Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city in Cuba after Havana. It is filled with history, natural beauty, and friendly locals ready to show you this colourful, lively city.
For those planning a trip to Santiago de Cuba, here are 7 fun spots to visit in and around the city:
Santiago de Cuba is home to the original Bacardi factory (not to be confused with the current Bacardi Headquarters). The factory was founded in 1868 and abandoned by Bacardi after the revolution. It was in this spot that the famous bat symbol came into existence; founder Don Facundo Bacardi discovered a bat colony in the rafters and it has been part of the brand ever since. Even though the Bacardi factory moved its operation, this factory is still actively producing Cuban rum under the brands Ron Varadero, Ron Santiago, and Ron Carey. While visiting the factory, don’t miss the tasting bar attached to it. It’ll allow you to sample the rums before purchasing a bottle to take with you.
Perched high on a hill with the Sierra Maestra mountain range as a backdrop, the beautiful Basilica de Nuesta Señora del Cobre is Cuba’s most sacred pilgrimage site. Dedicated to Cuba’s patron saint, La Virgen de La Caridad (Our Lady of Charity), it is considered the place all Cubans have a home. It is also the place Pope Francis visited and blessed during his recent visit to Cuba.
There are two roads to the site: the old road and the new road. The old road isn’t in good condition (think numerous potholes, ditches, etc.) but makes up for it with the charming scenery. You’ll pass the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, suburbs of the city, and the beautiful scenery afforded by the surrounding mountains. The new road is in much better condition but you miss out on the charming landmarks. It is instead dotted with aging industrial facilities. That said, there are some excellent views of the city on your drive back. Regardless of which road you take, it is worth the trip to this pilgrimage site.
Be sure to enjoy a baseball game at Guillermon Moncada Stadium. Baseball is a huge attraction and an excellent chance to experience the passion locals have for the national sport. I recommend turning off your phone, putting away your camera, and sitting with the die-hard fans (i.e. most locals). Everyone’s energy and passion is contagious. You just might find yourself yelling along with the crowd. At the very least, you’ll leave the game grinning ear to ear.
If you are in Cuba during July, why not plan a trip to Santiago de Cuba for Fiesta del Fuego or Carnival. Fiesta del Fuego takes over the city streets the first week of July and lights up the town. There are simultaneous celebrations throughout the city and on the final day, people head to the beach for “la Quema del Diablo” or the burning of the devil. You’ll witness the burning of a large demon that symbolically represents all the evil in Cuba. Carnival quickly follows and usually takes place the last week of July. It involves endless parades, colourful performances, rhythmic music, and lively dancers. Both festivals are unique, memorable experiences.
La Gran Piedo is an unforgettable experience. This massive store rises above the ferns and tress to offer extraordinary 360 degree views of the Sierra Maestra mountain range. The climb includes around 500 steps from the parking lot, but the spectacular views are worth the effort.
Tip: Only make the hike on clear, sunny days. It’ll provide a much better view. Or if your schedule allows, stay up there until the sun sets.
An amusing, child friendly option, Parque Bacon features life-sized dinosaurs, pre-historic creatures, and early humans. It takes some poetic license with the 227 sculptures, but it is certainly a fun quirky experience.
The park isn’t very big and doesn’t take too long to get around. However, there is also an aquarium, dolphinarium, and transportation museum on site. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, it is close to Siboney beach making for the perfect day trip.
Only the 30 min drive from downtown, Playa de Siboney offers a local beach experience. The rocky beach isn’t the quintessential Cuban white sand beach, but it is home to spectacular snorkeling. There is a shipwreck within easy snorkeling distance off the left side.
Regardless of what adventures you seek out during your visit to Santiago de Cuba, you are in for some memorable experiences. Happy Travelling!
For information on arranging a tour with Vamos Cuba, check out our 8-day tour of Cuba: https://vamoscuba.co.uk/cuba-tours-8-days-private-tour-essential-cuba