was subsequently ransacked many times by pirates, Remedios sank into relative oblivion until it’s lovely central plaza, church and surrounding colonial buildings were carefully restored in the 1970s and given the title of National Monument. Well worth some careful shooting. After a casual lunch, we shall begin the final leg of our journey following Diego Velasquez’ footsteps, destination Havana, stopping briefly to admire the bronze statue dedicated to Ernesto “El Che” Guevara on the outskirts of the city of Santa Clara [>] where we shall also make a brief tour of the centre. Unlike the other cities we have visited, Santa Clara was not founded as a Villa in the early 16th century, but almost two centuries later, in 1689, by a small group of families fleeing Remedios and the constant attacks of corsairs and pirates. The city’s environment and architecture, constructed by Creole politicians and businessmen rather than by Spanish military conquerors and medieval Catholicism, is consequently rather different, but worth a quick visit before taking the motorway non-stop to Havana [>].
Day 10: Founded as the Villa de San Cristóbal de La Habana in 1514, Havana was to become the capital of one of Spain’s most valuable, and wealthy, colonial possessions. “Cuba. Pearl of the Antilles” “Key to the Americas!” Our final day together will be dedicated to touring Havana to visit and photograph the most important examples of its impressive colonial past which, together, form an undeniable influence as backcloth to the vibrant, photogenic city Havana is today.