Santiago and Guantánamo

This is the most mountainous part of the country, dominated by the Sierra Maestra, which runs along the foot of the island with several protected areas and National Parks, providing a habitat for many rare creatures. The highest point is Pico Turquino, 1974 m. The Sierra Maestra also provided shelter for Castro and his band of guerrillas during the Revolution and his command post can still be visited if you have enough puff and strength of leg. This part of the island is hot in more ways than one - there is no shortage of steamy nightlife. There is a very Caribbean feel to life here, partly because of the influx of migrants from other islands over the centuries, who brought their music and other cultural influences.

Santiago de Cuba, the second most important city in the country, is one of the oldest towns on the island, nestling in an attractive bay surrounded by mountains. It is a vibrant, cultured city with plenty of music. It is the place to come for carnival in July, a raw, ebullient celebration. Sleepy Guantánamo came to the world's attention in 2002 when the US naval base on the coast nearby was chosen to incarcerate prisoners from the conflict in Afghanistan. The crowd-puller in this most easterly province, however, is Baracoa, a laid-back, friendly place, hemmed in by pine-clad mountains. It's one of the best places to come for beaches, rivers, hiking, coconuts, chocolate and seafood, topped off by an active nightlife scene with lots of traditional and contemporary music.

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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