Havana and the Ballet Festival
The remarkable rise of ballet in post-revolution Cuba owes much to the dedication of its prima ballerina assoluta, Alicia Alonso.
Forced to lie motionless for a year after an operation, Alicia taught herself the role of Giselle and became a principal dancer in New York, despite being partially sighted.
Founding her own company and academy in her native Havana, Alicia helped Castro set up a state ballet – the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, whose students rocketed to international fame.
This tour is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go backstage at the Grand Theatre, home of the Cuban National Ballet. Watch world-class classical ballet, and pick up points on technique at the Cuban National Ballet School.
Wander round UNESCO World Heritage Sites bathed in balmy temperatures that only hint at Cubans’ fiery souls. Sway to a heady mix of rhumba, jazz and salsa. Drink your fill of the lush, tobacco-farming Viñales Valley and view fine art, exhibitions and workshops. Meet the craftspeople who repair violins, to help meet Cuba’s shortage of musical instruments.
- Cultural Excursion
- Special Access
- All Inclusive
We touch down in the city of Havana, Cuba’s charismatic capital, and transfer to our centrally-based hotel. After settling in we enjoy a special talk on Cuban music and the Ballet Festival from our Guide Lecturer, before getting to know the rest of our group with a welcoming dinner and drinks.
Our second day begins with a walking tour around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Havana, a section of the city founded by Spanish settlers in the early 16th century. As we wander along its winding streets we find a charming collection of colonial plazas, monumental castles, and the stunning Baroque cathedral, as well as our first glimpse of the acclaimed Grand Theatre.
After pausing for lunch at a local restaurant, we return to the theatre for a chance to go backstage, where we meet one of the world-class artistes of the Cuban National Ballet. Tonight we are treated to the first of our performances here – an early opportunity to watch some of the country's best ballet dancers in action.
Following a delicious breakfast, we dedicate our morning to exploring the Museum of Fine Arts, a prestigious collection of Cuban work dating from the colonial period to the present day.
A relaxed afternoon gives us plenty of time to discover the city at our own pace – its colourful districts, rum-soaked bars, and popular beaches – before reuniting for dinner as a group. This evening we pay a visit to the Fábrica de Arte Cubano, a social and modern art project housed in a former cooking oil factory, where artists and musicians come together to develop their ideas.
This morning we celebrate Cuba’s vibrant arts and crafts scene on a trip to the Muraleando. A community inititative has been filling the streets here with weird and wonderful sculptures, murals and mosaics since 2003. As part of our tour we pay a visit to the thriving neighbourhood hub of the Muraleando's cultural centre, or Casa Cultural.
There is more free time for us to explore the city this afternoon. In the evening we enjoy the second of our stellar ballet performances back at the illustrious Grand Theatre.
On the fifth morning of our trip we rise early, leaving Havana to spend the day in the lush, jungle region of Viñales Valley, a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site of tobacco plantations, limestone mountains, and mysterious caves – one of which is still decorated with the gaudy mural that was painted on it in 1961 under the orders of Castro himself. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience Cuba away from its bustling capital, and a chance to enjoy some truly outstanding scenery. We return to Havana in the late afternoon for dinner in the city.
Our final full day begins with a tour of a state-run musical instrument workshop, where careful repairs of old high-quality violins help meet Cuba’s current shortage of well-made musical imports.
After pausing for lunch in the city, students of ballet will be delighted with the next stop on our tour: an exclusive trip to the Cuban National Ballet School, where we are gifted with a thrilling insight into the practices of the biggest ballet school in the world.
This evening we relax into our third and final ballet at the Grand Theatre, as well as a fabulous last night's supper with the group.
A full free day to explore the area however you wish. Take a trip to the beach to dip your toes in the ocean, revisit one of your favourite locations of the tour or find a relaxing spot to sit back and soak up the sun.
Our final few hours in the city are ours to spend as we wish. Explore some of Havana's buzzing cafés and market stalls, or perhaps take a stroll around the dazzling public murals that surround the house of the artist José Fuster.
Following lunch we transfer to the airport, and board our overnight flight home.
We arrive in London, where the group disperses.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
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