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The group flight arrives in the afternoon and we transfer to our hotel. Land only clients will meet the group at the start hotel in Havana.
Tour of Havana; to Matanzas.
In the morning we will have our trip briefing, followed by bike fitting before we set off on a warm up ride round Havana. Traffic is remarkably light for a capital city. We cycle through the Miramar and Vedado districts of Havana to reach the dominating Plaza de la Revolucion, whilst Buicks and Pontiacs cruise past with gleaming chrome. We continue towards Old Havana and stop at El Capitolio, the famous National Capitol Building, which is superficially similar to the White House in Washington D.C. We finish our sightseeing with a walking tour in the heart of Old Havana and a stop for lunch in a local restaurant. In the afternoon we transfer to Matanzas for dinner and stay overnight.
Ride/transfer to Playa Larga at Bay of Pigs.
We leave the hotel by bike and ride through Matanzas province, the landscape is full of sugar cane and citrus plantations and the life, though hard, is quiet in the villages. This pretty ride takes us through rural communities to Pedro Betancourt where we load the bikes on the bus and drive to lunch. Once we pass the Australia Sugar Factory (where Fidel Castro set up his headquarters for the Bay of Pigs crisis) we enter the Cienaga de Zapata. The road is flat and is skirted by a swamp, once full of crocodiles. We pass Guama Crocodile farm and stop for a visit. After lunch we continue on to the Bay of Pigs where we stay overnight. This was the site of the failed invasion by CIA-backed Cuban Americans. Many of the beaches here are ideal for snorkelling and swimming.
Countryside cycling; to Cienfuegos.
Continuing south to cross the island, our route today covers a variety of landscapes. We ride through the biggest swamps in Cuba (Zapata Peninsula), and then cut through agricultural routes to reach the main road towards Cienfuegos. This is a day for discovering the rural heart of Cuba as we pass through small communities dedicated to agriculture and charcoal production. A stop at Playa Giron gives us the chance to learn about CIA backed invasion of Cuba in the early 60's. From here we have a short ride to lunch in Caleta Buena, a natural sea pool teeming with tropical fish. This ride includes a section of off-road cycling on a track through the forest. There should be the opportunity to have a dip upon arrival. Afterwards we continue by bus to Cienfuegos.
Coastal ride; to Trinidad.
Today's ride takes us further along the coastline to Trinidad. Trinidad is beautiful; a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988 and perhaps the best-preserved colonial town on the island. Exploring Trinidad can feel like entering a time warp, its colourful, cobbled streets and horse drawn transportation whisking us back to Colonial Times. There are many interesting museums housed in old colonial buildings and music drifts through the streets and plazas.
Today is free to soak up the atmosphere of Trinidad or join an optional excursion to explore the surrounding areas. We offer the option to join a Catamaran trip, embarking from the beach of Playa Ancon and sailing the Caribbean to the small island of Cayo Macho (or Cayo Blanco depending on availability) to lunch on fresh seafood amongst tame iguanas and tree rats. Alternatively you can walk the 'El Cubano' trail in the nearby national park. This evening we recommend a visit to Trinidad's Casa de la Trova (the 'House of Music') for traditional Cuban music and dancing.
Ride to Sancti Spiritus; to Camaguey.
We ride inland towards the city of Sancti Spiritus. The road rises and falls through the beautiful scenery of the Alturas de Banao, where coffee plantations and farms adorn the landscape, passing the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills) which was once Cuba's most important sugar producing area. At the village of Manaca Iznaga we can stop to visit the farmhouse and the famous 'run away slaves' tower; for a small entrance fee you can climb the 136 steps and enjoy the view. Upon arrival in Sancti Spiritus, we enjoy some free time in the town's colonial centre and then transfer to Camaguey.
Transfer/ride to Bayamo.
Our day starts with a transfer to Las Tunas, where we saddle up to ride across this lively city. We continue to Bayamo, located in the province of Granma, one of the island's most important regions from a revolutionary perspective and consisting mainly of the floodplain of the river Cauto (Cuba's longest). The area contains many sugar cane and rice plantations, and lies below the Sierra Maestra Mountains. The charming city of Bayamo is the capital of the province, and has a pleasant, relaxed ambience full of poignant monuments and revolutionary atmosphere.
Ride into the Sierra Maestra Mountains.
A challenging ride from Bayamo into the Sierra Maestra. As we head deep into the mountains, today's route is dominated by Pico Bayamesa (at 1,730m above sea level it is Cuba's third tallest peak). This is an area of stunning natural beauty and is rarely visited by tourists. After passing through numerous villages we reach our hotel where we can relax after probably our hardest day's ride.
To Santiago de Cuba.
This morning we take a short break from the saddle to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Sierra Maestra. Starting early, we take a gentle stroll into the mountains with a local, passing through tropical forest and coffee plantations before stopping for coffee and fruit in a local farmer's home and returning to the hotel for lunch. We take a transfer from Salton to just beyond Palma Soriano, then it's back on the bikes to ride to El Cobre. After visiting Cuba's most important Holy Shrine, we transfer to Santiago de Cuba. The city is rich in traditions, folklore and legends, making almost every street corner famous. But it is at night that Santiago really comes alive with legendary Cuban music and dancing.
City tour; transfer to Gibara.
Santiago de Cuba is known as the city of heroes, for the important role it played in Independence and Revolutionary struggles. The morning is spent sightseeing, including the Moncada Barracks - where the opening shots of the Revolution were fired on 26 July 1953 when Castro and his men attacked the barracks. There is a rich tradition of dance, music and festivals, largely based on the Afro-Cuban population. Afternoon transfer to Gibara.
Coastal cycle ride; to Camaguey.
Today we cycle directly from our hotel this morning and head for Aguas Claras, where we turn right and head North towards Puerto Padre, riding along quieter roads we make our way to the small town of Maniabon via the north coast. We finish in a tiny rural community called Chaparra where we stop for a picnic lunch. From here we transfer to Camaguey, the capital of the province.
Transfer to Majagua; ride to Mayajigua.
We transfer after breakfast to the town of Majagua and enjoy a final cycle ride to the rural setting of Mayajigua, our base for tonight. The route today will be challenging as we make our way over the northern range of hills, but the support vehicle is on hand just in case!
To Havana via historic Remedios and Santa Clara.
Today is a long day so we leave Mayajigua early in the morning and return by road to Havana via Remedios, one of the earliest Spanish settlements in Cuba, and then Santa Clara to visit the Che Mausoleum and armoured train exhibition. The evening is free to soak up the vibrant atmosphere of charming Havana.
Sightseeing in Havana; afternoon End.
Today there is a city tour of old Havana, described as a living museum, with its marvellous monuments, cathedrals and palaces. We will lunch at the famous Hemingway haunt La Bodeguita del Medio, and have the chance to try his favourite Mojito cocktail (made with rum, lime, mint and sugar). After lunch we transfer to the airport for those on the group flight to London. Passengers travelling independently will leave the group in Havana.