Bayamo

Bayamo is a low-key, unexciting sort of place, where tourism is of little importance. For that reason it is worth stopping here to get a feel for local Cuban life. The city is clean, organized, friendly, cheap and undergoing renovation and beautification. It is the capital of the province of Granma, named after the boat that brought Castro and his comrades to Cuba to launch the Revolution. Visitors come here on their way to somewhere else, either to the Sierra Maestra for some hiking, or to the port city of Manzanillo and the Granma landing site on the coast. The history of the guerrilla struggle is palpable throughout the area with constant reminders of the landing in 1953. The province occupies the western end of the Sierra Maestra and the flatlands and swamps to the north of the mountains. Many of the country's major rivers drain into the Golfo de Guacanayabo, the longest being the Río Cauto. The southern coast has the best beaches and several resort hotels are clustered around Marea del Portillo at the foot of the mountains, where there are watersports, sailing and diving, but otherwise the area has been largely neglected as far as tourism is concerned.

Bayamo was the second town founded by Diego Velázquez in November 1513 and has been declared a Ciudad Monumento Nacional. However, it was burnt to the ground by its own population in 1869 as an act of rebellion against the colonial Spanish; consequently the town has little to offer in the way of very old colonial architecture, with many uninteresting low, box-like buildings reminiscent of provincial suburbs in Spain. Nevertheless, it is a cheerful town and there is often something going on, with makeshift stages put up for concerts or other festivities. Every Saturday there is a Fiesta de la Cubanía, when the whole of General García fills with stalls, ad hoc bars, pigs on spits, and the restaurants all put tables on the boulevard.

Ins and outs

Getting there

There is a small airport, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes (BYM), 16 km from the centre, but it only receives
flights
from Havana, twice a week. International air passengers fly to Holguín and get the bus from there. Bayamo is on the main road between Havana and Santiago so there are regular
buses
from both ends of the island. Holguín is only 70 km away and there is frequent traffic between the two cities. There is also an irregular
train
service, which should not be relied on.

Getting around

Traffic is slow and moves at the speed of horses, as
coches
are a common and cheap form of transport. You will be able to walk
around the centre, which is quite small, but a
coche
or
bicitaxi
is useful to get out to the Hotel Sierra Maestra
.

Tourist information

The tourist bureau at the
Hotel Sierra Maestra
. The
Hotel Telégrafo
also has a buró de turismo and occasionally maps.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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