Humboldt’s Cuban Footprint

Alejandro von Humboldt in Cuba (“the last man who knew everything”)

Alexander von Humboldt (born in Berlin Sept. 14, 1769 — died in Berlin May 6, 1859) visited Cuba for only a few months on two occasions during his many years exploring and researching South America with Aimé Bonpland, a French born botanist. His short visits have left a large footprint on the island, and his writing there have shaped and influenced many thinkers, leaders and scientists the world over.

If you are in old Havana you can visit a house where he stayed in Calle de los Oficios. It has a bronze plaque dedicated to his memory to the left of the main entrance, and another one with his portrait in relief. There is not a lot to see in the small museum house but, it is more than anything a tribute to a man who was an energetic and tireless collector, thinker, scientist, botanist, humanist, educator, philanthropist, explorer and more! He funded much of his own expeditions and died somewhat hard up due to his philanthropic activities, always keen to help young penniless students in the fields he love and made such significant contributions to.

He was undoubtedly the influence for the works of Charles Darwin who described him in a letter to a friend as “greatest scientific traveller who ever lived” Simon Bolivar who was responsible for the liberation of so many Spanish colonies, said of him “Alexander von Humboldt has done more for America than all its conquerors, he is the true discoverer of America.

While in Cuba Humboldt undertook scientific and social research with collaboration of Cuban landowner and thinker Francisco Arrango y Parreño. He visited regions around Havana as far as Trinidad and Matanzas. They conducted a survey of the city and surroundings and on his second visit he completed a mineralogical survey too.  He and his companion Aimé Bonpland made an extensive collection of Cuba’s flora and fauna, and in honour of Humboldt’s achievements and research carried out on behalf of Cuba a national park in the department of Baracoa has been dedicated to his name “The Alejandro Humboldt National Park”

Humboldt’s theory of life and the world was that “Nature herself is sublimely eloquent. The stars as they sparkle in firmament fill us with delight and ecstasy, and yet they all move in orbit marked out with mathematical precision”. He spent a large number of years writing up his findings and his theories of the sciences and the unity of the world we live in. He wrote an essay on the island of Cuba that was banned by the Spanish who felt threatened by it! It was called “Ensayo Politico sobre la isla de Cuba” and pointed great criticism at the inhumane  practice of slavery and all the injustices and corruption of thinking around its practice!


Humboldt was considered by Cubans as the second discoverer of the island and we can be thankful that the practice of slavery in Cuba was soon abolished. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes a landowner and lawyer declared all his slaves free men October 10, 1868 and became the catalyst for liberation from Spain and freedom for slaves in Cuba

If you would like to see Cuba and its beautiful flora and fauna, explore the old cities and rural towns, join us on a tour!

Learn more about Humboldt on BBC Radio 4 podcast with Melvyn Bragg

Why not book yourself onto one of our tours this year?

7 days tour “Cuban Snapshot”

14 days tour “Mi Cubita”



Delight in the rich kaleidoscope of countryside and city life aromas and flavours encompassed in this tour.


Starting the tour in old Havana with time to enjoy the old Colonial city centre, to feel and hear the rhythm of the changing face of Cuba.

Learn the secrets of Tobacco production and cigars, Revolution and the islands Colonial past. Travelling on to the southern coast, the old Spanish city of Trinidad never ceases to delight and enchant with its cobbled streets and back drop of the Sierra de Escambray mountains. Relax and swim in the turquoise waters of Cayo Iguana.  A day into the Altiplano Topes de Collantes where you’ll enjoy a countryside hike to the Salto del Caburni waterfall and have opportunity to see and taste the “best coffee in the world” from bush to cup at the Casa del Cafe. Night life and music are a large part of daily entertainment and you can enjoy dancing at the Casa de la musica in the city centre beneath the stars in the open air, what could be more romantic!

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Encompass Tours


Encompass run tours for those who, like us, want a little bit more than a suntan as a reminder of their holiday. We aim to look a little deeper than the highlights and send you home with a feeling of having had, not only a great fun holiday, but having gained an understanding of the culture and history of your chosen destination.

Encompass are a small team of travel specialists operating tours in Central America. Encompass run small group, escorted tours exclusively in Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Panama and we endeavor to provide comfortable travel at as relaxed a pace as possible, enabling you to have a more in depth cultural experience and make the most of your holiday.

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The truly unique taste of Cuba today

Capitoilio Havana Cuba

Starting in La Habana the old Spanish capital that has seen better days but has a romance of its own despite the revolution! The tour takes you next to the colonial town of Trinidad and a trip into its sugar plantation past. A relaxing day on an island beach follows, where you can sip a rum Collins or enjoy the under sea world  while getting your sun tan established! We move on to the traditional countryside town of Vinales in Pinar del Rio where the campasinos offer you a taste of tobacco and rum and a night of great dance music. Follow that with a day relaxing on an uninhabited island surrounded by seas of turquoise and blue. This could be paradise! All good things come to an end and we must head back to Havana and say our goodbyes .Why not have one last Mojito in the old city before jumping into a taxi to the airport?

If you have limited holiday time but you want to learn more about this extraordinary island and meet some local people this is the Cuban experience for you.

Warning! Once you have been to Cuba you will want to return!

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