On Location

Exploring the Unexplored: Granma Province

with Jennifer Spelman and Carlos Otero Blanco

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Course Description

Join Jennifer Spelman and Carlos Otero for our newest destination in Cuba exploring the unexplored Granma Province, one of the island’s most spectacular coastline and mountainous regions. Granma Province takes its name from the yacht Granma used by Che Guevera and Fidel Castro to land in Cuba with 82 rebels to touch off the Cuban Revolution in 1956. The spot where the boat landed was made into the Landing of the Granma National Park and it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party is called Granma. Every year, Cuban schoolchildren board a replica of the Granma and re-trace its voyage from the coast of Mexico to Cuba. Today, the Granma is a sacred symbol of the Cuban Revolution and the province is full of reminders of its storied history.

Our adventure begins with an arrival into Santiago de Cuba. We explore the city’s vibrant streets for an evening and another full day before heading east for a picturesque drive hugging the coastline. We arrive in Chivirico, a quaint town far off the typical tourist trail. This is our home for two nights as we visit the local marina and farmers tucked deep in the nearby mountains.

Departing Chivirico, we embark on a scenic coastal drive to Marea de Portillo and Pilon, passing through traditional small towns. We cross the stunning Sierra Maestra Mountains that played a critical role in the Revolution, serving as a base of operations and a refuge from the Batista regime. After a full day on the road with stops for food and photography, we land in Niquero where we spend the next five days.

Colorful Niquero has the feeling of a wild west town, dotted with attractive streets and antiquated wooden casas. This is the important historical site where Fidel and his compañeros launched their first major offensive against the Batista regime. Here, photographically rich day trips continue our journey back in time. We visit the Landing of the Granma National Park to see where Fidel and his fellow revolutionaries came ashore, followed by an afternoon in Cabo Cruz taking in breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea.

Spiritualism plays a significant role in the lives of many Cubans and has been deeply intertwined with the culture for centuries. It originates from a blending of several religious traditions, including African beliefs and spirituality, Catholicism, Santería, and Espiritismo. In Niquero, we have the unique opportunity to experience an authentic spiritual community gathering.

From the coast we head to the mountains and into the heart of Alegría de Pío. This preserved area is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, and we have the opportunity to explore the area with an expert guide. Then we share an afternoon and evening meal with a Cuban family who live within the park. It was within Alegría de Pío that Castro and his men hid after their landing and composed their “Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra,” which outlined their goals and vision for the revolution. Our journey ends in Holguin with a day to explore the towns elegant plazas before enjoying a final sunset overlooking the city from Loma de la Cruz.

Join Jennifer and Carlos on this new Cuban adventure to experience the untamed beauty of one of Cuba’s least explored regions and deepen your understanding of Cuba’s history, culture, and people. If you have been to Cuba before and are looking for another pivotal voyage, Granma Province is the one.

In alliance with Cuba’s premier photographic organization, Fototeca de Cuba, our unique program allows participants a unique experience in Cuba through the photographer’s eye. This 11-day educational program offers a cultural exchange with the Cuban people as well as a rich photographic educational experience.

True to the requirements of a People-to-People General License with U.S. Treasury Department,  Exploring the Unexplored: Granma Province focuses on educational exchanges with the Cuban people and recording their amazing lives with our cameras.

Additional Information


This SFW Cuba program is open to amateur, advanced amateur, and professional photographers. Enrollment is limited to 7 participants.

What You Should Know:

Participants should be technically self-sufficient, as this is not a program to learn how to use your gear or editing software. Participants should be in very good health with good stamina and mobility, as long days are spent exploring—this means walking, sometimes for 2-3 hours at a time, occasionally up steep stairs, steep hills, and along uneven terrain.


View Payment, Refund, Withdrawal, and Transfer Policies for this International Program.


Our accommodations in Santiago and Granma Province will be a mix of comfortable, but simple, hotels and personal houses. Each room has a private bathroom. Housing may be very basic in certain locations. This trip is best suited for those familiar with Cuba and an adventurous spirit.

Package Price INFO:

$6,595 for up to six (6) travelers; $5,845 if the trip is full with seven (7) travelers. Includes single occupancy for 10 nights ($200 discount for couples sharing a room/bed); full breakfast daily plus 10 included group meals. Airfare to/from Cuba is not included, as well as additional meals, required Cuban health insurance, recommended travel insurance, and Cuban visa.

Nature & Landscape, One-of-a-Kind, Street Photography, Travel Photography
© Nerissa Escanlar
Jennifer Spelman

Jennifer Spelman is a documentary photographer. She is co-publisher of CubaSeen, a quarterly magazine showcasing photography and writing about Cuba.

Jennifer received her photographic training as an assistant with Santa Fe Workshops, working with some of today’s most preeminent photographers: Jay Maisel, Norman Mauskopf, and Joe McNally.

A sensitive photographer of people, Jennifer strives to create portraits with energy and insight. She is most at home on the streets of Havana and has worked with Santa Fe Workshops across Cuba since 2011. Jennifer is a patient educator who has co-instructed with National Geographic Expeditions and taught workshops in Morocco, India, Turkey, Romania, Mexico, Japan, in addition to Cuba.

A popular workshop instructor, Jennifer is also part of our Mentorship Program »

Instagram: @jennifer_spelman

Carlos Otero Blanco

Carlos Otero Blanco is a photographer who specializes in underwater photography. Despite the fact that Carlos left Cuba after finishing high school in Havana to study hydrogeologic science in a university institute of the city of Novocherkas, Russia, he recalls art was always his main interest. In fact, in the cruise ship that took him to the late Soviet Union, he was already shooting b/w film with a Zorki camera, one of the few available in Cuba in the 80’s. Carlos recalls that very soon after arriving to Russia, he was already doing extracurricular activities with the institute’s photographer and starting to learn the trade. So, back to Cuba with a university title, Carlos never really went into what he study abroad, but instead sold his old Moskvich soviet car and bought his first digital cameras. Since then, photography has been the main tool for his artistic drive, with a wide range of thematic interests that span from documentary photography, to portraiture, to conceptual art, and nature.

In documentary photography, Carlos is probably best known for his photographic study on Cuban bedrooms, with hundreds of these shot all over Cuba since 2009. This effort of years (still ongoing) has led to a specific book (“Dormir con…” [“To Sleep with…”], co-authored by Enrique Rottenberg), has been shown in several national and international exhibits, and in recently featured articles in the New York Times (Cuba’s Secret Bedrooms), other publications, and books on Cuban photography.

Carlos is also a deep lover of nature and adventure photography. He has done studies in subaquatic archeology, and holds several diving master and instructor international titles. In consequence, Carlos is a certified subaquatic photographer and video instructor, and has participated in apnea and diving productions, and has won prizes in three international subaquatic photography contests.