Finally a riding holiday in Cuba, the Pearl of the Caribbean. If Cuba seems to have frozen in the past you are mistaken, the island is not limited to its revolutionary history and offers a unique cultural and natural heritage that is welcoming and generous to visitors.

We set off on horseback to Pinar del Río, the westernmost and certainly one of the most beautiful provinces of Cuba. Within these valleys grow the tobacco leaves used to produce the Habanos, the finest cigars in the world. The lush and tropical vegetation in the "garden of Cubais also home to the stunning mountainous landscapes of Viñales and Mil Cumbres with its 'mogotes' - a rare geological feature and Unseco designated World Heritage Site. The valley is justly ranked among Cuba's most beautiful landscapes.

No trip to Cuba would be complete without a visit to Havana to admire its colonial architectural treasures. Spain and Africa have combined here to form a wonderful blend of culture. A culture spiced with music, dancing and rum!

This ride is perfect for novice riders onwards who enjoy the cultural aspects of horseriding. Accommodation on the trail is in small local fincas and rural hotels in double or triple rooms with private bathroom. The horses are crossed Cuba Appaloosas, Pinto Cubano and Criollios. They are safe and in good condition, suitable for the climate and terrain of the island.

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from SG of 33000 Bordeaux on 22/03/2019

Ride Summary
good
What was your overall impression of the holiday

Unicorn Trails sales staff
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Riding tour leader
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Horsemanship     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Pacing of Ride     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (X) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern for Safety     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Leadership     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Friendliness/availability     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
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Knowledge of local Flora/Fauna     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
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Additional Comments

Horses and Tack
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Condition of Tack     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (X) Fair     (   ) Poor
Performance of Horses     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Additional Comments
the ride was slower paced than the normal ones we've done with over the last 20 years. However we haven't trekked for a while now, so that may have been a good thing!
Meals
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Accommodation
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Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

Was there anything you should have known and were not told?     (X) NO     (   ) YES
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What could we do to improve this ride?
spend two nights at the last farm/hotel rather than at the very ordinary (and bad food) Cuban place we used on the second to last evening
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
2
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
see above
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
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Any other comments:

Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you enjoyed the ride! :)

2019 Itinerary:

Day 1
Reception at the hotel Presidente**** or similar. Accommodation at the hotel, beside the Malecon of Havana.

Day 2
After breakfast, transfer to the Finca besides the beaches of Playas del Este (30m). Ride to the beach (approximately 3 hours ride) and have a swim. After lunch, 1 hour 30 minute drive to Finca Charco Azulin Cayajabos, Artemisa, at the south of Pinar del Rio province and the Sierra del Rosario, Biosphere Reserve. Welcome cocktail. Dinner and accommodation at the Finca.

Day 3
After breakfast, a 3 hour ride through this Finca of about 400 hectares, where the springs of Charco Azul are located. Lunch after a relaxing bathe in a swimming pool. Transfer to Mil Cumbres (2 and a half hour drive). Dinner and accommodation at the Mil Cumbre's Refuge. Introduction to Cuban music.

Day 4
After breakfast we'll begin our horse ride to El Buren. This is about a 5 hour ride through the Natural Park, through the mountains of Cuabal and Pan de Guajaibón, which, with an altitude of 692m, is the highest point in Pinar del Río province. We stop for a welcome cocktail in the house of a local “guajiro” family. The route takes us now through mountainous valleys from where we can see the union of Sierra del Rosario and Sierra de los Órganos, with lush vegetation and protected species of birds and trees. Transfer to Viñales (1h). Dinner in a local paladar. Optional night out at Casa Artex (musical show). Accommodation at the Hotel Los Jazmines or similar or in Casa Particular (private family establishment or boarding house).

Day 5
Breakfast. Transfer to the horses for a 5 hour ride through the Viñales and Palmarito Valleys, between the spectacular 'Mogotes', conspicuous karst mountains rising like islands from the bottom of the valley, tobacco plantations and rural communities where another guajiro will give us an explanation of the process of cigar-making. Picnic-Lunch at the outside terrace of a nice restaurant. Transfer to Finca La Guabina,12 Km away from Pinar del Río (1h drive). Dinner and accommodation at Finca La Guabina. Traditional Cuban musical evening.

Day 6
After breakfast, a 5 hours ride inside the Finca La Guabina to discover its beautiful landscape. Picnic- lunch. Option to enjoy an exhibition of the wonderful Apaloosa and Pinto horses of the farm. Dinner and accommodation at Finca La Guabina. Traditional Cuban musical evening.

Day 7
After breakfast, ride for about 3 hours. Lunch. Transfer to Havana. Dinner at a famous restaurant in the district El Vedado. Accommodation at Casa Particular or similar.

Day 8
Free day for sightseeing at your own pace. The nerve centre of the island, Havana (La Habana) is the city's largest and most vibrant in the Caribbean! A stroll in the Habana Vieja (old town) another World Heritage sight in Centro Habana is a must. There is the option (minimum of 4 people) of a trip to Megano beach, a large and quiet stretch of coastline 12 miles east of Havana (25CUC in 2018).
Farewell dinner with live music. Overnight at Casa Particular or similar.

Day 9
Free morning to enjoy one last time the magic of Havana, an eternal blend of modernity and history, grandeur and decay, sounds and encounters. Lunch not included today. Transfer to Jose Marti airport at 18:00 and flight back home.

2020 Itinerary:

DAY 1 : HAVANA
Reception at Hotel Presidente****. Dinner in a local paladar (family restaurant). Accommodation at Hotel Presidente**** or similar, close to the Malecon of Havana.

DAY 2 : HAVANA – CHARCO AZUL – MIL CUMBRES
After breakfast, transfer to the Finca in Cayajabos (1hr 30m), towards the south of Pinar del Río province and the Sierra del Rosario, Biosphere Reserve. After a welcome cocktail, we'll start with a 3 hour ride through this Finca of about 400 hectares. Lunch after a bath in a swimming-pool. Transfer to Mil Cumbres (2hr 30m drive). Dinner and accommodation at the Mil Cumbre’s Refuge. First introduction to the Cuban music.

DAY 3 : MIL CUMBRES – VIÑALES
After breakfast, there will be about a 5 hoursride through the Natural Park through the mountains of Cuabal and Pan de Guajaibón, which with an altitude of 692m, is the highest point in Pinar del Río province. We stop for a welcome cocktail in the house of a local “Guajiro” family. The route takes us now through mountainous valleys from where we can see the union of Sierra del Rosario and Sierra de los Órganos, with lush vegetation and protected species of birds and trees. After lunch, transfer to Viñales (1h). Dinner in a local paladar (family restaurant). Accommodation at the Hotel Los Jazmines or similar depending on availability. Optional night out at Casa de la Trova (musical show).

DAY 4 : VIÑALES – LA GUABINA
After breakfast, transfer to the horses for a 5-hour ride through the Viñales and Palmarito Valleys. We will climb up along a bridle path to El Mirador del Valle, where we can drink a guarapo, a refreshing sugar cane juice, while we enjoy a magnificent panoramic view over tobacco plantations and the spectacular 'Mogotes', conspicuous karst mountains rising like islands from the bottom of the valley. During our ride we will stop in some of the rural communities where another guajiro will give us an explanation of the process of cigar-making. Lunch on the outside terrace of a nice restaurant. Transfer to Finca La Guabina, 12km away from Pinar del Río (1h). Dinner and accommodation at Finca La Guabina. Traditional Cuban musical evening.

DAY 5 : LA GUABINA
After breakfast, a 5 hour ride inside the Finca La Guabina to discover its beautiful landscape. Lunch. Option to enjoy an exhibition of the wonderful Apaloosa and Pinto horses of the farm. Dinner and accommodation at Finca La Guabina. Traditional Cuban musical evening.

DAY 6 : LA GUABINA – PINAR DEL RIO - HAVANA
After breakfast, ride for about 3 hours to discover the plains of the Finca with the royal palm trees, rice fields and tropical fruit plantations, like guava and pineapple. Lunch in the Finca and transfer to Havana. Dinner at a famous restaurant in El Vedado district. Accommodation at Hotel Presidente**** or similar.

DAY 7 : HAVANA
After breakfast, transfer to the Finca beside the beaches of Playas del Este (30m). Approx. 3 hour ride to the beach for a swim and a seafood lunch on the outside terrace of a nice restaurant. Transfer to Havana. Farewell dinner with a great musical show with some of the former members of Buena Vista Social Club at the Old Havana, or another great musical show. Accommodation at the Hotel Presidente**** or similar.

DAY 8 : HAVANA
Breakfast. Morning free for sightseeing in Havana. Transfer to the airport at 18:00.

Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Tabaqueros Trail

Please note the route may be done in the opposite direction on certain dates. Depending on availability, the hotels mentioned in this itinerary may be replaced, without prior notice, with other hotels of the same category.

Reading List
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.

Cuba has produced some of the most extreme political figures of the 20th Century. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were the main players involved in the Cuban Revolution which brought Communism to the island. For those interested in the ideology of these powerful men we recommend the following:
The relationship between Cuba, its allies and the West is brilliantly described in One Minute To Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War by Michael Dobbs.
We also recommend Our Man In Havana by the British writer Graham Greene. Wormold is a vacuum cleaner salesman in a city of powercuts. His adolescent daughter spends his money with a skill that amazes him so when a mysterious Englishman offers him an extra income he's tempted. In return all he has to do is file a few reports. But when his fake reports start coming true things suddenly get more complicated and Havana becomes a threatening place...
For an up to date overview of Cuban history we recommend Cuba: A New History (Yale Nota Bene) by Richard Gott
Also:
* The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba by Julia Cooke - frank account of the author's stay and the people she meets, very good for getting to know more about the people and how they live
* The Island That Dared by Dervla Murphy - she visited three times in recent-ish years, and really was off the beaten track!
 
We can't overlook the enormous influence of Cuban music and recommend the following artists:
Buena Vista Social Club (There is also a remarkable documentary film on this group of Cuban musicians by Wim Wenders, also called Buena Vista Social Club)
The Creole Choir of Cuba
Elena Burke
Company Segundo
Ibrahim Ferrer
Beny Moré

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

Three teams of horses are used during the course of the trip. Riders are not expected to assist with the care and tacking up of their horses but any help is welcome. The horses are crossed Cuba Appaloosas, Pinto Cubano and Criollios. They are safe and in good condition, suitable for the climate and terrain of the island. They range in size from 14.2hh to around 15.1hh. Western tack is utilised.


Rider requirements

Riders should be happy in walk, trot and canter and well balanced. The riding is not technically difficult and adventurous so novices would be welcome.

General fitness is recommended as around six hours per day are spent in the saddle. It is recommended that you try to gain some riding fitness before your trip. The minimum age for this ride is 12 years.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation ranges from boutique to basic, double en-suite to multi-dorm rooms with 2 bathrooms for the group. Meals are healthy and plentiful, lots of fuit and vegetables with rice, beans, beef, chicken and pork. Wine is not readily available in Cuba but riders can purcase wine in town to take along on the trail. Good beer and rum is available everywhere!


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.

British nationals require a tourist card to enter Cuba, which you should obtain before you travel. You should contact the Cuban Embassy in London in good time for further information on entry requirements. Dual nationals should also contact the Cuban Embassy in London for advice on entry requirements before travelling.

Their website can be found here: www.cuba.embassyhomepage.com

To enter Cuba you must hold a passport with remaining validity of at least six months from the date of entry.



You must hold valid travel insurance covering medical expenses before travelling to Cuba. The medical facilities in Havana are better than those available elsewhere in Cuba, but it is sometimes necessary to medically evacuate those who require urgent specialist care. This can be very expensive so you should ensure that your medical insurance covers you for this. If you require medical treatment you will be expected to pay in hard currency; a basic hospital stay can cost as much as £200 per day plus medical expenses.

Many medicines are unavailable in Cuba so you should bring any prescription drugs you take regularly. A copy of the prescription and a letter from your doctor explaining your condition can be helpful at customs.

Climate Summary

Cuba has a warm tropical climate which makes it an ideal destination especially during the months of November to April, dry season months in Cuba. During this period of the year, Cuba enjoys a lot of sunshine with only a scattering of intermittent rain-showers brought about by northeasterly trade winds blowing in from the sea.

Climate Chart

Health

At Unicorn Trails, the health and safety of our customers is of paramount importance.
You must hold valid travel insurance covering medical expenses before travelling to Cuba. The medical facilities in Havana are better than those available elsewhere in Cuba, but it is sometimes necessary to medically evacuate those who require urgent specialist care. This can be very expensive so you should ensure that your medical insurance covers you for this. If you require medical treatment you will be expected to pay in hard currency; a basic hospital stay can cost as much as £200 per day plus medical expenses.

Many medicines are unavailable in Cuba so you should bring any prescription drugs you take regularly. A copy of the prescription and a letter from your doctor explaining your condition can be helpful at customs.

Please consult your GP or travel nurse for up to date advice for those travelling to Cuba. As a guide you can visit http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations/caribbean/cuba

Electricity

Although the power supply in Cuba is mainly 110 volts, most of the modern hotels have dual voltage with all the sockets in the room being 220 volts. Usually in the bathroom there is an 110 volt socket suitable for shavers and charging batteries. All UK appliances will work in Cuba and all you will need is an adapter.

The sockets in the rooms are cleverly designed so they will take the North American flat 2 pin and the European rounded two pin plugs and are usually similar to these, the bottom one being the one in the bathroom.

Film and Camera Equipment

Please bring all necessary equipment with you, including spare batteries.

Packing List

Riding trousers - jeans or breeches
Riding boots or similar (need to have a heel and be comfortable for hiking)
Hard hat (recommended)
Riding hat with brim
Half chaps (optional)
Riding gloves
Sunglasses
Sunblock
Insect repellent
Lipbalm with sunscreen
Personal toiletries
Medications
Camera and film
T-shirts and shorts
Binoculars (recommended)
Lightweight long sleeved shirts
Sweater or sweatshirt
Informal wear for evenings
Plastic bag for wet clothing
Lightweight rainwear
Copy of passport
All terrain sandals
Additional passport photos
Swimsuit
Beach towel
Wearing a waist pouch is a handy method for keeping items such as camera and lipbalm readily accessible.

Programmes

2019: This is a 9 day/8 night programme with 6 days riding available on set dates.
2020: This is a 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding available on set dates.

Departure Dates

2019: 9 Nov
2020: 8 Feb; 14 Nov

Pricing
No single rooms available (on some or all nights). Riders must be prepared to share with someone of the same sex.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
20199d/8n6double pp1,635
20199d/8n6single supplement175
20208d/7n6double pp1,919
20208d/7n6single supplement175
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
20199d/8n6double pp1,859
20199d/8n6single supplement199
20208d/7n6double pp2,179
20208d/7n6single supplement199
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
20199d/8n6double pp2,199
20199d/8n6single supplement229
20208d/7n6double pp2,579
20208d/7n6single supplement229
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
20199d/8n6double pp20,455
20199d/8n6single supplement2,199
20208d/7n6double pp23,975
20208d/7n6single supplement2,199
Recommended Reading

Cuba has produced some of the most extreme political figures of the 20th Century. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were the main players involved in the Cuban Revolution which brought Communism to the island. For those interested in the ideology of these powerful men we recommend the following: The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto 'Che' Guevara My Life by Fidel Castro The relationship between Cuba, its allies and the West is brilliantly described in One Minute To Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War by Michael Dobbs. We also recommend Our Man In Havana by the British writer Graham Greene. Wormold is a vacuum cleaner salesman in a city of powercuts. His adolescent daughter spends his money with a skill that amazes him so when a mysterious Englishman offers him an extra income he's tempted. In return all he has to do is file a few reports. But when his fake reports start coming true things suddenly get more complicated and Havana becomes a threatening place... For an up to date overview of Cuban history we recommend Cuba: A New History (Yale Nota Bene) by Richard Gott We can't overlook the enormous influence of Cuban music and recommend the following artists: Buena Vista Social Club (There is also a remarkable documentary film on this group of Cuban musicians by Wim Wenders, also called Buena Vista Social Club) The Creole Choir of Cuba Elena Burke Company Segundo Ibrahim Ferrer Beny Moré


Other Country Information

You must take out comprehensive travel insurance covering medical expenses before travelling to Cuba. You will be expected to present your insurance policy on arrival in the country.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Hotel (usually Hotel Presidente)
Transfer:
One way group transfer is included to Jose Marti airport on the last day of the programme for clients departing at 6pm or later. Arrival transfer from Havana airport is not included, taxi cost is approximately 25 CUC (€25).
Flight Guide:
Jose Marti International Airport, Havana (HAV)
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