The Cuba Jewish Heritage tour will take tour participants to explore Jewish communities beyond Havana City and into the heart of authentic Cuba. We will meet with passionate and energetic Jewish community leaders such as Adela Dworin, a Jewish community leader.
Dating back from 1914, the Chevet Achim Synagogue is the oldest one in Cuba. Unfortunately it is closed today due to the advanced estate of disrepair which has doomed the building as inhabitable and structurally unsound. Havana’s Jews are working hard to restore the building into a museum.
The orthodox shul serving the city is the Adath Israel located in Old Havana, the historical center of Cuba’s capital city. Our Jewish heritage Cuba tours take tour participants to meet with the Jewish congregation and attend services at this synagogue that has been financially supported by Jewish communities in Canada, USA and other countries in recent years. This Cuban synagogue proudly maintains social and religious programs conducted by their own trained leaders and even serves meals (twice a day) for members in attendance.
The Beth Shalom gathers the largest Jewish congregation in Cuba. Its modern temple, known as El Patronato was built in 1952 in the Vedado district and it was refurbished in the 1990’s with the support of the international Jewish community. It contains a library, pharmacy and other facilities to serve its members.
The Sephardic Hebrew Center in Vedado neighborhood is housed in a modern building from the 1950’s that we will tour as part of our Cuba travel to the world of the Cuban Jews. Offering Kabbalat Shabbat services and Saturday morning Shacharit each week, the Centro Sefardita celebrates all Jewish festivals and host several educational programs such as the School for Adults every Sunday.
Ernest Hemingway and Fidel Castro met only once at a marlin fishing contest in 1960. Yet several pictures were taking of this historical moment such as the one above. Another great picture was published by Life
Magazine showing the moment when the famed American novelist hands over to young Fidel a trophy for catching the largest marlin. Yes, Fidel won the contest!
Our Cuba tours will take American Jewish travelers to central Cuba to meet with members of the Jewish community, Tikun Olam of Santa Clara. Accompanied by David Tacher, the congregation leader, tour participants will visit the Jewish cemetery and newest synagogue to complete the Cuba travel experience.
Once a wedding present to Del Valle family, Palacio del Valle has become one of the most visited palaces in the Caribbean city of Cienfuegos. Housing an iconic restaurant today where tour participants will have lunch, the palace showcases Moorish style architecture, an elaborate marble staircase and four distinct lookout towers at the rooftop.
Immersing in the authentic Cuba that extends from coast to coast outside secluded all inclusive beach resorts is the goal of our Cuba tours and this cultural journey is no exception. So UNESCO World Heritage Site Trinidad and the Valley of the Sugar Mills are authentic Cuban destinations we cannot miss. Founded by the Spaniards in the early 16th century, the city flourished in the 19th century. But at the turn of that same century, the economic development was halted all of a sudden. What happened back then?
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Day 1. Thursday 11 August 2022.
All connecting flights to Havana arrive at the Jose Marti
International airport in Havana City
. You will meet your Authentic Cuba Tours guide at the designated waiting lounge once you go through customary airport procedures.
will be provided during the short bus ride from the airport to the your hotel in Vedado
Get yourself familiar with the National
hotel’s amenities as you complete the check in process with the assistance of your tour guide and the hotel’s staff. Breakfast is served at La Veranda restaurant
every morning and it is complimentary.
After some refreshment, we will go out to start our evening exploration of the city. The first visit would be to the Beth Shalom synagogue
, better known as El Patronato de La Comunidad Hebrea to meet the Jewish congregation.
Day 2. Friday 12 August 2022.
Sephardic Hebrew Center
Morning: US Jewish travelers will join services this morning at the Centro Sefardita
. Next we will tour the temple and other facilities of this modern building by the hand of Mayra Levy, one of the Jewish community leaders who will tell us about the history of the Sephardic Jews in Cuba. Talking to members is also a great chance to learn firsthand about the daily life of the Jews in Cuba’s capital today.
Afterwards, and escorted by leaders of the Sephardic Centre we will visit the Chevet Achim Shul
in Old Havana which is the city oldest temple. Even though, this synagogue is not in use today due to the unstable structure of the building, it is a good opportunity to learn about the plans of the Sephardic Jews to turn it into a museum. This trip also serves as an introduction to the historical centre of the city.
Before embarking on a more in depth exploration of Old Havana this afternoon, we will enjoy a complimentary lunch at La Mina restaurant
which is popular because of its authentic Cuban dishes and a host band which plays traditional rhythms live.
Afternoon: the best way to explore the sights and sounds of the historical center is by foot. Our Authentic Cuba Tours guide will show us to four out of the five oldest colonial squares in Old Havana
We will start at the religious square of the city, the Cathedral Square
which takes its name from the Catedral de La Habana
completed in the late 18th century. Surrounded by majestic palaces such as the Palace of the Counts of Lombillo
, the Palace of the Marquises of Arcos
and the Palace of Marquises of Aguas Claras
this is the most secluded plaza in the city and the prettiest one.
Next we are off to visit the oldest colonial plaza in the city, the Square of Arms
which was a symbol of the Spanish power in the Caribbean island nation for more than 400 years. Used in the mornings for the military exercises of the garrison of the adjacent Fortress of the Royal Force
in the 16th and 17th centuries, the plaza was also the stage for official celebrations and political rallies in colonial times and even during the first years of the Republican times.
On a spot marked by a huge ceiba tree and a small neoclassical building known as El Templete
, the Villa of San Cristobal de La Habana
was founded in 1519, an event that was depicted by French painter Jean Baptiste Vermay in three large paintings contained inside the building since 1828. Next to El Templete we find the 18th century Palace of the Counts of Santovenia
that houses today the Santa Isabel hotel
The Palace of the Captains General
and the Palace of the Vice- Governor
have stood on the west side of the Square of Arms since the late 18th century. The imposing buildings were erected using local coral stones from the area and slave labor and were the seat of Spanish rulers until Cuba gained its independende at the beginning of the 20th century.
In our Cuba tours we also include a visit to the Square of San Francisco de Asis
which is named after the convent and church on the south side of the square which displays the highest bell tower in Old Havana
. This colonial square dates back to the times when Spanish galleons unloaded Spanish immigrants and African slaves in Havana’s harbor front.
All along colonial and Republican times the square had a busy commercial life, and even today La Lonja del Comercio
, the pretty domed building that takes the north side of the square provides office space for foreign companies and joint ventures operating in Cuba.
is the last colonial plaza we will visit today. Used for years as a market and a forum for the people of Havana to discuss their daily affairs, Plaza Vieja is today an important epicenter for the promotion of Cuban visual arts with institutions such as the Cuban Photo Gallery
, the Center for the Development of Visual Arts
and other art galleries occupying the one- time palaces of Havana’s aristocracy.
Tour participants of this Cuban Jews discovery tour will then enjoy free time at Old Havana’s famed handicraft market
, where locally made souvenirs and crafts are available for purchase.
We will then return to the hotel for some refreshments before tonight's evening venue.
Evening: learn such popular Cuban dances as Rumba
, and the authentic Cuban Son
with the help of bandleaders as we enjoy the sights and sounds of a local Cuban band playing just for Authentic Cuba Travel® guests!
Day 3. Saturday 13 August 2022.
Ernest Hemingway in Havana
Morning: this morning we go up front to meet with the president of the Adath Israel congregation in Old Havana. The Adath Israel synagogue
is the orthodox shul serving the city. It was built in 1959, the same year that the Cuban Revolution came to power. The founding members left to the United Sates within a few years. Today the synagogue showcases a fully restored 600-seat sanctuary in the second floor which is used mainly on holidays.
Next we are off to Guanabacoa
, a humble town at the other side of the bay of Havana to visit the cemeteries
of the Jewish community in Havana, one for the Sephardic Jews and one for the Ashkenazic Jews. Dating back the beginning of the 20th century, a Spanish gate with the star of David marks the entrance to the cementer that also contains a Holocaust Memorial.
The rest of the day will be devoted to follow in the footsteps of famous American novelist, Ernest Hemingway. Our Cuba travel takes us to Cojimar
first, a fishermen coastal town where the famed writer used to hang out in the afternoon after he finished his morning writing sessions at Finca La Vigia
. Here Hemingway docked El Pilar
, his provervial boat.
We will have lunch at Las Terrazas de Cojimar
restaurant. This is the same “The Terrace” that Hemingway depicts in his book The Old Man and the Sea
and where the author enjoyed spending time drinking with the local fishermen.
From Cojimar, we will go on to tour Finca La Vigia
, an estate house located atop a hill about twenty kilometeres east of Havana. This property is where Ernest Hemingway
lived from 1939 until 1960, more than 20 years. World known Hemingway's works such as Islands in the Stream
, The Old Man and the Sea
, and Across the River and Into the Trees
were written here.
Since 1961, a museum was established to preserve the thousands of books, art collection, guns, fishing tackle and other properties of Hemingway. Among the most precious belongings of the famed journalist, the museum also contains original manuscripts, over three thousand photos and letters and other documentation.
The museum draws millions of visitors and scholars every year looking to learn more about the life and work of Ernest Hemingway. And it is included in the National Trust for Historic Preservation
List of of Endangered Places as well as in the World Monuments Fund
Evening: before the night draws to a close, tour participants of this authentic Cuba tour will have the opportunity to attend the Fire of the Cannon of 9 O'Clock
, a tradition held at the Fortress of San Carlos de Cabana that dates back to colonial times and it is considered one of Havana’s oldest and most popular ceremonies.
Day 4. Sunday 14 August 2022.
Cultural Attractions in Havana
Morning: guided tour of one of the most iconic cigar factories in Cuba, the Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas
founded in 1845 by Don Jaime Partagas, the most influential businessman in the Cuban cigar industry of the 19th century who also named a cigar brand after himself the very same year.
He realized that quality tobacco leaves were the key to produce the finest cigars so he bought plantations in Vuelta Abajo, a region in the western province of Pinar del Rio that has traditionally been recognized as Cuba’s prime tobacco growing lands. He also came up with the best methods for tobacco leave fermentation, aging and curing. The way of decorating and packing the cigar boxes today are also partially its very own ideas that were soon imitated all through the industry.
Lunch is not complimentary today which presents as an excellent opportunity to try a Cuban Paladar
(family- owned private restaurant) (optional/ not included in costs). Your Authentic Cuba Tours guide will help you booking. No worries.
Afternoon: regardless the reason you decided to travel to Cuba, a visit to the Palace of Fine Arts
(Cuban Collection Building) is always an authentic Cuban attraction not to be missed. This world class museum showcases the largest collection of Cuban art in the planet. Period. It is impeccably curated into 8 thematic rooms dedicated to distinct historical periods from colonial arts to the conceptual art of the last decades.
Evening: there are countless evening entertainment venues around the National hotel every night. We recommend the Cuba explorer to walk a couple of blocks to the Jazz club, La Zorra y El Cuervo
, Havana’s top Jazz venue to enjoy Latin jazz, Cuba jazz, and other rhythms by Cuba’s leading Jazz Musicians
(optional/ not included).
Day 5. Monday 15 August 2022.
Cuba Explorer Hats On! Travel to Central Cuba
Morning: today marks the beginning of our exploration of Cuba’s countryside so put your Cuba explorer caps on!
Along the journey, we will discover the authentic Cuba that exists in historical cities like Santa Clara
our first destination which is renowned for being the last battleground in the war against the army of dictator, Fulgencio Batista.
Tired of the attacks of Caribbean pirates and buccaneers, the inhabitants of Remedios, a coastal town in the northern shoreline of central Cuba, founded Santa Clara inland in 1689.
The city is also a popular destination for those seeking to understand better the life of Argentinean guerilla fighter Ernesto “Che” Guevara
whose remains rest in a Mausoleum
at the Square of the Revolution
which will be our first visit upon arrival at the city. The crypt-like resting place also contains the remains of sixteen of Che Guevara’s companion guerilla fighters who were killed in Bolivia in 1967. Adjacent we find a Museum
showcasing photos, belongings, documentation and artifacts related to the guerilla fighter.
From the museum, we will go for some complementary lunch and refreshments to the Los Caneyes Hotel
Afternoon: we will meet with one of the most thriving Jewish communities outside Havana, the Tikum Olam
congregation in Santa Clara. Escorted by David Tacher
, its leader and other members we will pay a visit to the Jewish cemetery
and the refurbished synagogue
to learn more about the Cuban Jews of central Cuba.
In the late afternoon, we will say farewell to our new Cuban friends in Santa Clara
and hit the road again. This time we will go south to the Caribbean city of Cienfuegos
, The Pearl of the South
where we will spend the next two nights.
With the assistance of our Authentic Cuba Travel® tour guide, we will complete the check in at the Jagua hotel
smoothly over a welcome cocktail. Please do notice the excellent location of the hotel surrounded by the waters of the Cienfuegos’ Bay
in Punta Gorda, the former upper class neighborhood of Cienfuegos’ wealthiest families before the Revolution.
We will enjoy a complimentary dinner at the hotel. The Jagua hotel
also provides various evening entertainment venues
for its guests, a cabaret show and a disco that we can explore if we feel like dancing or listening to good music tonight.
Day 6. Tuesday 16 August 2022.
Connecting with the Jews of Cienfuegos
Morning: unfortunately Cienfuegos lacks a synagogue or temple for the local Jewish congregation to gather around holidays and to attend Shabbat services, so the apartment of Rebecca Langus
is considered by all as the epicenter of Jewish life in the city. And that includes our tour participants who will be welcomed by Rebecca, her family and other Jews of Cienfuegos this morning for a chat about the origins and challenges of the congregation today.
Lunch will be served at Palacio del Valle
, an upscale restaurant that was once the residence of the wealthy Del Valle family. Built with the most expensive foreign materials at the time, like European marble and alabaster, the palace showcases Moorish-style architecture with elements of the Gothic style like the entryway guarded by iconic lions.
Afternoon: our North American Jewish travelers will embark next in a guided tour of the historical center of Cienfuegos. The old town has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
because of the large number of well preserved neoclassical buildings contained within this area. Our Authentic Cuba tour guide will start the afternoon exploration at park Jose Marti
, the original site of foundation of the city in 1819.
Inaugurated in 1895 with a performance of Verdi’s Aida, the theatre Tomas Terry
stands on the north side of the park. This remarkable 950 seat auditorium still showcases most original elements such as the hardwoods carved seats, the detailed ironwork of the balconies and the wall murals and ceiling fresco.
The east side of the square is occupied by the neoclassical Catedral de la Purisima Concepcion
which also showcases several original pieces such as the made-in-France clock tower machinery and the stained glass windows.
The provincial Art Gallery La Maroya
on the south side of Parque Marti
has one of the best collections of local arts and crafts for sale in the city. Therefore, all our Cuba tours provide some free time for personal explorations and free souvenir shopping.
Evening: your Authentic Cuba Tours guide will keep you posted on entertainment venues in the city tonight. Usually Casa de La Musica
, within a walking distance from the Jagua hotel, features the most popular Cuban bands and it is a great place to meet locals and dance all night long (optional/ not included in costs).
Day 7. Wednesday 17 August 2022.
Day trip to Trinidad
Morning: today we will embark on the exploration of one of Cuba’s most authentic colonial cities. In fact, no other city is Cuba is charge with such a colonial atmosphere as beautiful Trinidad
The best way to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site
is by foot. Trinidad is a faultless remnant of the early colonial days with beautifully conserved cobblestone streets and mansions with barely a trace modern times.
We will visit the Architecture Museum of Trinidad
which houses an incredible array of samples representative of the Trinitarian architectural development in the 1700’s and 1800’s. The mansion was the former residence of one of Trinidad’s wealthiest families, the Sanchez Iznaga who owned extensive sugar cane plantations in the Sugar Mill Valley.
Another mansion surrounding the Plaza Mayor
(town’s central square) is the one of the Counts of Brunet housing today the arguably most visited of museums in Trinidad. The Romantic Museum
showcases the typical domestic daily life and decorative objects (porcelain, glass, paintings and furniture) of Trinidad’s aristocracy.
Displaying a collection of trucks, weapons, items related to the Cuban Revolution struggle to get rid of counter-revolutionary military gangs operating in the Escambray Mountains in the early 1960’s, we will visit the Museo de La Lucha contra Bandidos
that occupies the area of the former Convento de San Francisco
Trinidad is famous for its many pottery makers, and before departing, we will take the time to meet The Santanders
; a family that’s been passing down the authentic Cuba’s tradition of making pottery for generations.
We will make a stop at a lookout point over the UNESCO World Heritage Site
, the Sugar Mill Valley
for a panoramic view of the breathtaking natural beauty of the fertile plains where Trinidad’s sugar cane plantation owners established their estates and mills.
Before heading back to our hotel in Cienfuegos
, we will enjoy some free time in the historical center for some last minute shopping in the array of street markets
that of the city.
Day 8. Thursday 18 August 2022.
The Jewish Heritage Cuba Tour Comes to an End
We will depart early in the morning to Havana City International Airport so that our tour participants may catch their flights back home.