Vanishing Cuba™ Photo Adventure Vacations – Inspire, Create and Learn.
Michael Chinnici’s 9-Day Vanishing Cuba™ Photo Adventure takes you into the backstreets of Havana and off the tourist grid. He integrates Cuban friends and families into his adventure, visiting their homes and businesses so that you can experience and photograph the real Cuba. Outside of Havana you will be treated to a rural lifestyle that has gone unchanged for more than 50 years. Michael will host only 3 Vanishing Cuba trips per year to a small group of 4-6 guests making them intimate and highly personal.
Michael does not just travel to Cuba. He leads photo adventures in Europe, Africa, India, Asia, United States and Central America. But most interesting are the 18 trips he has taken to Cuba since 2013. These trips have yielded and impressive collection of images know as Vanishing Cuba™. Vanishing Cuba can be seen on his instagram feed and the vanishing cuba website.
Cuba is a tropical paradise with a storied past, offering us a unique view of a world few have been able to see. Photographing Cuba offers us the rare opportunity to capture it’s warm people alongside it’s natural beauty and stunning architecture. Laid back Caribbean Island culture mixed with the big-city life of Havana, where vintage American cars from the 40’s and 50’s roll by you on Havana’s Malecon.
Like all our adventures, we take you behind the scenes of Cuba’s tourist veil and expose you to the inner city culture that is the real Cuba. By working with locals, we are able to achieve this on an unprecedented level. Besides photography, we’ll be speaking with Cubans about daily life on the island, learning about the country’s unique political and economic system and working side-by-side with Cuban photographers. Old Havana and Vinales Valley are both UNESCO World Heritage sites.
OUR CUBAN RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: It’s been said that we really know how to do Cuba right. First, we start with a small group of 6-10 guests. We stay in the best 5-star hotels and beautiful and authentic Casa Particulars (Cuban bed & breakfasts). We travel by air conditioned vehicles and beautifully restored vintage American automobiles. We dine in world renowned restaurants and authentic hidden gem paladars. And lastly, we expose you to not only a truly amazing and authentic Cuba, but the most photogenic Cuba.
This adventure is designed not only to guide you to the most photogenic locations carefully planned for the best light, but to aid you in mentally visualizing a scene before capturing the decisive moment. Our aim is to raise your awareness and spark your creativity so that you not only go home with images to be proud of, but use your new found skills to improve and expand your photographic technique in general. You will learn how to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary image by using your own creativity.
In addition, you will become knowledgeable on how to survey the landscape, utilize and approach your environment, photograph people indigenous to the region and the cultural considerations and challenges of photographing in a foreign country. Our time together will include individual and group discussions, inspiring ideas and great fun. Cuba offers more photographic opportunities than any other adventure we offer. Cuba is not to be missed!
VANISHING CUBA 9 DAYS
We meet at our hotel in Havana where we will begin Michael’s amazing VANISHING CUBA Photo Adventure. After an informal meet and greet we will hit the streets of Old Havana for an afternoon photo walk, shooting right up until the sun begins to set. After we will enjoy our “Welcome Dinner” at the award winning Paladar San Cristobal, located in the heart of Central Havana. A taste of colonial Cuba, San Cristobal offers wonderful entrees on 19th century china, surrounded by stacks of books, old antiques and nostalgic black and white photographs. While we’re there feel free to ask owner Carlos Cristóbal Márquez Valdés all about it. (D)
Day 2 | Central Havana – Old Havana
On day two we up at sunrise to focus on low light photography throughout central Havana, home to many working class Cubans. After breakfast we will visit a home in Central Havana for a discussion with Magia López and Alexey Rodriguez of the hip-hop/jazz duo Obsesión about their experiences and views on race and gender equality in Cuba. Next we visit a “lost in time” centuries old Cuban mansion for a photography session with ballerinas from Havana’s National Ballet. In the afternoon we will have a socio-economic discussion with urban planner Miguel Coyula, who’s presentation will touch on housing, infrastructure, investment and restoration programs. It’s bound to leave you with a better understanding of why Havana looks the way it does today and possibilities moving forward.
In the evening we enjoy dinner at El Cocinero. This lovely restaurant is housed in a former Power Plant and Factory. Home to Havana’s hip, you might think you are in Soho or Madrid. Following dinner we walk next door for live music, art and photography at La Fabrica de Arte Cubana. Rock star X Alfonso has turned this into a meeting place for young and eclectic Cubans and foreigners. (B, D)
Day 3 | Havana – Vedado
We begin with an early morning visit to the American Classic Car restoration garage. Owners Nidialys Acosta and Julio Alvarez have taken advantage of the recent economic opening and put together a fleet of 20 plus pristine “Clasicos” (as Cuban’s refer to them), to provide professional service to their clientele. Learn first hand how they restore these classic American beauties from the 1950’s. This setting makes for some amazing photography. Afterwards we depart in these beautifully restored 1950‘s American classic cars for a 5 hour excursion that will take you along the Malecón (Havana’s seawall), visit the mansions in the Miramar neighborhood and experience the bustle of Neptuno and San Lazaro streets in the city center. Then we’re off to La Finca Vigía, formerly the home of Ernest Hemingway. Today La Finca Vigía still houses his expansive collection of Hemingway’s books. It was here where he wrote two of his most celebrated novels: For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. The beautiful grounds and bizarre tales from Hemingway’s many years in Cuba are captivating. From here we drive to Playas del este, and the turquoise blue waters and soft sand beaches of Santa Maria Beach for lunch.
In the late afternoon we attend a private session at the famous “Rafael Trejo” Boxing Gym in Old Havana. Here we will have the opportunity to photograph trainers and students in session. In the early evening we are treated to a musical performance with Frank Delgado, renowned singer and songwriter, for a discussion about the nueva trova movement in Cuba, followed by a musical performance. Frank is often referred to as the Billy Joel of Cuba.
In the evening you have the option to experience dinner at the world famous La Guarida Paladar, the set to the movie “Strawberry and Chocolate,” and known for it’s spectacular ambiance and delicious desserts. (B)
Day 4 | Viñales – Viñales Valley
We leave early for the Pinar del Rio region, the western-most province, famous for its rich soil, tobacco production and spectacular scenery Here we will visit the charming little village of Viñales nestled in the Sierra de los Organos mountains. Viñales Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and settlement dating back to the Spanish colonial era.
We begin by visiting a small country town where Mario Pelegrin, a community activist, has created a charming neighborhood project dedicated to local children. In this tranquil setting, a collection of rustic cabins provide a home for amateur art programs. This wonderful program gives local kids the opportunity to have fun while learning new skills in the areas of music, dance, theatre and art. Afterwards we visit one of Cuba’s most renowned tobacco farmers, who produces some of the finest tobacco used in the world famous Cohiba cigars. He’ll give us a personal demonstration on how tobacco is harvested and Cohiba cigars are rolled.
Upon our arrival in Viñales we will have lunch and then check into our Cuban bed and breakfast. In the late afternoon we’ll take a photo walk through the town meeting shop keepers. Just before sunset we’ll dine at a local organic farm to learn about Cuban agriculture and tobacco production, where we will have a tasty meal. The sunset photography from high up on this ridge is wonderful. (B, D)
Day 5 | Old Havana – Regla
We are up very early for a hike into the valley before the sun rises. Here we will capture the sunrise and then hike through some of the farms that dot this lush and beautiful valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We’ll return for breakfast and our journey back to Havana.
After lunch we take the ferry across Havana bay to Regla. Regla is situated on the southeastern shore of La Habana Bay, across from the historic centre of Havana, and constitutes a municipality of the province-level Ciudad de la Habana (City of Havana). You will be excited with the many non-touristy photographic opportunities you will find here. Regla was a centre for smuggling activities in the 19th century. It is now an industrial suburb of Havana, with which it is linked by ferry as well as by land. Its foundries, petroleum refineries, shipyards, docks, and warehouses suggest its importance as both port and railhead. Factories include shoes, soap, foods, and soft drinks. Regla is also an important centre for the practice of Santería, a religious tradition of African origin. In the evening you are free to join Michael for an evening on the town, or relax by the rooftop pool. (B)
Day 6 | Old Havana – Trinidad
In the morning we enjoy an early morning Bicycle Taxi Photo Tour through Old and Central Havana, providing us with many photographic opportunities. We will explore Havana’s Old City a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander through the Plaza Vieja, the oldest plaza in Havana, dating from the 16th century. See the Plaza de San Francisco, a cobbled plaza surrounded by buildings dating from the 18th century, dominated by the baroque Iglesia and Convento de San Francisco dating from 1719. Visit Plaza de la Cathedral and the Cathedral de San Cristóbal de La Habana. Visit the Plaza de Armas, a scenic tree-lined plaza formerly at the center of influence in Cuba. It is surrounded by many of the most historic structures in Havana as well as important monuments. We will end our ride at one of the most photogenic produce markets in Havana.
After checkout we depart for Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for it’s cobble stoned streets, pastel colored homes and small-town feel. Here we will visit the Plaza Mayor and the famous Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima church, as well as the many other restored architectural gems in this charming village. Upon our arrival we will enjoy a hearty lunch at a favorite paladar, a recently opened restaurant with a diverse menu featuring everything from lobster to pizza. Trinidad will be filled with tourists at this time, so we will spend the mid-day hours away from the crowds. After lunch we will have a discussion and walking tour with the city historian and preservationist, who will provide an overview of the history and architecture of the city. By mid-afternoon we check into our hotel located in the heart of the old city of Trinidad. After a relaxing break for set out to photograph people and architecture of Trinidad, ending with a sunset photo shoot from the famous bell tower. (B, L)
Day 7 | Trinidad
Sunrise photo walk through Trinidad is a must. Here we will witness the city come to life, well before the tourists arrive. Not only is the light at it’s best, but the photographic opportunities are seemingly endless. After a morning exploring rural Trinidad we take a break to stay out of the midday sun. In the evening we will do another sunset photo walk through Trinidad. After we have a conversation with artist Yami Martínez at her gallery, La Casa de los Conspiradores. Yami has achieved international recognition for her art depicting the strains of life on Cuban women. Followed by dinner at Yami’s Los Conspiradores Paladar (B, D)
Day 8 | Trinidad – Cienfuegos – Havana
On day eight we depart early for Cienfuegos, referred to as the “Pearl of the South”. Cienfuegos is one of Cuba’s only cities to display French and Spanish architecture. Housed on one of the country’s largest Bays, the city offers beautiful ocean front landscapes, and is deeply rich in culture. We will meet with internationally recognized photographer “Omar Garcia Valenti” from Cienfuegos, who will show us some of his work and then lead a photo shoot in the downtown area. After lunch we enjoy some Music and discussion with the local chapter of UNEAC, the National Union of Artists and Writers of Cuba, featuring an opportunity to meet local photographers, musicians and other locals. After a beautiful day in Cienfuegos we return to Havana where we will enjoy a wonderful “Farewell Dinner” at one of our favorite restaurants. (B, D)
Day 9 | Havana
Our final day includes an early morning photo walk of Havana followed by breakfast and a review of your favorite photos of the trip, hotel check-out and departure for the airport. (B)
Photo Workshop Adventures provides 100% legal Cuba trip under US Treasury Department’s OFAC People-to-People Travel Program. CT-2016-327909 / C.F.R. 515.567. This allows individuals to travel to Cuba for educational and cultural purposes.
May all who come as guests… leave as friends®
Experience | Difficulty
Beginner, amateur, enthusiast, semi-pro and pro photographers
Travel by vintage American cars, taxis and bicycle taxis
Minimal elevation changes and lots of walking
(non-photographers also welcome)
Travel, people. street, architecture and urban photography
Meet with Cuban people, artists, business owners, and more
Professional photographer | guide
Cuban guide and driver
Photo walks & discussions
Small group size (4-6 guests)
The finest Cuban bed and breakfast’s
Visa (U.S. Citizens)
OFAC travel documents
What To Expect
Cuba is not just unique, but one of the most rewarding photographic and cultural experiences you will ever encounter. Because Cuba is so different it requires a open-minded and rewarding sense of adventure. As is often said in Cuba, “It’s not what you want, it’s what we have”. Prepare yourself to be completely wowed.
Havana – Grand Hotel Manzana Kempinski, Saratoga Hotel, Iberostar Parque Central or similar
Trinidad – The finest Cuban Bed & Breakfasts
Cienfuegos – The finest Cuban Bed & Breakfasts
Book your commercial flights to the corresponding airports noted below.
Arrival and Departure Airport: Havana José Martí International Airport (HAV) – Transfer time 45min.
Our adventure begins on the first day at 2 PM at our hotel and ends at checkout on the last day.
U.S. based airlines distribute Cuban Visas at the airport using the OFAC People-to-People documents provided by us. A Cuban Visa cost $50 – $100 depending on the airline. International travelers who require a Cuban visa can get their visa through the Cuban Embassy or Consulate in their respective countries.
Single Supplement: $1000
Options and Benefits
Private Guided Tours & Adventures
We offer amazing private guided photo adventures, cultural tours and vacations for individuals, couples, families and groups. We can customize any of our published adventures, as well as others, to meet your individual needs, schedule, budget and interests. This may include the finest 5-star accommodations, business-class travel, and private guides and fixers who are able to make the impossible possible. If you are not interested in a photo-centric vacation, but you love our approach to private travel, we will be happy to design and deliver an amazing adventure focused on travel, culture and cuisine.
We offer travel insurance through Travelex. The cost for travel insurance can be as low as 4% of the total trip cost, depending upon age and other factors. Knowing you have trip cancellation coverage can make a big difference should you have to cancel for some unforeseen reason. Travelex Insurance Services is a BBB Accredited business with an A+ rating.
Travel, Street, People, Landscape, Aerial, Motorsports, Fashion
A New York based photographer, creative director and businessman, Michael has traveled the world photographing people, urban and street, architecture, landscapes, motorsports, aerial and fashion. He enjoys the challenges that various photographic disciplines present. He has helped design and build many of PWA’s photo adventures. Michael manages the companies private photo adventures for select guests around the world.
As an artist, he is currently pursuing a ongoing visual storytelling project titled “Vanishing Cuba” which includes images from his 16 trips (and counting) to Cuba.
Michael was introduced to photography by his father at the young age of 11. Using his dads WWII Argus C3 and a basement darkroom, he began his love affair with the camera. Although Michael spent his early years in marketing and design at the helm of his own advertising agency for 25 years, he also founded New York’s first digital photography studio “Icon Digital” in 1995 utilizing Hasselblad medium format camera’s and Leaf digital backs. He is the father of four beautiful children including one son who is an accomplished cinematographer.
When Michael isn’t on assignment, in the studio or on an adventure, he can be found traveling the world searching for unique photography opportunities, exceptional hotels, amazing restaurants or maybe creating your next travel adventure.