Santiago de Cuba and the East
Camagüey, 563 km east of Havana, offers a number of churches and museums worth seeing. The city is in the center of a fertile plain where sugar is produced. The almost untouched Camagüey Archipelago is also known as Jardines del Rey. Within the natural park there are about 20 km of beautiful white sandy beaches, the most famous being Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo. The latter was a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway, who came here to fish.
Bayamo is the birthplace of Manuel de Cépedes, the 19th-century revolutionary who started Cuba’s struggle for freedom from 1868-1869. Today’s Bayamo is a pretty little town with one of the few pedestrian streets on the island. From here you can explore the natural hiking trails of the Parque Nacional del Granma around the fishing village of Cabo Cruz.
Holguín is known to most tourists for its airstrip, but the old colonial town with its pretty squares and streets is well worth seeing. Also found in this region are the beach resorts of Guarda la Váca and Esmeralda.
- Andyeducation: Introduction to education system in Cuba, including compulsory schooling and higher education.
The first capital of Cuba, Santiago de Cuba (780km from Havana) has an impressive deep sea port and the majestic Sierra Maestra mountain range provides a dramatic backdrop. Although Santiago soon lost its supremacy, it was never eclipsed by Havana, thanks largely to the French plantation owners and their slaves who settled here in the 18th century and used the region for coffee and sugar production. Santiago then got a cosmopolitan flair, which was responsible for the cultural and above all musical importance of the city – the Son has its origin here. In July, one of the most spectacular carnivals in the country takes place here, and it even has its own museum in honor of it. The main sights of the old town of Santiago (around the Parque Céspedes ) are the cathedral, the Casa de Diego Velázquez, one of the oldest colonial buildings in Cuba and the Museo Emilio Bacardí, which houses the antiquities and art collection of the rum king of the same name. Next to the square is the Casa Granda Hotel, a favorite spot of British author Graham Greene.
The Moncada Barracks, where Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries started an uprising in 1953, is the most visited attraction outside of the city center. Visitors should also make sure to explore the area surrounding Santiago. Excursion destinations include the Castillo del Morro, once an important fortress and now a pirate museum with a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape. The shrine of the Virgin of Cobre is housed in an ornate basilica. Pope John Paul II also came to this important place of pilgrimage during his visit to Cuba in 1998.
The magical city of Baracoa is located between two bays at Cuba’s easternmost point. It is said that Christopher Columbus erected a wooden cross here when he landed in 1492. This cross was later given to the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asumpción, where it can be seen today. Until the 1960s, when a road connecting the mainland was built, Cuba’s oldest European settlement could only be reached by boat. The city’s role as a former Spanish base is illustrated by the three fortresses, Fuerte Matachín (now home to the City Museum), Castillo de Seboruco (now a hotel) and Fuerte de la Punta (now a restaurant).
With a population of 2 million, the Cuban capital of Havana ( La Habana ) is one of the largest and busiest cities in the Caribbean. Havana’s Old Town has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The surrounding district, made up mostly of tightly packed 19th-century houses and narrow streets in danger of decay, has its own character, as does the high-rise city center ( Vedado ), which was built in the 1940s and 1950s. he years arose when American influence was at its greatest. The most famous hotel here is the Nacional, which is still very popular with Hollywood stars. Miramar dates from the same period, the leafy embassy district reminiscent of Miami. Known as the Malecón, the seafront protective wall stretches for 5 km and is a popular meeting place for locals, especially in the evenings. Havana’s best beaches, the Playas del Este, are about 20 km from the city center. Havana is often associated with the American writer Ernest Hemingway, who liked to hang out at La Bodeguita Del Medio, a stone’s throw from the magnificent cathedral. In the nearby Plaza de Armas is the Museo de la Ciudad and the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, the former home of the “Capitan General” from which there is a magnificent view. The rooms of the Museo de Arte Colonial are also worth a visit, as is the Castello de la Real Fuerza, the oldest of Havana’s three fortresses. The ornate Capitolio, modeled after the Capitol in Washington DC, was once the seat of the Cuban government. The former presidential palace now houses the Museo de la Revolución, and in front of it, under a glass dome, is the Granma, the yacht on which Castro and the rebels returned to Cuba in 1956. Guided tours of the tobacco factory are also offered.
Pinar del Río and the West
Pinar del Río is undoubtedly Cuba’s most beautiful province. The landscape is extremely varied, the biggest attraction being the mogotes (oddly rounded limestone mountains covered with lush vegetation). The caves in this region, especially the Cueva de las Indio, are definitely worth a visit. The town of Pinar del Río should be visited separately. There are several cigar factories here that are open to tourists. The tobacco plantations at Vuelta Abajo, a short drive southwest of Pinar del Río, are open to visitors December through April. The road from Viñales to the coast leads through extremely attractive countryside.
theIsla de la Juventud (Island of Youth) is the largest of the 350 islands of the Canarreos Archipelago and was once known as ‘Parrot Island’, where pirates such as the notorious Englishman Captain Henry Morgan hid. This island is said to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. In the same archipelago is Cayo Largo, one of Cuba’s most famous tourist resorts, boasting some of the best beaches in the Caribbean.
Varadero, the largest holiday resort in Cuba, lies on a protected peninsula 130 km north-east of Havana. On the beach, which allows bathing all year round, there are villas and hotels in extensive parks. You can also swim to your heart’s content on the south coast. The holiday area Parque Baconaco (Oriente province) deserves special mention here. The rebuilt Indian village of Guama is situated on a wide lagoon 179 km southeast of Havana in the province of Matanzas. A holiday resort has developed here with huts made of palm trees, which are connected by bridges over the lagoon.