Holguín and Granma
The countryside of Holguín is attractive, hilly and covered with luxuriant vegetation. There are picture-book views of hillsides dotted with Royal palms, towering over thatched cottages, called
, while the flatter land is green with swathes of sugar cane. The city of Holguín is unassuming and pleasant, with a huge central square. The local people take pride in the tourist developments of Guardalavaca; but unlike Varadero, there is no wall-to-wall hotel strip. The north coast is indented with pretty horseshoe-shaped bays and sandy beaches, protected by a coral reef.
Columbus is believed to have landed at the Bahía de Bariay on 28 October 1492, which he claimed was the most beautiful country he had ever seen. The indigenous people probably thought so too, since archaeological explorations have shown that there were primitive cultures here some 6000 years ago. Seboruco man is thought to have been the first inhabitant of what is now the province of Holguín.
The province of Granma occupies the western end of the Sierra Maestra and the flatlands and swamps to the north of the mountains. It was named after the boat that brought Castro and his comrades to Cuba to launch the Revolution. The area is studded with memories of the guerrilla struggle and the hills are full of evocative plaques commemorating the events immediately after their landing in 1956, but it has been largely neglected as far as tourism is concerned. This is one province where you will need to buy a few pesos cubanos and where hassling of tourists is rare. The capital of the province is Bayamo, which has good transport links and from where hiking into the mountains is organized, while Manzanillo is its main port.
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