Santiago de Cuba Highlights
Nestled between the Sierra Maestra mountains and the Caribbean coastline, sits Santiago de Cuba; Cuba's second biggest city. This memorable metropolis is considered the 'Cradle of the Revolution'; the place which sparked the uprising and ultimately, it is where Fidel Castro announced its success. Additionally, Santiago is the final resting place of Castro. For those wishing to pay reverence to the revolutionary leader, his mausoleum, placed next to Cuba's national hero Jose Marti is a much-revered resting place, though visitors must adhere to the respectful code.
Fidel Castro launched an attack on Santiago de Cuba because it was reputed that soldiers would be too busy celebrating the carnival to pose any threat to his men. Today, Santiago de Cuba, hosts Cuba's biggest carnival event; retaining its passionate reputation.
At the end of July, for two weeks, the effervescence of Santiago de Cuba can be witnessed: there's an explosion of colour whilst dynamic dancers cavort along the streets to rhythmic drum beats. This awe-inspiring carnival is a time for Cubans to remember their history, community and cultures and it is something which shouldn't be missed.
Music and dance appears hereditary here, many musicians, notably from the Buena Vista Social Club were born in Santiago de Cuba. Additionally, it is the place where the traditional son dance, from which the salsa is derived, began.
Avid readers may note that Santiago de Cuba is the birthplace of the poet Jose Maria Heredia and that the Casa Granda Hotel features in Graham Greene's novel, Our Man in Havana. Enjoy leafing through the texts, whilst sipping on a Ron Santiago, the signature rum of Santiago de Cuba and known to be even better than the famous Havana Club rum.
Historians will, no doubt, relish the opportunity to visit El Morro. This legendary fortress witnessed heroic battles between marauding pirates and King Philip II's men, as the King battled to defend his territory from attack. This building later imprisoned disorderly and disobedient nobles and military personnel.
The enchanted Baconao National Park, approximately 60 kilometres from Santiago de Cuba, bewitches many. There was once a mythical tree, according to the fable, which enabled a little boy to play music from the snails in the lagoons. When the boy left the village and failed to return, locals insist that the magic remained in the area. Amongst other attractions in this mesmerising National Park is the Great Rock. The energetic traveller will be rewarded with spectacular views, after climbing the 459 steps to the summit. Then, imposing life-sized models of stone dinosaurs, in the Valle de Prehistoric, constructed by local prisoners, surprises many a traveller.
From Santiago de Cuba, adventure to Guantanamo and the villages around the upper bay to explore the marked difference between the bay and much of Cuba. Or, perhaps for a more relaxed excursion, visit the sleepy city of Bayamo, this tranquil setting will relax many a wearied traveller.
Santiago de Cuba dances to its own beat. With its contagious rhythms, joie de vivre and fascinating history, can you really resist experiencing its charm?