“Chris was the perfect trip leader. His knowledge of the country and its history is vast and he enthusiastically wanted to share it with us along with his years of experience as a photographer… He’s talented, interesting, accessible, and fun to travel with. Plus, he really did seem to care about each of us — if we were okay, getting good images, too tired, too hot, etc. I would certainly travel with him again. He certainly kept up the high standards of a Jim Cline Photo Trip.” – Judy B., Colombia 2018

EXPERIENCE CUBA LIKE A LOCAL WITH NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHER AND CUBA EXPERT  CHRISTOPHER P. BAKER

Experience Cuba like a local… Enjoy fabulous intensive interactions with Cubans… Explore the hidden side of the island… And shoot it like a pro!

Havana’s frozen-in-time stage-set backdrop lends a twilight zone ambiance that Hollywood couldn’t dream up if it tried. It guarantees superb photography. But Cuba’s real magic isn’t its crumbling architecture, one-of-a-kind revolutionary icons, or spruced-up vintage cars. It’s the seemingly mundane, quintessential experience a lo cubano that provide for the most authentic grass-roots photography and which you’ll forever cherish as favorite take-aways.

No-one knows Cuba as well as renowned travel journalist, National Geographic photographer, and Cuba expert Christopher P. Baker. Chris has authored and illustrated six travel books on Cuba, and has written about and photographed Cuba on behalf of entities from the BBC and CNN to National Geographic, New York Magazine, and Playboy during three decades of travel to Cuba.

Join Christopher on this memorable one-of-a-kind photo tour, inspired by research for his magazine assignments and guidebooks. Of course, we’ll get to see many of the finest iconic sights that Cuba has to offer. But Chris shuns the usual tourist locations to explore off-the-beaten-path Cuba and interact with Cubans from all walks of life, while taking advantage of the best light, and with a flexibility that allows us to make the most of opportunities as they arise.

TOUR DATES: March 8-17, 2020
PRICE: TBA
ITINERARY (SUBJECT TO CHANGE):

Day 1: Sunday
Arrive Havana on individual flights. In the evening meet Christopher for a welcome get-together, briefing, and slide-show. Then we’ll ride along the Malecón in sexed-up Eisenhower-era convertibles for a welcome dinner at La Guarida—Cuba’s most famous (and photogenic) restaurant and the set for the Oscar-nominated movie “Strawberry & Chocolate.”
Overnight: Upscale casas particulares (private B&Bs), Havana

Day 2: Monday
Explore Habana Vieja, focusing on the earthy back streets of the colonial quarter. We’ll visit speakeasy nail salons and homes in tumbledown buildings; photograph shoe-repairers at “cobblers’ corner”; witness Cuba’s future boxing greats training in equally tumbledown Gimnasio Trejo; mingle with cuentapropistas (self-employed); and hop on bicitaxis (like the locals).
Overnight: Upscale casas particulares (private B&Bs), Havana

Day 3: Tuesday
Explore the back streets of Centro Habana, including Calle Neptuno—a main route for beaten-up colectivo taxis: we’ll hop inside a lo cubano. It’s hella fun as we bounce down the potholed streets in colectivos (or máquinas) packed to the gills. You’re guaranteed to get some great photos!  We’ll also visit an agropecuario (farmer’s market) to mingle with Cubans buying fruits, veggies, and flowers… Join Cubans playing dominoes at makeshift tables set out in the street… Plus explore an area renowned as a center for santería worship, with visits to hidden shrines, in the company of a versed and eloquent santería practitioner who opens closed doors.
Overnight: Upscale casas particulares (private B&Bs), Havana

Day 4: Wednesday
Explore Vedado, starting with a visit to Chris’ friend Luis Enrique González’s home to witness and photograph how he maintains his beat-up 1948 Buick and fleet of pre-revolutionary motorcycles. We’ll then walk a few blocks to visit a “lost in time” 1913 mansion gone to ruin and whose occupant lives surrounded by all-things pre-revolutionary: everything in the house dates from the 1950s (or older). Here we’ll shoot a professional model for stunning travel portraiture in an astounding setting. Following lunch, we’ll head to Havana’s iconic Coppelia ice cream store (see Chris’s article on Coppelia for BBC Travel). Cuba’s rich diversity can be seen standing in line at Coppelia on a sunny afternoon. Queuing with Cubans for ice cream (the lines are abuzz with flirting and chatter), and sitting with them at communal tables, is what makes a visit here so rewarding. No other experience speaks so sweetly to Cuba’s revolutionary idealism. For sunset and the blue hour, we’ll enjoy walking the Malecón. This seafront boulevard offers a microcosm of Cuban life: the elderly walking their dogs; fishers casting their lines, or casting off in great inner-tubes; musicians practicing their instruments; and, since this is Cuba, no end of lovers canoodling.
Overnight: Upscale casas particulares (private B&Bs), Havana

Day 5: Thursday
This morning we take the funky ferry from Habana Vieja to Casablanca to ride the electric-powered “Hershey Train” to Matanzas. The 4-hour sugar of a journey—a combination of the picturesque and the prosaic—is a true slice of Cuban life experience, as the train is used by everyone from schoolchildren to campesinos (peasant farmers). We’ll then return to Havana, where the afternoon is at leisure to pursue individual photography.
Overnight: Upscale casas particulares (private B&Bs), Havana

Day 6: Friday
This morning journey to Cienfuegos, where we’ll meet Chris’s close pal, Alex Quintero. A former pitcher for the Cienfuegos Elephants and Cuba national baseball team, Alex today coaches a kid’s team. We’ll join him at the stadium… hopefully to witness and photograph a game live to the accompaniment of bongo drums, trumpets, and horns. It’s the most fun you can have in Cuba for 5 pesos! We’ll continue to the colonial-era city of Trinidad, stopping en route in a former sugarcane community to witness and photograph village life, including inside a ration store adorned with astonishing revolutionary murals. After time to freshen up and relax in our B&Bs, we’ll join Chris for a sunset and blue-hour walking tour of this fantastic colonial city.
Overnight: Hotel E L Calesa, Trinidad

Day 7: Saturday
We’ll rise early for a golden hour walk, letting serendipity guide us through the streets of Trinidad, immersing ourselves in the local life as we shun the touristy quarter in favor or lesser visited quarters. Chris will introduce us to an artist friend whose ingenious one-of-a-kind woodcrafts are to be seen to be believed—a sublime photogenic experience. Cubans love to head to the beach on weekends. We’ll join the Muñoz family and other Cuban families for lunch and the afternoon at La Boca, where we’ll feast beside the sands. Or maybe we’ll all head out to a farm ranch for lunch and an afternoon with the cowboys.
Overnight: Hotel E La Calesa, Trinidad

Day 8: Sunday
This morning journey over the Sierra Escambray mountains to Santa Clara. En route, we’ll join Cuban families bathing at El Nicho waterfalls—a stunning cascade at the foot of the mountains. Continuing via tobacco country, we’ll stop at a farm to photograph the quintessential Cuban rural lifestyle, then relax for a few hours before a sunset walk through Santa Clara. This evening we’ll head to El Mejunje, an open-air and always-lively nightclub where we can expect anything from transvestites to old crooners belting out boleros.
Overnight: Hotel E Central, Santa Clara

Day 9: Monday
Chris’ self-illustrated feature article for Thomas Cook Holiday magazine (Autumn 2018) on the nail salons of Santa Clara inspires our sunrise and sunset walking tours of this marvelous provincial city. Santa Clara is famously associated with Che Guevara, and there are plenty of fascinating sites to explore in your free time, including the monument, memorial, and mausoleum of Che on Plaza de la Revolución.
Overnight: Hotel E Central, Santa Clara

Day 10: Tuesday
Depart Santa Clara for Miami and home.