A Chest of Emotions
Dark-green mountains that seem to scratch the sky, the longest and most plentiful rivers of the entire insular Caribbean, beaches of white, brownish-gray, pearly or even black sands –other full of pebbles– that can only be seen in this part of the country, a region teeming with distinctive features, people, geography and very traditional cities where what ethnologists call the Cuban identity appears to be stronger than anywhere else on the island, a region in which, as a matter of fact, the concepts of history and homeland were refined. or anyone looking for certainty that happiness can be shared and become a genuine reality, for those eager to meet kindhearted and expressive people, to discover charming cities from yesteryear, to learn how to dance with the heart up in flames and laugh naturally as possessed by a huge desire to live, to get basked in the people, to enjoy the solitude of an untapped beach under a row of coconut groves and taste a sweet mango only to then take a swim in spring of fresh, crystal-clear water that falls down the rocky slopes and gives out foam everywhere, eastern Cuba is the way to perfection. The secret is to give free rein to your impulses, to let the light and the warmth of his land sprinkle you all over, a land where all these gifts are just within reach like a blessing scattered all across a surface of 3,3 square miles and in which it’ll be impossible not to find –or give yourself– a huge dose of emotion. That’s any traveler’s golden dream, no matter what part of the world he or she must be in.
The enchantment of eastern Cuba can be seen as soon as you get there. And the first human who ever realized that was Christopher Columbus, who wrote these words in his diary when he landed there in 12: “This is the most beautiful land human eyes have ever beholden…” Many of the environments described by the Great Admiral –this sole phrase of his diary perfectly summarizes that beauty– have lived out to date despite the passage of time.
On this side of the island, the first Europeans landed in Cuba, thus beginning the conquest of its territory and the foundation of the first villages: Baracoa, Bayamo and Santiago de Cuba
Holguin, with its lovely beaches –Guardalavaca, Pesquero, Cayo Saetia– and its fertile countryside, is part of this grand paradise; and so is the traditional city of Bayamo, a National Monument and capital of the Granma province, a genuine assortment of contrasts scattered throughout vast valleys, steep mountains and a shoreline jam-packed with tantalizing getaways and dream coves like Marea del Portillo.
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s second-largest city, is an ideal location to be explored by the hand of its inhabitants –by far its most cherished treasure. The grand tour can start from the Cespedes Park, the heart of this jaunty and quirky city whose dwellers swarm over under the sweltering summer sun as an efficient way of relaxation. And the place always has someone strumming a guitar, others shaking maracas and shots of rum to get carried away.
Santiago’s urban ambiences are especially attractive because the streets show off steeps and slopes as they border the edge of the topography the city was built on, featuring a well-preserved historic center. The bay around Santiago de Cuba and the mountains of the Sierra Maestra in the background provide some breathtaking views.
In the outskirts, the beaches stand tall, and so do the Baconao Nature Park –a World Biosphere Reserve– Gran Piedra and ruins of its French-owned coffee plantations –declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO– next to the Morro de San Pedro de la Roca and the French Cotillion dancing and singing group.
The people, the colonial architecture and the natural environment are three great features of Eastern Cuba
Baracoa, Cuba’s first-ever village also known as the Landscape City, is a gem from the colonial times and a must-see for today’s tourists, no matter how faraway it is. The town is a compilation of reminiscences of long-gone stories, a patchwork made up of dregs from a past that refuses to belong to yesterday and whose nature remains intact, as well as the many relics it treasures, like its rivers of crystal-clear waters that reflect the exact scenery the first explorers saw as a spectacle of fiction reality Cuba emerges from as if it were just a different land, now designed to be enjoyed with quietness and with attention to each and every detail.
It’s a humble and beautiful city in the same breath, bathed by the Atlantic Ocean and a tropical jungle like the ones depicted in Tarzan movies, but without lions or tigers, just with gigantic trees, coconuts, lianas, motley birds and jutias. Some Spanish fortresses have survived to date and the Parish Church of Our Lady of Asuncion of Baracoa is still standing, as well as the so-called Cruz de la Parra (Vine Cross), the only one of over thirty that Christopher Columbus brought to the New World to mark the coming of the Gospel to these lands.
El Yunque, a peculiar peak of vertical hillsides and a flat top just five miles from the city is a town hallmark. The strolls down the Duaba Farmhouse –a tribute to the local cocoa culture– can’t be passed up either. Rancho Toa is the right place to kick off a boat ride down the name-like river, while the Alexander de Humboldt National Park –a geological gem of the Caribbean and Cuba’s largest protected area, declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2001– boast a total surface of over 270 square miles.
Though this is the best place in Cuba for nature lovers –by and large the number one reason that lures most visitors to this neck of the woods on the island nation– Baracoa has such beaches as Yumuri, Duaba, Miel, Macaguanigua, Barigua, Maguana and Mapurisi that also welcome sunbathers with open arms to his remote piece of land blessed with abundant wildlife and floral species.
Eastern Cuba offers visitors these moments of pleasure all across its vast geography and that capacity to stun and captivate travelers, like a huge chest of emotions, makes it a territory that will never stop amazing trippers in search of the freedom and grandeur of the known, the human warmth and the desire to live life at full throttle
Eastern Cuba will never stop amazing trippers in search of the freedom and grandeur of the unknown, the human warmth and the desire to live life at full throttle
Fiesta del Fuego, Santiago de Cuba.
Cayo Saetia, Holguin.
Cruz de Parra, one of the oldest Catholic relics in the Americas and the Caribbean.