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The CaledoniaWorldwide.com Travel Blog …

Information for travellers to Cuba and our other destinations.  Tips, advice, travel stories and our musings…

Top 5 activities in Antibes

Reading Time: 4 minutes Leaving Edinburgh on a cold, grey November day it was wonderful to arrive at Nice airport in full sunshine just 3 hours later.  A further 20 minute by taxi, with Javier my driver regaling me with stories about his latest rondonee hiking route in the nearby Alpes Maritimes, I was dropped off in the heart of Old Antibes.

Ruta del Cafe in Oriente region, Cuba

Reading Time: 4 minutes The Ruta del Cafe is an initiative launched in Oriente, the eastern province of Cuba, to promote the heritage of coffee production in the region. Coffee growing, production and exporting have been a  key feature of the Oriente region of Cuba for almost 200 years.  When Haitian independence was declared in the wake of the French Revolution, French coffee plantation owners fled to this southeastern corner of the island with their slaves. Over 600 coffee farms were set up in this region as well as in other mountainous areas of Cuba.   Santiago de Cuba was already a well established city for business, the most developed in Cuba at the time, and local merchants would buy the coffee beans ready for export.  Oriente was undoubtedly the  hub of the Cuban coffee industry throughout the 1800s. However, it began to decline when Cuba revolted against the Spanish during the Ten Years’ War (1868-1878) and the Independence War of 1895.  France gave their support to Spain against the Mambises, the Cuban guerrilla fighters, and many French owned plantations were subsequently burned to the ground by the Mambises and the hacienda buildings abandoned.  More than 170 plantation ruins can be found in the Sierra Maestra mountains nowadays and some can be visited. There are now only small scale farms producing coffee beans, mainly for export, and coffee production is nowhere near as lucrative as it once was. The influx of the French in the late 1790s changed the cultural face of the city of Santiago de Cuba enormously. The introduction of French patois spoken by the Haitian slaves can still be heard in traditional songs, and French high society dances blended with African rhythms and instruments became the basis of La Tumba Francesa, which was given Intangible Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO in 2003. One of Cuba’s top dance and music companies, Ballet Folklorico Cutumba, are key exponents of this style of dance and music, along with the Tumba Francesa heritage centre in the heart of the historic area of Santiago de Cuba. Three key locations in the Ruta del Cafe document the importance of the coffee industry in Oriente region. La Isabelica lies just one hour from Santiago de Cuba, in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra mountains, close to the Gran Piedra botanical garden. This was the very first museum founded by the government of Fidel Castro after the triumph of the revolution in January 1959.  It can be visited all year round, weather permitting, and is a unique museum explaining the history of coffee tradition and the French cultural heritage in this area with the original hacienda building and the walls of the coffee plantation clearly visible.   On a day trip from Santiago de Cuba you can climb up to the top of the Gran Piedra, a huge erratic rock on a high hill just 1km from La Isabelica, to enjoy views over the coast and surrounding countryside.  It is said that on a clear night you can even see the lights of Haiti in the distance from here.  There is a small coffee house in Santiago de Cuba called La Isabelica where you can enjoy a good cup of local coffee. La Fraternidad, a recently fully restored plantation house with extensive grounds, is a 90 minute drive from Santiago de Cuba.  La Fraternidad comprises a magnificent colonial style building with a large water driven mill adjacent, set in fertile rolling countryside with small settlements scattered along a dirt road.  Banana, pineapple and cocoa farms line the main road and in season the produce is sold on the roadside.  The house and coffee mill were built in 1836 and produced coffee beans which were exported to Europe for roasting. The climate in this area was too humid to process the beans locally as the flavour may have been compromised before exporting and so the dry beans were taken to Santiago de Cuba port to be shipped across the Atlantic.  It is possible to visit La Fraternidad and walk around the former home of the plantation owner and his family, see the ingenious water channel over a small viaduct to drive the mill wheel and explore the extensive drying areas where beans were left out in the sunshine to dry naturally. Another interesting location associated with Oriente coffee heritage is Casa Dranguet, constructed between 1859 and 1861 by Carlos Dranguet, a landowner descended from French settlers who fled Haiti for refuge in Cuba. This magnificent building with a large open central patio is located in central Santiago, just one block from Parque Cespedes. It is now a lovely, shady cafe/restaurant where visitors can have coffee in many forms, delicious ice creams and snacks. They also have a range of cultural activities that take place here on different days of the week. Casa Dranguet also acts as the Centre for the Interpretation and Dissemination of Coffee Cultural Heritage and houses a fascinating exhibition about coffee history in the region. All of the above locations can be included in our Santiago de Cuba based trips to give an insight into this fascinating aspect of local culture and history and we look forward to sharing our love of this region with you.  

A Tribute to Idalberto Bandera Sido

Reading Time: 2 minutes After his recent retirement, Caledonia pays a tribute to Idalberto Bandera Sido, former director of Ballet Folklorico Cutumba in Santiago de Cuba.

Happy Days in Havana, Cuba

Reading Time: 6 minutes Based in Scotland, Mara, our Travel Coordinator here at Caledonia, has grown up bouncing between here and Havana, and has a lot to say about the latter. Read more about Mara’s experiences and sentiments of the beautiful city of Havana here.

5 top things to do in Baracoa

Reading Time: 3 minutes Caledonia Worldwide director and founder, Kath Bateman, recently visited the greens hills and sunny shores of Baracoa, Cuba. Having been before, this visit really cemented Kath’s love for the town and wants to share just what makes this place so special. Read more about this nature haven and its best attractions here.

My First Dance Holiday Trip in Santiago de Cuba

Reading Time: 7 minutes Hear more about our ever popular group dance holidays through the eyes of our most recent addition to the Caledonia team, Mara. Mara joined our dance holiday back in April to be able to experience the trips we cater to our clients. Read all about the whirlwind of activity she enjoyed here.

Festival de la Trova in Santiago de Cuba

Reading Time: 3 minutes The Pepe Sánchez Festival de la Trova is celebrated every year in Santiago de Cuba from 15-20 March 15th till March 20th.  José ¨Pepe¨ Sánchez, recognised as the father of troubadour song in Cuba, was born on 19th March 1856 and this is the reason that the festival has his name. It is also the reason why the Day of the Cuban Troubador is celebrated on March 19th each year. Pepe Sánchez was a tailor and then started in business as co-owner of a copper mine and with no formal training in music he became famous as a talented musician, composer and singer.

Work with Caledonia

Reading Time: 2 minutes We are recruiting! Are you familiar with Cuba and would love to share your knowledge? Are you organised, articulate, enthusiastic and a Spanish speaker? If so, we would love to hear from you.

Caledonia is looking for a Travel Coordinator to join our small team ASAP, on a part time flexible working basis. Are you familiar with Cuba, a competent Spanish speaker, organised and articulate? Then get in touch!

2023 Cuba dance holidays

Reading Time: 2 minutes After over two years of being on hold, our popular small group Cuba dance holidays are back in 2023, celebrating our 25th anniversary year of running dance trips in Santiago de Cuba

Cuba holidays 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes After over 20 months of waiting patiently for travel to be resumed again, we are delighted to confirm that Cuba is officially welcoming international travellers back to the island from today, 15 November 2021. Read on for details of our Cuba holidays for 2022!

Cuba opening up for tourism

Reading Time: 2 minutes Cuba is to open for tourism from 15 November 2021 and we are getting ready to run our Cuba holidays from the end of this year. Read on for more information.

Support for Santiago de Cuba

Reading Time: 4 minutes Greetings everyone!  The continuing Covid situation in Santiago de Cuba has meant we have postponed our plans to start operating over there again by the autumn, and so we are still biding our time.   In the meantime, we wanted to provide information on how you can provide practical support for  Santiago de Cuba based friends and colleagues.

Sax, Salsa and Sue McKenzie

Reading Time: 6 minutes If you have been to a live salsa gig in Scotland in the last 20 years, the chances are you will have heard the formidable sax playing of Scottish based musician Sue McKenzie. She has played with all our best loved homegrown salsa bands – Salsa Celtica, Rumba Caliente, Grupo Magnetico and others – and she also teaches and writes music.

2021 Cuba currency update

Reading Time: 3 minutes Well, here we are approaching the tail end of February 2021 already!  In this 2021 Cuba update, we bring you news of recent changes in Cuban currency, the latest travel update; how you can send money to friends and family in Cuba. Read on….

Festive greetings from Caledonia

Reading Time: < 1 minute Our latest Cuba travel update (Oct 2020) confirms that we are still in business but just waiting for travel restrictions to be lifted so that we can start running all our tours and holidays again. Watch this space….

Our coronavirus update and message of support

Reading Time: 2 minutes Please read our coronavirus update and message of support during this unprecedented time.

Top places to eat and drink in Old Havana

Reading Time: 5 minutes Want to know our top places to eat and drink in Old Havana?  On a recent trip to the capital city of Cuba, we visited some of the coolest and newest places to quench your thirst and taste top traditional cuisine with a twist. Read on for more information.

Pepe Sanchez Trova Festival: One of Cuba’s Best Music Events

Reading Time: 4 minutes Santiago de Cuba is the birthplace of various Cuban music genres including Cuban son and trova and every March the popular Pepe Sanchez Trova Festival takes place.
Read on to learn more about The Pepe Sanchez Trova Festival and how to best experience this amazing music event.

Top places to visit for two week trip in Colombia

Reading Time: 6 minutes Colombia offers a warm welcome to visitors keen to explore and learn more about its history, people and landscapes. From the Andean capital city, to the vast desert, the thriving metropolis of Medellin and the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena there is plenty to experience. Find out our top 6 recommendations of what to include in a two week trip.

How to get to Santiago de Cuba for our dance holidays

Reading Time: 4 minutes We’ve created a short guide to help you plan your journey to Santiago de Cuba for our dance holidays! Whether you’re travelling from Europe or from the United States read on for our suggestions.

Hiking in Cuba: 6 Beautiful Places for Outdoor Lovers

Reading Time: 5 minutes You don’t have to be a seasoned hiker or an adrenaline-junkie to enjoy Cuba’s wilderness. There are many national parks in Cuba that offer amazing hiking trails for different levels. So if you’re planning to go hiking in Cuba, here are some of the best places to visit.

9 Reasons to take a cycling holiday in Cuba

Reading Time: 4 minutes Cuba is home to some of the most stunning tropical landscapes, beautiful beaches, turquoise sea, lush green mountains and tropical plains. What better way to experience this than cycling through it under your own steam; living and breathing each and every sight, sound and smell of the journey?

My first Cuba Dance Holiday

Reading Time: 7 minutes Find out what to expect on our Cuba Dance Holidays; a beginners perspective.

The Best Festivals in Cuba

Reading Time: 4 minutes Cuba’s two largest cities, Havana and Santiago de Cuba, are always bustling with activity. Both cities act as hubs of Cuban culture, hosting several music shows, art exhibitions and other cultural events throughout the year. If you’re into Cuban dance and music then visiting Havana and Santiago de Cuba is a must. Here are some of the best festivals in Cuba based in these two cities.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Cuba

Reading Time: 7 minutes If you want to experience Cuba’s two different sides, the urban and the rural, we’ve rounded up a list of places you must visit, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Caribbean Paradise: Exploring Cuba’s Beautiful National Parks

Reading Time: 4 minutes Cuba is home to several beautiful national parks, which include biosphere reserves and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Many of these places remain largely well-preserved and untouched by mass tourism, so if you want to explore Cuba’s natural wonders, you’re spoilt for choice.

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Baracoa

Reading Time: 5 minutes Whether you want to get off the beaten path in Cuba, explore some of the country’s most scenic rainforests, or just want to wind down in a quiet, non-touristy city, here are 5 main reasons why you should visit Baracoa.

History, Music & Dance: Top Things to Do in Santiago de Cuba

Reading Time: 6 minutes If there’s one place in Cuba that is sure to steal your heart, it’s Santiago de Cuba. This bustling city is a melting pot of cultures, boasting a rich Afro-Caribbean heritage and a diverse music scene. The second largest city in Cuba, Santiago is regarded as the cradle of the Cuban Revolution and one of the most significant revolutionary sites in the country. Its colourful streets are pulsing with life – there’s music everywhere you go, and the city’s revolutionary spirit is still very much alive

Off the Beaten Path in Cuba: 5 Amazing Things to do in Bayamo

Reading Time: 5 minutes Founded in 1513, Bayamo is one of the oldest cities in Cuba. It is also one of the largest cities in eastern Cuba (Oriente Province), which is the island’s lesser-explored region. Brimming with history and culture, Bayamo offers plenty of fun experiences. Whether you want to explore Cuba’s colourful past or enjoy Cuban cuisine and live music, here are 5 top things to do in Bayamo.

Top 5 Things to Do in Camaguey

Reading Time: 4 minutes Camaguey is one of the most overlooked places in Cuba, yet this charming city has a lot to offer. Here are some of the best things to do in Camaguey.

From Dancing to Snorkelling: 5 Activities in Trinidad Not to be Missed

Reading Time: 5 minutes From dancing to live music to hiking through lush green forests and exploring old sugar plantations, here are some of the best things to do in Trinidad.

Exploring History, Art & Culture in Santa Clara

Reading Time: 4 minutes Visiting Santa Clara is a must if you want to learn more about the Cuban Revolution & explore local culture. Here are 5 great things to do in Santa Clara.

How to Explore Cienfuegos Beyond the Main Plaza

Reading Time: 5 minutes Whether you want to spend a few days in Cienfuegos or visit the city on a day trip, there are several must-see attractions besides the famous historic centre.  Here are some of the best things to do in Cienfuegos.

6 Amazing Things to Do in Las Terrazas

Reading Time: 6 minutes The beautiful nature reserve of Las Terrazas is often overlooked by visitors to Cuba. Nestled deep among the evergreen mountains of the Sierra del Rosario range, Las Terrazas lies between two major tourist destinations, Havana and Vinales. Despite being home to stunning scenery, a vibrant art scene and possibly the best coffee in Cuba, this small rural community remains a lesser-explored site, overshadowed by the popularity of nearby attractions. However, this is what makes Las Terrazas a truly hidden gem.

Introducing Our New Assistant Travel Manager

Reading Time: 3 minutes Get to know our new Assistant Travel Manager, Helen, who started at Caledonia this month. She is excited to be heading out to Cuba next week!

5 Must-Have Adventures in Viñales

Reading Time: 5 minutes Whether you want to smoke authentic Cuban cigars or venture into the Cuban wilderness, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Viñales. Here are our top picks.

Travel to Cuba from the US

Reading Time: 2 minutes Given the recent tightening of travel to Cuba from the US (announced on 4 June 2019), we would like to reassure you that you can still travel legally from the US to Cuba, or from a third country via a US airport to Cuba.   You can still have your dream trip in Cuba!  

Exploring Havana Beyond the Guidebook

Reading Time: 8 minutes Want to get off the beaten path in Havana? From cycling through urban areas to taking music classes, here are 5 ways to explore Havana beyond the guidebook.

8 Interesting and Little-Known Facts about Cuba

Reading Time: 5 minutes Cuba is known for its beautiful classic cars, world-famous revolutionaries and remarkable cigars, but there are many other things that make this Caribbean island such a fascinating place.Here are 8 interesting and little-known facts about Cuba.

Taking Dance Classes in Cuba

Reading Time: 5 minutes Want to take dance classes in Cuba? Learn salsa, rumba and other Cuban dances with professional dancers from Ballet Folklorico Cutumba and learn to dance like a Cuban!

Exploring Cuban Music in Santiago de Cuba

Reading Time: 6 minutes Music is the heart and soul of Santiago de Cuba. It fills the air day and night. You can hear music pulsing from open doors and windows as you walk through the city’s colourful streets, and on every corner you are likely to come across a group of musicians entertaining spectators with upbeat rhythms and hypnotic beats. Many passers-by stop to enjoy the music, while others sing along or move their body to the drum beats.

6 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Eastern Cuba

Reading Time: 7 minutes Eastern Cuba is a hidden paradise. While the dreamy beach resorts of Varadero and the photogenic streets of Havana are teeming with tourists almost all year round, Cuba’s eastern region remains largely untouched by mass tourism. Here are six good reasons to visit eastern Cuba.

5 most frequently asked questions about Salsa holidays in Cuba

Reading Time: 4 minutes With almost twenty years experience of running Salsa holidays in Santiago de Cuba, we have had hundreds of people travelling with us over the years to learn how to dance salsa and other Cuban styles. Based on the questions we most get asked by people enquiring about our Salsa holidays in Cuba, we hope the following might be useful!

Caledonia is recruiting!

Reading Time: 2 minutes Caledonia Worldwide has been operating since 1996 and is a small specialist tour operator focusing on cultural and educational travel. Over the last 5 years the business has seen steady growth, particularly for bookings to Cuba, and we are now looking for an enthusiastic individual to join our team in our bright, sunny offices in Leith, Edinburgh.

Big change for Caledonia Worldwide

Reading Time: < 1 minute Some of you will remember that we recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of Caledonia Worldwide in Cuba with a big party in Edinburgh. Many thanks to everyone who participated in the event, whether on or off the stage.  We all had a fantastic night and here’s the official video with highlights from the evening:

Gibara Film Festival, off the beaten track in Cuba

Reading Time: 4 minutes The Gibara Film Festival is off the beaten track in Cuba, in a small friendly town located at the end of a winding road heading northeast from Holguin. We have been intent on visiting this small town for several years after hearing about the popular annual film festival hosted each May, and it was definitely worth making the effort!

Caledonia Worldwide celebrates 20 Years of Cultural Travel in Cuba

Reading Time: 3 minutes All those years ago, in February 1998, we launched the very first of our Cuban dance holidays, hoping that they would appeal to people who wanted to  learn to dance and also experience a slice of authentic Cuban culture. And here we are, 20 years on, celebrating 2 decades of  Cuban dance (and music) holidays with hundreds of happy travellers.

In search of the real Cuba: A tailormade trip around La Isla Bella

Reading Time: 6 minutes Are you looking for a more culturally immersive holiday? Val recently travelled to Cuba on a tailormade holiday organised by Caledonia. Read on to find out more about her trip in search of the real Cuba and why escaping the from the gates of the beach resort is more rewarding.

International Choir Festival Cuba – a musical adventure of a lifetime

Reading Time: 3 minutes If you love to sing and love to travel to exotic locations, this is the trip for you!  Santiago de Cuba, the second city of Cuba nestling in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra mountain range, is the undisputed home of choral music in Cuba and hosts this well respected choir festival every two years. Join us from 28 Oct – 3 Nov 2019 for a musical experience of a lifetime.

Why visit Cuba? The connection between Cuban culture and music

Reading Time: 5 minutes Are you ready for a cultural adventure in Cuba? Read our latest blog post by Patty who along with her husband Bob, took a tailormade trip to Cuba arranged by Caledonia. Both musicians, they became immersed into the world of Cuban music and fascinated by it’s presence in everyday life and culture.

Learn Spanish in Havana: more than just learning a language!

Reading Time: 6 minutes Have you ever fancied going on holiday to Cuba and learning Spanish? Read our guest blog post by Val who enrolled on a Spanish course in Havana and gained much more than a new set of language skills!

“Cuba Music Holiday: The Trip of a Lifetime!”

Reading Time: 4 minutes Interested in diving into the world of Cuban music? Bob and his wife Patty recently joined our Cuba Music Holiday in Santiago de Cuba. Both passionate musicians, their visit proved to be an experience of a lifetime. Read on to find out more about their trip…

The Austrian Tirol: a perfect school trip destination

Reading Time: 5 minutes Caledonia recently took a school group out to the Austrian Tirol for a German language and culture trip. With its dramatic mountains, strong cultural heritage and easy access using flights into Innsbruck, read on to find out how the Tirol offers students a culturally immersive language learning experience.

5 essential travel apps to download for a trip to Cuba

Reading Time: 5 minutes With internet access scarce in Cuba, check out our top 5 pick of offline travel apps which can help you on your Cuban holiday to navigate around the country, it’s economy and culture.

Exploring Eastern Cuba: Our 5 top things to do in Baracoa

Reading Time: 5 minutes Want to get off the beaten track in Cuba? Travelling to Baracoa in the Eastern province, a lesser-known region with a strong individual character offers beautiful hiking trails and surrounding nature with a distinctive cuisine. Read on to discover our top 5 picks for Baracoa.

Why did I book a dance holiday when I had never danced before?

Reading Time: 4 minutes Ever fancied going to Cuba to learn salsa from scratch? Read on about Leanne’s trip of a lifetime and her experience as a complete beginner in Cuban dance.

Western Wonders: Exploring Central and Western Cuba

Reading Time: 5 minutes Tempted to explore the Central and Western regions of Cuba? Our newest team member Caron shares her experience of La Isla Bella.

Last two places on July Cuba dance holiday!

Reading Time: 2 minutes Last two places left for our Cuban dance holiday in July coinciding with annual Carnival in Santiago de Cuba! Direct flights from London Gatwick to Holguin included, 18 July – 1 August (14 nights), single room accommodation, half board meals, dance lessons, nights out and cultural excursions, all for just £2, 265. Colourful and lively celebrations for 7 days and nights. Not to be missed!

Planning a holiday to Cuba? Return flights from just £399 return including taxes!

Reading Time: < 1 minute Planning a holiday to Cuba? Virgin Atlantic have just announced their Easter weekend sale on flights to Havana with return fares starting as low as £399 return including taxes.

Your dream Salsa holiday in Cuba …

Reading Time: 2 minutes “Absolutely fantastic trip! For anyone reading this, I highly recommend going!! In preparing for the trip Caledonia was very responsive to emails and questions. Once in Cuba, it was definitely a trip of a lifetime.”

When is the best time to go to Cuba?

Reading Time: 3 minutes There are several factors to take into consideration when considering when to go to Cuba, including flight costs, weather conditions and special events and festivals. The following is intended to guide you with some useful information about when is the best time to go to Cuba.


Reading Time: 2 minutes Havana in March this year is in a whirl, with the first US presidential visit in 88 years, the Rolling Stones free concert and the Bay Rays baseball match all in one week!

December in Havana

Reading Time: 2 minutes December in Cuba, forget Rudolph and think movies and jazz. You might imagine a Cuban Christmas to be non-stop merriment and mojitos, yet the festive season here is a relatively recent phenomenon. From 1959-1997 it didn’t officially exist: the island’s Revolution was atheist.

MANANA festival in Cuba

Reading Time: 2 minutes We are delighted to have been appointed as the official travel partner for the forthcoming MANANA 2016 festival in Santiago de Cuba, on 4/5/6 May 2016

Our Woman in Havana

Reading Time: 2 minutes Our Woman in Havana, Sue Herrod, will be contributing a monthly blog for Caledonia providing a unique insight and personal commentary on life in Cuba.

Colombia’s Coffee Region

Reading Time: 4 minutes After visiting Colombia’s coffee cultural landscape, Rachael posts some of the highlights of her trip.

Make the most of Santiago de Cuba!

Reading Time: 3 minutes Top 5 must –do activities in Santiago de Cuba

We love all of Cuba, but Santiago de Cuba is probably our favourite and is where we have been operating for over 15 years! Here is our list of the top things to do in and around the city:

New Website Launch

Reading Time: 2 minutes After months of planning, soul searching and organising, we have our new website! The planning and organising elements are clear enough, but soul searching?? Well, since the company started 18 years ago on a kitchen table in Edinburgh, the core theme of Caledonia trips had always been language learning. Hence our original name, Caledonia Languages Abroad Ltd.

Hello world!

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