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Santiago de Cuba has soul. It was the last of the seven villas founded by Diego Velazquez and it has been the capital of the Cuban East for almost five centuries. Santiago de Cuba was proclaimed capital of the island in 1515 and in 1523 it was given a coat of arms and the title of city

The Cuba’s second-largest city is proud of its beautiful plazas and vibrant musical tradition. Proximity to Jamaica and other tropical isles has infused the city with a distinctly Caribbean spirit that is seen in its art and architecture, heard in its music, and celebrated in its exuberant festivals.

The city exhibits an eclectic assortment of architectural influences, from the imposing El Morro castle (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), to the exquisite colonial casas of Parque Céspedes in the historic quarter, to the glorious Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, Cuba’s most sacred pilgrimage site.

Just east of Santiago lies the UNESCO-recognized Baconao Biosphere Reserve, with its coffee plantations, while the highest peaks of the Sierra Maestra mountains rise to the west. Crashing surf along the region’s mountain-lined shore makes for a spectacular drive. Beneath the water, remnants of shipwrecks attract divers and snorkelers.

Don’t miss the Casa de las Tradiciones in the city’s French Quarter, Tivolí, where top Cuban musicians often make surprise appearances. While you’re in Tivolí, visit the Casa de la Trova, a beautiful townhouse featuring an exhibit dedicated to the famous Cuban trovador, José “Pepé” Sanchez.

Santiago de Cuba is rich in things to do and see, here is a list of places that you do not want to miss…

Places to stay

  1. Meliá Santiago de Cuba 
  2. Hostal San Basilio 
  3. Club Amigo Carisol Los Corales Hotel Santiago de Cuba 
  4. Hotel Casa Granda 
  5. El Salton resort 
     

Places to eat

  1. Restaurant Leyte Vidal 
  2. Restaurant Primos Twice 
  3. Restaurant San Francisco 
  4. Restaurant St. Pauli 
  5. Restaurant Setos Cuba 

Playa Cazonal

This popular beach features warm, clear waters ideal for swimming, with plenty of trees to offer shade.


Playa Caletón Blanco

Gaze at the majestic Sierra Maestra mountain range as you stroll barefoot through the smooth white sands.


Playa Siboney

Playa Siboney

A lovely stretch of sand and surf at the foot of stunning cliffs, Playa Siboney is a great spot to see local families at play.


Marina Marlin Punta Gorda

This major marina docks and services cruise ships and international vessels.


Santiago - Marea del Portillo

Explore the shipwrecks from Spanish Admiral Cervera’s ill-fated fleet that sank here during the Spanish-Cuban-American War in 1898.


Gran Piedra CubaGran Piedra

Climb the 454-step staircase for an unrivalled view of Santiago. Discover spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea from one of Cuba’s most bio-diverse mountain ranges. The area supports many endemic species of flora and fauna (including the endangered hot-cave bat) as well as the historic ruins of French coffee settlements.


Santiago historic centerSantiago historical center

Santiago’s historical center is well worth exploring and there’s no better way to do that than by walking the romantic streets of Parque Céspedes (Cespedes Park), with its gorgeous colonial architecture.

 


Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the Southeast of Cuba

That’s the designation UNESCO gave to this World Heritage Site which preserves the ruins of the coffee plantations that thrived in this area over 200 years ago.


Prehistoric valley in Baconao park

Baconao park biosphere reserve

 

This expansive 84,985-hectare UNESCO-recognized biosphere is home to 1,800 plant species that are of interest for their medicinal, industrial and religious properties. There are a reported 939 indigenous species of wildlife living here, too, including butterflies, mammals, reptiles and the endangered hot-cave bat. The rugged Sierra Maestra mountain range is protected within the Baconao biosphere, as is the Archeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the Southeast of Cuba – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Parque Nacional Pico Turquino (National Park Pico Turquino) 

Climb 1,974 meters to reach Cuba’s highest peak atop this mountain in the Sierra Maestra mountains. The journey takes about two days. The Sierra Maestra is a National Park full of endangered or endemic animals, including the smallest toad in the world,millions of birds, giant ferns and wild orchids inside beautiful cloud forests.


El Saltón 

Escape to this scenic mountain resort that serves as a great base for eco-tourism excursions, bird watching treks and hikes to local waterfalls.


Castillo del Morro

Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morro

Unesco World Heritage Site since 1997, the San Pedro fort sits at the entrance to Santiago harbor, 10km southwest of the city. The fort was designed in 1587 by famous Italian military engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli (who also designed La Punta and El Morro forts in Havana) to protect Santiago from pillaging pirates.

 


BasiliqueSantiagoCubaEl Cobre village and Church

The Basílica Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre is a Roman Catholic minor basilica dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary located in Santiago de Cuba.

 


Santa Ifigenia Cemetery 

Beautiful cemetery with many ornate and famous tomb stones


Carnaval stgo

Carnival of Santiago de Cuba

They are called carnavales, charangas or parrandas, large public celebrations dating at least as far back as the 17th century are common throughout Cuba. However, among Cubans, the Carnaval of Santiago de Cuba enjoys a special status.

 

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