JOIN NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHER, AUTHOR AND CUBA EXPERT CHRISTOPHER P. BAKER ON THIS EXCITING 10-DAY PHOTO TOUR OF EASTERN CUBA, INCLUDING SANTIAGO DE CUBA, GUANTÁNAMO, & BARACOA
If you have already visited the holy trinity of Havana, Trinidad and Viñales and know what a fabulous photographic destination Cuba is, then this adventure to Eastern Cuba will prove enticingly and incredibly different. Physically stunning and heavily infused with Afro-Cuban and even Taíno traditions, ‘Oriente’ is one of the most fascinating parts of Cuba. Closer to Haiti and Jamaica than Havana, it looks east and is steeped in French, Haitian, and Jamaican influences. The music and dance culture is distinct. The mountainous landscapes are staggeringly beautiful. And the region is steeped in revolutionary history and fervor.
Christopher--the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 'Travel Journalist of the Year' and the author/photographer of seven travel guidebooks to Cuba--has visited the region multiple times since his first extensive visit in 1996, and knows it intimately. He’s put together a fantastic itinerary packed full of intriguing photo ops… from a shoot with quinceañeras celebrating their 15th birthdays to private visits to tiny mountain farms and communities where the indigenous Taíno bloodline and culture are visibly still alive.
Plus, there has never been a better nor more urgent time to visit Cuba. Tourism from the USA is at a decade-old low, making your visit all the more peaceful and personal. And the Cubans themselves are in need of our financial support as we invest in their private B&Bs, restaurants, and other touristic services under the U.S. Treasury Department's "Support for the Cuban People" license for legal travel.
ITINERARY (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)
Day 1: Monday
We’ll meet this afternoon in vibrant, bustling Santiago de Cuba (you can arrive any time in advance, today or a prior day, via direct flights from the USA or Canada). We will enjoy a light rooftop dinner together overlooking the main square, and overnight with Cuban families in pleasant, neighboring casas particulares (private B&Bs) in the city’s colonial heart.
Overnight: Santiago de Cuba
Day 2: Tuesday
This morning we’ll explore the various historic downtown neighborhoods, including the colorful produce market. Later, we’ll walk the historic Reparto Los Hoyos quarter to Estudio-Taller Arte Naif Bayate to photograph artists at work at this private cooperative; and Calle de la Santería–full of objects relating to Cuba’s fascinating santería religion. Plus, we’ll experience a private performance & photo session with Tumba Francesa, where Haitian music/dance perform in traditional costume. In late afternoon we’ll head to El Morro headland castle for some great photos and a cannon-firing ceremony.
Overnight: Santiago de Cuba
Day 3: Wednesday
An early morning transfer by boat to Cayo Granma. We’ll shoot all morning in this island fishers’ community, with no end of fantastic photo ops. We’ll enjoy an early lunch on Cayo Granma then return to Santiago to relax. Later in the afternoon, we make a tour of the main historic sites, including San Juan Hill, where a composer/historian plays guitar as he regales stories of the Spanish-American War and the ‘Rough Riders’ who famously fought here. Then on to Cuartel Moncada, where Fidel launched the Revolution with a suicidal attack on the military barracks, July 26, 1953. We end at Cementerio Santa Ifigenia, where National Hero Jose Martí and Fidel Castro are buried side to side. While here we’ll photograph the military honor guard parade before walking walk back to hotel, photographing the historic core at dusk.
Overnight: Santiago de Cuba
Day 4: Thursday
In the morning, our group will travel via Guantánamo to Baracoa. We’ll head into the mountains to meet with Angelito Iñigo at Zoologico Piedra, a private “stone zoo” offering superb photography of the life-size animals carved into limestone in the mountainside. We’ll then ascend via a spectacularly scenic mountain switchback to arrive in Baracoa–Cuba’s oldest city, founded in 1511 on the Atlantic shore in a bay surrounded by rainforest-clad mountains. Baracoa is unique, with a distinct and fascinating frontier culture, transporting us back in time. We’ll overnight in a selection of Baracoa’s finest private B&Bs, all close to one another.
Day 5: Friday
This morning we’ll visit Boca de Miel river mouth to photograph the fishermen casting fishnets. We’ll also delight in shooting the town’s time-worn architecture and meeting the local people. Lunch will be at leisure, followed by a photo shoot of a quinceanera (fifteenth birthday) with a local photographer. This will include prepping the girl indoors under tungsten light; then we’ll walk the streets in late afternoon sunlight to photograph her against the most spectacular backdrops.
Day 6: Saturday
This morning will be at leisure, then we’ll drive to the rural hamlet of El Güirito for a cultural display by Proyecto Kiriba y Nengón who will dance in traditional costume; this is a rare opportunity to photograph a community with a strong Taíno indigenous bloodline and traditions. A delicious lunch of Taíno delicacies unique to the region will be followed by a visit to Finca Demonstrativa Las Mujeres for a demo of chocolate making and local cooking at this private hillside cacao farm. An afternoon row-boat ride in the Yumurí gorge precedes dinner together and overnight in Baracoa.
Day 7: Sunday
We’ll return to Guantánamo via Punta Maisí (Cuba’s easternmost tip), the mountainous coffee country, and Reserva Ecológica Maisí-Caleta, offering spectacular coastal landscapes. Arriving Guantánamo, we can look forward to meeting and photographing English-speaking Cubans of Jamaican and Barbadian descent at the West Indies Welfare Center; and, across the street, a traditional music and dance troupe at Casa Changüí. After dinner, we’ll thrill to a sensational Cuban cabaret at the Tropicana open-air nightclub (perhaps with behind the scenes pre-show visit).
Overnight: Santiago de Cuba.
Day 8: Monday
This morning we’ll explore the Reparto Vista Alegre district, once the chicest address in town. Walking along tree-lined Avenida Manduley (lined with the once-sumptuous villas of Santiago’s long-departed upper class), our stops will include the Casa de la Cerámica to photograph potters at work; and Galería Ríne Váldez Cedeño, a stunning contemporary art venue. We’ll lunch here, after which the afternoon is free for you to explore at leisure. This evening, we’ll enjoy a slide of everyone’s favorite images before our farewell dinner.
Overnight: Santiago de Cuba
Day 9: Tuesday
The morning is at leisure before departure for Canada and onward flight to the USA.
Date TBD in early 2024
Trip Cost TBD
Limited to 7 participants
All participants are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid.
- Photograph a private dance session with Tumba Francesa
- Witness the military honor guard at Cementerio Santa Ifigenia, where Fidel Castro and 'National Hero' José Martí are buried side by side
- Shoot a quinceañera in her classical gown
- Photograph a community with a strong Taíno indigenous bloodline and traditions
- Attend the cañonazo cannon-firing ceremony at Morro castle at sunset
CHRISTOPHER P. BAKER
No-one knows Cuba as well as renowned travel journalist, National Geographic photographer, and Cuba expert Christopher P. Baker–the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year.’ Chris has authored and illustrated seven travel books on Cuba (including the National Geographic Traveler Cuba and Moon Cuba guidebooks, plus an award-winning coffee-table book Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles). During three decades of travel to Cuba he has written about and photographed Cuba on behalf of entities from the BBC and CNN to National Geographic, New York Magazine, and Playboy. He has led more than 100 group tours to Cuba, including many photo tours for Jim Cline Photo Tours, National Geographic Expeditions, and Santa Fe Photo Workshops.
Thanks for the master class in photography. I learned so very much from you, particularly about context, ambiance and milieu to create a riveting picture.
SARAH S., JIM CINE PHOTO TOURS, CUBA 2020
Chris, you are a one of a kind. Really enjoyed you as a photographer, a guide, and of course as a fabulous story teller. You have so much Cuba knowledge and I loved your positive energy“
ASA M., JIM CLINE PHOTO TOURS, CUBA 2020
Molly Danner [Program Director & Director, Photography Trip Talent, National Geographic] came back with a rave review of your performance on our Eastern Cuba trip, along with the recommendation that I consider featuring you as NG photographer on future private jet trips—which I most definitely will do!
FORD COCHRAN, DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMING, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPEDITIONS
Despite President Biden's reversal on May 16, 2022, of several Trump restrictions on travel to Cuba imposed in September, 2020, many of the latter are still in effect.
However, the good news is that every U.S. citizen is legally travel to Cuba, pre-approved and at any time, under the §515.574 Support for the Cuban People (SFCP) license. This is authorized by "general license," which means you do not need to request permission from the U.S. government or obtain any physical document at any time. A general license is based on the honor system in which you (a) buy services from Cuban entrepreneurs, such as home rentals, meals at private restaurants (paladares), transportation services (taxis), etc.; and (b) participate in "enriching cultural activities with Cubans" of your choosing from 9am – 5pm daily.
This program is designed in accordance with U.S. regulations intended to maximize “support for the Cuban people” through stays at private B&Bs, meals at private restaurants, and interactions with independent artists, private tobacco farmers, owners of classic convertible taxis, etc.