Cuban cycling adventure

Cycling in the Caribbean

The beautiful Caribbean island of Cuba is fast becoming one of the most popular adventure travel destinations after reopening its door to foreign visitors. What awaits you is an island with vibrant colourful resorts and people with a genuine warmth and hospitality. Music is in the Cuban blood and when you visit the island the rhythms of songs and salsa fill the air.

Cycling in Cuba

It’s easy to see why so many people visit Cuba … the music, beaches, 1960's Cadillacs, amazing buildings and the history of the revolution all add up to the perfect cultural destination with warm hospitality and a lively atmosphere. And the team at realbuzz.com think one of the best ways to enjoy Cuba is on a bike, so we have put together a sample 15-day cycling trip itinerary. Read on for a relaxed ride through the beautiful Caribbean island of Cuba experiencing its vibrant culture and fascinating history along the way.

The cycling adventure takes you to all top places to see in a relaxed two-week trip. You’ll pass through some stunning countryside dotted with plantations, tobacco farms, fields and jungle, where the traditional Cuban way of life still continues today.

Day-to-day itinerary

Day 1 – Flight to Havana

Spend a day relaxing after your flight before your cycling adventure begins and explore the vibrant Cuban capital of Havana. There is no city in the world like Havana … check out the Spanish colonial architecture of the Old Town as well as the masterful street musicians and vibrant energy of the city. There are fascinating museums as well as the chance to soak up the sun on the Playas del Este beaches.

Day 2 – Havana to Yumuri Valley

Today your adventure really begins as you jump into transport that takes you from Havana deep into the Yumuri Valley on Cuba’s north coast. After disembarking from your vehicles you spend the rest of the day exploring the valley before arriving at a small village for your first night's accommodation.

Day 3 – Yumuri Valley to the Bay of Pigs

After breakfast you set off for a scenic ride through plantations and farmland, then riding alongside some stunning Caribbean beaches before reaching the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast. The Bay of Pigs is the site of a failed attempt by the US to invade the island and overthrow the communist Castro government.

Day 4 – Bay of Pigs to Cienfuegos

After breakfast you leave the Bay of Pigs to cycle along quiet tracks passing through small Cuban villages and a chance to see Cuban rural life along the way. The days cycling finishes at the southern city of Cienfuegos where you can spend the evening enjoying some Cuban cuisine as well as the music and vibrant nightlife.

Day 5 – Cienfuegos to colonial Trinidad

From Cienfuegos you continue your ride east to reach the World Heritage Site of colonial Trinidad. Trinidad has a fascinating history and you can explore the amazing architecture of the town as you make your way through the maze of narrow cobblestone streets. With mountains to the east and the Caribbean coastline to the west, this is a really picturesque town. Head down to the pure white sandy beaches with clear turquoise waters for a well deserved rest break from your cycling.

Day 6 – Trinidad to Cayo Maco de Afuera

Today is an amazing day as you jump on board a catamaran for a boat trip out to the beautiful resort of Cayo Maco de Afuera where you can enjoy some of the best snorkeling in the world. After the day’s activities you jump back on board the catamaran for an overnight cruise back to Trinidad.

Day 7 – Trinidad to Camaguey

From Trinidad the cycling continues north to Sancti Spiritus. Enjoy some excellent Cuban cuisine as you soak up the beautiful Caribbean coastal views. Cuban cuisine has evolved from a history of combining Spanish and Caribbean dishes to give some mouth watering results. After lunch you are then transferred by vehicle to Camaguey.

Day 8 – Camaguey to Bayamo

From your accommodation in Camaguey your ride continues towards Bayamo. Vehicles are waiting to pick you up for the final leg into the town.

Day 9 – Bayamo to the Sierra Maestra Mountains

Today you take an exciting ride up into the jungle covered Sierra Maestra mountains. This is a thrilling day as you explore these remote and unpopulated mountains which harbor a spectacular diversity of colourful plant and animal life and many insect species native only to Cuba. After a thrilling day you return to Bayamo for some food and sleep.

Day 10 – Bayamo to Santiago de Cuba

Be prepared as today is a relatively long ride to the lively city of Santiago de Cuba. Here you can relax and enjoy some Cuban dishes, music and of your legs are up to it, a bit of dancing.

Day 11 – Santiago de Cuba to Holguin

Spend the day resting your saddle sore rear as you explore the narrow streets and soak up the sights and history of this exotic city. In the evening you will be transferred by vehicle to Holguin.

Day 12 – Holguin to Camaguey

Today you’ll tackle the enjoyable ride north from Holguin alongside the breath taking beaches of Cuba’s north coast. After an outstanding day of cycling you are met by vehicles and transported to Camaguey and your evening accommodation.

Day 13 – Camaguey to Mayajigua

From Camaguey you are taken by vehicle to Moron where you disembark for the cycle ride to your splendid villa accommodation at Mayajigua where you can relax and unwind after your last day of cycling.

Day 14 – Mayajigua to Havana

On your final cycling day you are transferred to Havana, but stop off in the historic towns of Remedios and Santa Clara for a spot of sightseeing and some lunch.

Day 15 – Havana

This is the end of your Cuban adventure and a day of rest and sightseeing before your return journey.

How to get to Cuba

realbuzz.com recommends booking this trip through a reputable cycling tour operator. Due to the large distances and terrain covered it is advisable to have knowledgeable guides as well as all of your accommodation booked in advance. For a real adventure and to save some money you could of course book some flights to Cuba and try to arrange guides and accommodation yourself but using a reputable cycling tour operator has many benefits.

Accommodation

You will spend 14 nights in comfortable hotel accommodation – now that doesn’t sound too bad does it?

Cost considerations

The price of this 14-day Cuban cycling adventure price should include the following:

  • Return flights.
  • Applicable departure taxes.
  • All airport transfer and holiday transport costs.
  • All accommodation.
  • All meals.
  • Cycling tour leader and full support crew.
  • Luggage transfers.
  • All cycling equipment and basic medical kits.

Who can do this cycling tour of Cuba?

This 14-day adventure activity trip is suitable to relatively fit individuals who are able to be cycle for five to six hours in a day. Some of the days are quite long, and depending on the time of year, the cycling can be strenuous, hot and humid.

Regardless of your level of fitness, it is always good advice to have a full medical check-up before deciding whether or not to tackle a cycling challenge. Also when you are planning your trip ensure you have had at least one rest day after flying to Cusco to recover from any jet lag or travel fatigue.

Medical information

Always consult your doctor for a list of all the medical requirements for an adventure activity holiday.

The table below lists the vaccinations you may require as well as the time you should see you doctor before traveling in order to get your vaccinations.

Disease
Recommendation
When to see
your doctor
Typhoid
Vaccination recommended
10 days before travel
Hepatitis A
Vaccination recommended
2 weeks before travel
Diphtheria
Vaccination sometimes recommended
3 months before travel
Tuberculosis
Vaccination sometimes recommended
3 months before travel
Hepatitis B
Vaccination sometimes recommended
2 months before travel
Rabies
Vaccination sometimes recommended
1 month before travel

In addition make sure your tetanus and polio vaccinations are up to date.

Charity treks

Why not do this cycling adventure for charity? Get sponsored for your trip and raise loads of cash for a worthy cause ... not only will you have had the adventure of a lifetime, but you'll have helped other people too ... the feeling of achievement will be fantastic!

As well as raising money for a worthwhile cause, if you do decide to go with a charity the good news is they take all the hassle out of organising the trip. You don’t need to worry about booking your flights or accommodation and all the other stuff – all you need to worry about is getting in shape.

Trekking up Kilimanjaro

To climb Kilimanjaro you must go as part of an organised trek with a licensed mountain tour operator. Porters will carry the majority of your food and equipment as well as cook all of your meals for you. For the trek you only need to carry a rucksack containing food, water and warm clothing.

There are a number of routes to choose from for a trek up Kilimanjaro. But choosing the route most suited to your physical abilities is probably the most important decision that you will make. The minimum route duration is five days but many trekkers opt to take seven to eight days in order to acclimatize and also to enjoy the experience that little bit more.

The Machame route

The Machame route offers trekkers the best chance of reaching the summit, combined with the best scenery and wildlife to be enjoyed on the mountain and, is the route that realbuzz.com would recommend for a trip to the summit. This is because the route allows for gentle acclimatisation – trekkers who fail to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro often do so, not because of lack of fitness, but because they have failed to acclimatize properly.

The highlight of the trek is undoubtedly the final summit day. Just after midnight your porters will wake you in your tents with a warm drink before you set off for the summit, guided through the darkness by your head-torch. After a seven-hour trek you will reach the summit as daylight breaks for some stunning views and an amazing feeling of achievement. There's time to pose for a few photos before the five to six-hour descent for a well-earned rest at the huts.

After reaching the summit the quickest and easiest descent is via the Marangu route where you can receive your certificate and enjoy a safari or a trip to the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar.

Day-to-day itinerary

Day 1
You’ll be collected by your guides and driven to the Machame Park gate where you pay your park fees and then don your rucksacks for the adventure ahead. Surprisingly, you’ll start your ascent of the mountain dressed in just shorts and a t-shirt and make your way through the mountain forests on the mountain's foot slopes. The trail is very muddy in places and gaiters are recommended. After about six hours of jungle scenery you emerge at your first campsite amongst the giant heathers. You’ll then watch an amazing sunset as the porters cook your first meal and you can settle down to think about the adventure that lies ahead.

Day 2
After breakfast you set off for day two, where your trek leads you out above the forest and onto open moorland dotted by giant heathers. One of the most fascinating aspects of climbing Kilimanjaro is the huge change in scenery in just a few short days, from jungle to the ice-capped summit. The day's trekking ends near the Shira Cave where the porters will be waiting with a well-earned meal.

Day 3
As you progress on day three, the adrenalin really starts to set in as you can see your goal for the first time when the icy glaciers on the summit appear. As you gain altitude on the mountain, the vegetation starts to be replaced by a rocky, bouldered landscape. The day's walking takes you high on the mountain before descending into the Barranco Valley to camp at 3,950m. Climbing higher on the mountain during the day and then dropping back down into the valley considerably assists acclimatisation to the high altitude and increases your chances of summiting successfully.

Day 4
This is an exciting day as your guides lead the way up the incredibly steep and imposing Barranco Valley wall. It’s very easy-going though and soon you emerge to drop down and camp in the Karanga Valley, next to the streams. Some people at this point start to feel the effects of the thinner oxygen at this altitude but everyone is excited as the summit is just two days away. On the lower slopes you've just been sleeping in your sleeping bag, but tonight you slide into your fleece sleeping bag liner too, as the night-time temperatures drop below freezing.

Day 5
Day five takes you from the Karanga Valley campsite to your final campsite before the summit. The day is relatively short and easy and you reach your campsite in the early afternoon to have a good rest and sleep, ready for the hard summit day in the morning. As you approach the campsite there are light patches of snow underfoot and everyone is pumped-up and ready to go for the summit the next day.

Day 6
Due to a combination of excitement and the high altitude, you won't have slept much when the porters rustle you out of your tent at midnight. (Starting the summit day in darkness is essential as the ice and snow will be frozen solid and will be safe to walk on. After sunrise the glaciers can become unstable to climb). The porters have already been up and prepared a welcome hot drink for everyone before you put on your head-torches and rucksacks and head for the summit. As you climb through the darkness the going gets tough at the high altitude, but the thought of the summit keeps everybody going. Soon the sky is getting lighter as you reach Stella Point, just 40 minutes below the summit. Some very steep and tough climbing follows through knee-deep snow but you know the summit is just minutes away now. Just as the sun rises above the horizon you all make it onto the summit and stop to take in the amazing views from the highest point on the continent ... you've made it! It's time to celebrate with a few photos before making your way off of the summit to start your descent to the mountain via the Marangu route to the mountain huts at 3,600m.

Day 7
After taking six days to reach the summit you can't quite believe how it takes just two days to get back down again! As you descend back down the mountain you quickly pass back through the rocky high altitude desert before finally descending into the dense jungle to finish your trek at the Marangu Park gate where you are presented with your certificate to celebrate your amazing achievement. It’s good advice to avoid the Marangu route for your ascent up Kilimanjaro. Even though the Marangu route is often described as the easiest route on the mountain it has the highest failure rate for trekkers to reach the summit. This is because the Marangu route rises gradually on the first few days, leaving trekkers faced with a very steep climb on the final day without the opportunity to acclimatize properly. This route is the most popular on the mountain and has also become spoiled by the swarms of trekkers making their way to the summit.

How to get to Tanzania

Booking your own flights to Tanzania and then finding mountain guides in Moshi or Arusha can sound like an exciting and affordable option, but realbuzz.com would not recommend this way to organize your trip up Kilimanjaro. Climbing any mountain is a serious undertaking and the local mountain guides in Tanzania range from the inadequate to the totally negligent!

We recommend using a reputable UK based tour operator who can arrange your flights, transfers, accommodation and mountain guides for you. This might be a more expensive option but it is more than worth it and will ensure you have a far safer and far more enjoyable adventure!

Accommodation

During your trek you will sleep in a combination of tents and very basic mountain huts. All of your tents, clothing and food will be carried by porters who will cook all of your meals during your trek.

How much will it cost?

Not including flights, a trek on Kilimanjaro will cost you somewhere in the region of £500 to £1,000 per person, including park fees and return transport between your hotel and the mountain. When booking, realbuzz.com recommends that you avoid the cheaper 'budget' operators. Reputable operators might be more expensive but this is because they employ qualified staff and organize treks and safety procedures correctly. A high altitude mountain environment is not the place to cut corners.

Who can climb Kilimanjaro?

The National Park Authorities have set the minimum age for trekking to Uhuru Peak at 10 years old but most reputable mountain tour operators recommend a minimum age of 13. There is no upper limit to the age of climbers and people in their 70s and 80s regularly make the summit. Anyone with average physical fitness can trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro. The secret to success is to acclimatize properly during your ascent.

Regardless of your age or fitness, it is always good advice to have a full medical check-up before deciding whether or not to climb Kilimanjaro. Also when you are planning your trip, ensure you have had at least one rest day after flying to Tanzania to recover from any jet lag or travel fatigue.

Medical information and insurance

Always consult your doctor for a list of all the medical requirements for a trip to Tanzania and a trek up Kilimanjaro. Tanzania is affected by Yellow Fever so you will need a jab and make sure you take your certificate with you as you will not be allowed into the country without it. In addition, take altitude-sickness and anti-malarial tablets before you travel as well as investing in some heavy duty insect repellent and a mosquito net. It’s a good idea to always allow plenty of time prior to your trip to take any medication as you may have an adverse reaction to some medication and might need to try an alternative. (This is quite common with altitude sickness tablets).

Charity treks

Why not climb Kilimanjaro for a charity? Get sponsored for your trip and raise loads of cash for a worthy cause. Not only will you have climbed the highest mountain in Africa, but you'll have helped other people too. The feeling of achievement will be fantastic!

As well as raising money for a worthwhile cause, if you do decide to go with a charity the good news is they take all the hassle out of organising the trip. You don’t need to worry about booking your flights or accommodation and all the other stuff – all you need to worry about is getting in shape.

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