Top Ten Cuban Attractions

Top Ten Cuban Attractions

       The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean, consisting of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country’s capital, while Santiago de Cuba is the 2nd largest. To the north of Cuba lies the US and the Bahamas, Mexico is to the west, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica are to the south, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic are to the southeast. In 1492, Christopher Columbus found and claimed the island now occupied by Cuba, for the Kingdom of Spain. Cuba remained a territory of Spain until the Spanish–American War ended in 1898 and gained formal independence from the US in 1902. Between 1953 and 1959 the Cuban Revolution occurred, removing the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. A new government led by Fidel Castro was later setup. Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous island nation in the Caribbean, as well as the largest by area. Its people, culture and customs draw from diverse sources, such as the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves and its proximity to the US. Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate, an infant death rate lower than some developed countries, and an average life expectancy of 77. In 2006, Cuba was the only nation in the world which met the WWF’s definition of sustainable development; having an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita and a Human Development Index of over 0.8 for 2007.

  1. Havanna

           Havana is the capital city, major port and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city has 2.1 million inhabitants, making it the largest city in the Caribbean region. The city extends mostly westward and southward from the bay, which is entered through a narrow inlet and which divides into three main harbors: Marimelena, Guanabacoa and Atarés. The sluggish Almendares River traverses the city from south to north, entering the Straits of Florida a few miles west of the bay. Havana was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and due of its strategic location it served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the continent becoming a stopping point for the treasure laden Spanish Galleons on the crossing between the New World and the Old World. King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City in 1592. The Spaniards began building fortifications and in 1553 they transferred the governor’s residence to Havana from Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island, thus making Havana the de facto capital. The importance of harbor fortifications was early recognized as English, French and Dutch sea marauders attacked the city in the 16th century. The sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana’s harbor in 1898 was the immediate cause of the Spanish-American War. Contemporary Havana can essentially be described as three cities in one: Old Havana, Vedado and the newer suburban districts. Present day, the city is the center of the Cuban government, and various ministries and headquarters of businesses are based there.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten North American Cities, Top Ten Cigars, Top Ten Cigar Makers,,
  2. Cayo Largo del Sur

           Cayo Largo del Sur is a small resort island belonging to Cuba, in the Caribbean Sea no more than 25 km (15.5 miles) long and 3 km (1.9 miles) wide. It is the 2nd biggest island in Cuba’s Canarreos Archipelago. Christopher Columbus is said to have visited the island on his second expedition in 1494, and Sir Francis Drake may have also stopped on the island during his circumnavigation of the globe. Pirates also likely used the island as a base. Today, pristine beach, scuba diving and wildlife draw tourists to the island, however no people live there permanently; locals who work in the hotels stay for about 20 days, then return to their families on nearby islands. There are five all-inclusive resort hotels on the island. Flights from Argentina, Italy and Canada service the island. A large catamaran style ferry provides surface transportation. Travelers to Cayo Largo should be advised nudism is legal in Cayo Largo and is practiced on the periphery of the resorts in designated areas, and on the many desolate stretches of beaches (20km) on this island. Typically, the fine white sand is packed hard on the surf’s edge and allows easy walking. A major tourist attraction of cayo largo are the west beaches, Playa Sirena and Playo Paraiso. These beaches are a kilometer apart and one may easily walk between them when the tide is not full. Playa Paraiso offers more privacy for the nudist, while Sirena offers full service facilities for tourists. A shuttle “train” service takes tourists from the resorts to these beaches. Sirena offers one of the finest under-developed beaches in the world. Activities on the beach may be curtailed during turtle egg laying season. The beach has water sports related to the hotels, a restaurant, dolphin attraction, docks for catamaran trips. The lee side of the beach features tidal flats where many very large starfish congregate and other tropical fish are easily viewed. Living coral reefs form one more attraction for tourists on this island, although coral bleaching has stressed some reef communities in the Caribbean. The northern coast of Cayo Largo consists largely of mangroves and salt pans. While the water south of the island appears clear enough to reveal the underlying ocean floor, the water on the north side of the island is cloudy.
    Links: Top Ten Beaches, Top Ten North American Beaches,,
  3. Alejandro de Humboldt National Park

           Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt is a national park in the Cuban provinces of Holguín and Guantánamo. It is named after the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt who visited the island in 1800 and 1801. The park was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 for of its size, altitude range, complex lithology, landform diversity, and wealth of endemic flora and fauna. The rivers that flow off the peaks of the park are some of the largest in the insular Caribbean. The park is said to be the most humid place in Cuba, causing a high biological diversity. The park has an area of 711.38 square km (274.67 square mi). Elevation ranges from sea level to 1,168 m (3,832 ft) on El Toldo Peak. 16 of Cuba’s 28 endemic plant species are protected in the park including such fauna as Dracaena cubensis and Podocarpus ekman. Fauna present in the park includes various species of parrots, lizards, hummingbirds, the endangered Cuban Solenodon (endemic), hutia and snails.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, Top 100 Birds,
  4. Desembarco del Granma National Park

           Desembarco del Granma National Park is a national park in south-eastern Cuba, in what is now Granma Province. The park is named after the yacht in which Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Raúl Castro, and 79 of their supporters sailed from Mexico to Cuba in 1956 and incited the Cuban Revolution.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, Top Ten Revolutionaries,,
  5. Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos

           Cienfuegos is a city on the southern coast of Cuba, capital of the province of Cienfuegos. It is located about 250 km (155 miles) from Havana, and has a population of 150,000. The city is dubbed “La Perla del Sur” (Pearl of the South). Cienfuegos literally translates to “Hundred fires.”
  6. Historic Centre of Camagüey

           Camagüey is a city and municipality in central Cuba and is the nation’s 3rd largest city. After almost continuous attacks from pirates the original city (founded as Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe around 1515 on the northern coast) was moved inland in 1528. The new city was built with a confusing lay-out of winding alleys that made it easier to defend it from any raiders. There are many blind alleys and forked streets that lead to squares of different sizes. There is only one exit from the city; should pirates ever return and succeed in entering the city, the hope was that the local inhabitants would be able to entrap and kill them.
    Links: Sculptures, Top 100 South American Sculptures,,
  7. San Pedro de la Roca Castle, Santiago de Cuba

           The Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, also known by the less formal title of Castillo del Morro or as San Pedro de la Roca Castle, is a fortress on the coast of the Cuban city of Santiago de Cuba. About 6 miles (10 km) southwest of the city centre, it overlooks the bay.
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  8. Viñales Valley

           Viñales Valley is a karstic depression in Cuba. The valley has an area of 132 square km (51 square mi) and is located in the Sierra de los Organos, just north of Viñales in the Pinar del Río Province. Tobacco and other crops are cultivated on the bottom of the valley, mostly by traditional agriculture techniques. Many caves dot the surrounding hillfaces (Cueva del Indio, Cueva de José Miguel). The conspicuous cliffs rising like islands from the bottom of the valley are called mogotes. Viñales is a major tourist destination offering mainly hiking and rock climbing. The local climbing scene has started to take off in the last few years with many new routes being discovered resulting in an increase in local tourism
    Links: Top Ten Valleys, Top Ten Caves, Top Ten Cave Paintings,,
  9. Trinidad and the Valley de los Ingenios

           Trinidad is a town in the province of Sancti Spíritus, central Cuba. Nearby is the Valle de los Ingenios, or Valley of the Sugar Mills. It is a series of three interconnected valleys about 12 km (7 miles) outside of Trinidad, Cuba. The three valleys, San Luis, Santa Rosa and Meyer, were a centre for sugar production from the late 18th century until the late 19th century. At the peak of the industry in Cuba there were over 50 cane sugar mills in operation in the three valleys with over 30,000 slaves working in the mills and the sugar cane plantations that surrounded them. The entire area covers 270 square km (104 square mi) and includes the sites of over 70 former sugar mills. Sugar production was an important industry for Cuba from the earliest settlement by the Spanish, who introduced sugar cane to the island in 1512, and trade in the commodity enriched Trinidad and the surrounding areas. The island became the world’s foremost producer of sugar during the late 18th and 19th centuries, when sugar production was the main industry. The climate and soil were perfect for the cultivation of sugar cane, and good ports and interior connections facilitated transport and exportation of the refined sugar. To prevent the sugar from spoiling rapid transport was necessary, and to this end a special railway line was laid down through the valley in the late 1880’s, connecting the Valle de los Ingenios with Trinidad and the port at Casilda, 6 km (4 mi) from Trinidad, on the coast. Although most of the sugar mills are in ruins, intact structures endure at some sites, including Guachinango, where the plantation house remains, and the plantation of Manaca Iznaga, where the owner’s house, a tower and some barracones, the original slave quarters, still stand.
    Links: Top Ten Slaves,,_Cuba,
  10. Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba
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