Santiago de Cuba is probably the most important city for the arts in Cuba. Due to the surprising quality and variety, Best Programs has designed a tour of the city and its environs that revolves around art in several different facets and Best Arts Journey promises to be your gateway to Santiago culture.
This excursion will first guide you through culturally impressive spaces in the city and then embarks on the highway to an artistic commune 20 kilometers from Santiago. Both parts of the excursion were planned to expose you to that which you probably would not see on your own.
The tour starts at the Art Gallery belonging to the Caguayo Foundation (Calle 4 No. 403, e/ 15 y 17) specializing in monumental and applied arts especially sculpture, muralism, ceramics and painting which reflect and preserve national identity and where the best artists on the island are exhibited. The Gallery is located in the Vista Alegre neighborhood, (an urban space considered the prime jewel of Santiago exteriors due to the local pre-revolution bourgeoisie architecture), where there is a modern atmosphere, probably the only place in Santiago de Cuba where you will forget where you are. The cafeteria is at the heart of the gallery, in a quiet, elegant patio which reminds some customers of Europe.
The excursion continues in the Casa del Caribe (Calle 13 no. 154), promoting Caribbean culture: dance, art, photography, music. It is a place that reflects the popular and traditional art not only of the region but also of Cuba in general and where rumba and afro are the first descriptive words to come to mind.
To experience some of Cuba’s religious and magical essence we will visit the Casa de Religiones Populares (Calle 13 No 206), where you will dive into the spirit world from the Cuban perspective with their permanent expo of ritual artifacts pertaining to live and practicing religions (santeria). The institution houses clubs, exhibitions, intellectual encounters and promotions and clearly shows Cuban religious syncretism.
The Taller Cultural Luis Diaz Oduardo (Calle 11. # 316 entre 12 y carretera Siboney) is a one of its kind workshop/school in Cuba where participating artists produce and sell works of extraordinary quality in printing, painting, sculpture, ceramic and bronze work. It is a center not only for learning and practicing but also for the interchange between artists. They host many foreign artists’ exhibits and workshops yearly as well.
Other spots included in the Best Arts Journey around 20 kms from the city, are the artistic communities of Oasis and Berraco. These are typical Cuban settlements inhabited by artists and their families whose only job is to produce art. In a rural setting the offering is of high international standard. In the Berraco the tour ends with the possibility of a swim or simply enjoying the beach just 200 meters away and the beautiful seascape.
BEST’s over-night journey to Trinidad is through a city frozen in time which is a cliché in Cuba but in Trinidad we use it in the best sense of the phrase. At the end of 2015 Best Programs began to design a variety of tours in and around the city of Santiago de Cuba from its fundamental edges: art, nature and religion. Our second most popular city in Cuba is La Havana and Trinidad forms the link between the two. It was a natural off-come of BEST´s other three excursions and has proven to be an amazing experience given participant feedback. Jill Arcaro, founder and promoter of the BEST edu-travel program in Cuba, said that it would not be ironic if this “step-child” turned out to be the most popular excursion BEST offers as people are set on seeing the “frozen in time” aspects of Cuba from a positive stand point.
Trinidad, founded in 1514 as the third Spanish settlement in Cuba is located in the center of the country, half-way between La Havana and Santiago de Cuba. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is overall externally very attractive, interesting, a manageable size, clean and totally renovated. So we can say that internally the force toward modernity marches forward while structurally Trinidad has preserved itself as in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.
Ideally this trip would last for three nights in order to see some of the environs but if you are short on time, a two-night visit will give you time to see Trinidad with its history, beautiful architecture, dance, night life, hospitality and cuisine. Every aspect is planned and set to make visiting Trinidad through Best Programs your best choice for leisure and learning.
The three night excursion however will let you experience at least one of the other treasured landscapes such as a visit to the Valley of the Sugar Mills. This visit to the old sugar plantations is not only landscapes but also ruins of sugar mills built several centuries ago with their unique architecture. The Cubanito, a natural spot, is another option for three day visitors if you want rivers of clear water, waterfalls and tropical beauty or finally Playa Ancona, also a haven of warm crystalline waters with white sands.
Best Nature Journey is another spectacular Best Programs’ tour in Santiago de Cuba. In this case it is the direct contact with nature where you will admire some of the most beautiful scenery in the Caribbean.
The journey sets out to the Gran Piedra, a huge rock of volcanic origin (51 m long and 25-30 m wide and weighing about 63,000 tons). The place itself is a natural lookout where the Sierra Maestra, the buildings in Santiago de Cuba and the breathtaking beaches at Baconao can be devised. They also say that on clear nights from there you can see the bright lights of Haiti.
La Gran Piedra is 14 km from Santiago de Cuba on top of a mountain 1225 meters above the sea level. It is a place of volcanic origin, like all the geology of the Sierra Maestra, where the same geological strata if found.
From here you will proceed to the Jardín Botánico on the Ave del Paraíso for a stroll amongst exotic plants followed by a drive down to the coast to the Playa Siboney, 14 km from Santiago de Cuba and due to its proximity the most frequented beach by santiagueros in general.
All along the way you will enjoy a unique natural landscape with all its flora and fauna and exchange greetings with native people that offer a coffee brewed in the traditional peasant style, courtesy of Best Programs.
Both on the ascent and decent from the mountain there are stops with panoramic views and stalls where the local people sell typical fruits and handicrafts. BEST’s Nature Journey in Santiago de Cuba promises to give you an strong overall view of that which you probably would not see on your own or with other large group tours and leaves space for improvisation and flexible timing.
Best Programs continues for 2016 adding very attractive offers to complement their edu-travel programs in Cuba. To date the tours have been designed and refined according to the participants themselves and they are ideal for learning and meeting Cuban people eager to exchange experiences.
Probably the most Caribbean city of the island, Santiago de Cuba, is a land where art, music and religion make up an almost inseparable trilogy. That’s why Jill Arcaro, promoter and founder of the nonprofit effort, chose to work on Best’s Excursion into Spirit and Religion and make it part of their program. The excursion into Spirit of Religion in Santiago de Cuba promises to give you an strong overall introduction into the spiritual mix resulting in a the particular Cuban blend of religion. It was planned to expose you to that which you probably would not see on your own or with other large group tours and leaves space for improvisation and flexible timing.
This half-day tour highlights the points of convergence between the religions inherited from Spain and Africa and the syncretism which is seen as their highest expression. To experience some of Cuba’s religious and magical essence we will visit the Casa de Religiones Populares (Calle 13 No 206), where you will dive into the spirit world from the Cuban perspective with their permanent expo of ritual artifacts pertaining to live and practicing religions (santeria). The institution houses clubs, exhibitions, intellectual encounters and promotions and clearly shows Cuban religious syncretism.
The excursion also includes the Cathedral located in the heart of the city, the church of La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (patron saint of the city, 22 kms from Santiago) and finally a visit to a Santera or holy person. The tour promises an interesting perspective from an architectural standpoint and shows ceremonial and religious elements which are intertwined between the European, African and native cultures and how they come together.