Travel Guide: Fast Facts on Santiago de Cuba

More than a year has passed since the start of the pandemic, and many countries are slowly opening up to tourists. One of these countries is Cuba.

This country, located in the northern Caribbean sea, has beautiful landscapes (perfect for those looking to spend time with nature), great culture, tasty food, awesome music and more. If you’re coming up with a bucket list, you’ll want to include Cuba as your future destination.

If you are going to visit Cuba, don’t just settle with Havana. Go beyond the capital and explore other cities and regions, as well. One destination you should consider checking out is Santiago de Cuba.

Is Santiago de Cuba Worth Visiting?

You may be thinking: “Why should I visit Santiago de Cuba, the main administrative center of Santiago de Cuba province, when I could just stick with Havana?” You need to remember that Cuba is more than just its capital. There are other places worth visiting in this country.

Here are few reasons to check out Santiago de Cuba:

Great Music

One of the national patrimonies of Cuba is music. Santiago de Cuba preserves a strong African heritage, which is evident in the local music scene. Some of the music styles that tourists can appreciate when heading to the casas de la música are la tumba francesa, bolero, salsa and rumba.

Rich History

Santiago de Cuba plays a central role in Cuba’s national history. Did you know that this city used to be the Cuban capital until the 1950 revolution? You’ll surely have a lot of historical attractions to visit in this tourist destination.

Fantastic Food

Spending your travel fund on food in Santiago de Cuba will be worth your while.  Cuban gastronomy mixes indigenous, African and European cuisines, which results in tasty Creole dishes. You’ll find many restaurants in Santiago de Cuba serving these meals.

Wonderful Rum

Bacardí was founded in Santiago de Cuba. Photo by Graeme Maclean via Flickr Creative Commons

Rum happens to be one of the famous products in Cuba. Santiago de Cuba serves as the home to the well-known brand Bacardí. So make sure that you include rum drinking in your itinerary.

How to Get from Havana to Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba is on the eastern side of the Island, opposite Havana. Although Santiago de Cuba has its international airport, only a few international flights land there. The recommendation would be to fly to Havana. Then, take a domestic flight to Santiago de Cuba.

If you’re on a budget, you could hop on a bus that travels down from Havana. The journey, however, lasts approximately 15 hours, so you’ll need to decide if spending this much time on the road is worth it. If you have the time, however, you could break up your journey and spend a couple of nights somewhere en route. Trinidad and Camaguey, for instance, make for an excellent break in the journey.

What to Do in Santiago de Cuba

Although many people stick around in Havana and the west side of Cuba, know that the east side has a lot to offer to tourists.

Here are a few of the things you can do in Santiago de Cuba:

Check Out Castillo del Morro

This tourist attraction happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Castillo del Morro is a well-preserved Spanish fortress in Cuba. You’ll find the huge fortress perched upon a clifftop.

The original intention of Castillo del Morro is to protect the country against pirate attacks. People, however, converted the structure into a prison back in the late 1700s before turning it again into a fortress.

Today, you’ll find this elegant fort open to the public. It features a tiny naval museum that displays the history of the area.

Visit Santa Ifigenia Cemetery

This special cemetery is home to the remains of people of notoriety and wealth, as well as some of the well-known military figures of Cuba.

An impressive feature of the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery is the Mausoleum of Jose Marti. This gigantic structure towers over the surroundings. Architects designed this to allow a stream of light to pass through during morning hours.

Check Out Cuartel Moncada

Photo by Cancillería del Ecuador via Flickr Creative Commons

History enthusiasts interested in the Cuban Revolution should make time to check out this macabre museum and historic attack site. Back in July 1953, rebel forces led by Che Guevara, Raul Castro and Fidel Castro tried to seize weapons by attacking the concrete barracks. Although the attempt failed, revolutionaries gained much recognition from their efforts. Many even look at this incident as the start of the Revolution.

Visitors to the Cuartel Moncada will find the bullet holes from the attacks as they wander around the museum. Take note that part of this building used to be a school, so you might come across students during your visit.

Wander Around José A Saco Street

This pedestrian street features buildings repainted in pretty colors to celebrate Santiago de Cuba’s quin-centennial in 2015. You can also find markets and lots of little shops in the area — perfect if you’re looking to purchase a souvenir.

Where to Stay in Santiago de Cuba

Although Santiago de Cuba is the country’s second biggest city, hotels, motels and other accommodation options are somewhat limited in this area. If you’re looking to stay in a hotel in Santiago de Cuba, consider Melia Santiago, a well-run hotel with a lovely pool and great rooms.

Alternatively, you can stay in a casa, which is plentiful in Santiago de Cuba. This option is for people looking to experience the unique culture of the city on a more personal level.

Sightseers visiting Santiago de Cuba can look forward to interesting museums, buildings and other tourist attractions. So make sure that you include this travel destination when creating your travel bucket list.

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