Regla and Guanabacoa Districts

Regla and Guanabacoa, though both technically part of Havana, truly feel like towns unto themselves—and for good reason! They were both independent communities before becoming part of Havana, and they both retain much of their independent character today. Regla is more industrial while Guanabacoa feels somewhat more rural, though both are notable for the Afro-Cuban culture that flourishes here especially in terms of local religions.

If you’re looking to get to know a different side of the Cuban experience, one that many tourists simply don’t experience, then the municipalities of Regla and Guanabacoa are certainly two fine places to go. Located on “the other side” of Havana Harbour, these municipalities are distinct in many ways but united by the strong Afro-Cuban culture that thrives here. Over the years, this culture has been manifested in literature, dance, music, and visual art—but more than anything else, Regla and Guanabacoa are famous for the unique religions that live on in this area, religions that generally speaking fall under the umbrella of Santería.

A syncretic mix of West African religious traditions and Roman Catholicism, Santería is still widely practiced throughout much of the Caribbean today. That said, Cuba is a Santería hotbed, and Regla and Guanabacoa are the hotbeds of Santería in Havana. Guanabacoa itself is the home of three distinct Afro-Cuban religions—Regla de Ocha, Palo Monte and Abakuá—and a walk or slow drive through the streets here will provide innumerable glimpses into many home-temples containing shrines to different deities representing each of these religious currents and more.

For a more “mainstream” but still definitively local religious experience, visitors to this part of Havana can get to know the Virgin of Regla—a unique depiction of the Catholic Virgin Mary with skin as dark as that of so many residents of this part of the city. Located in the National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Regla, things get especially busy each year on her feast day of September 7th when celebrations to the Virgin begin. On this day, religious pilgrims decorate her image with marine images including shells, corals, starfish, and sea grass. This is because, in local Santería tradition, this depiction of the Virgin has been syncretized with Orisha Yemayá, the owner of the ocean and everything within it.

Lastly, any trip to Regla and Guanabacoa should be rounded out with a visit to the latter’s excellent municipal museum—a place so interesting that we explore it in full detail on another page. Suffice it to say, here you can take a closer look at recreations of many home-temple shrines and altars, and also speak with guides intimately knowledgeable about the religious traditions of the area.

To get to the Regla/Guanabacoa municipalities, you have two primary options: the first is of course a taxi from any other part of Havana, but a more unique option is the Lanchita de Regla, a ferry boat that takes off from Old Havana’s ferry terminal, located just a block away from the Rum Museum for reference. This is a great way to add yet another more off-the-beaten-path Havana experience to your holiday.


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5th Avenue

5th Avenue

Quinta Avenida is often called the most beautiful street in Cuba, and for good reason. Located in Miramar district, it's home to historic mansions, many of them repurposed, as well as other landmarks including the Fountain of the Americas, an iconic clock tower, the island's largest church, and what is perhaps Cuba's most famous theme park. Read on to learn more about Quinta Avenida, an oasis of peace in a bustling city.

Alameda De Paula

Alameda de Paula

Although it has transformed considerably since its original construction in the late 18th Century, the Alameda de Paula in Havana is brimming with charm. This beautiful seaside walkway is fully lined with mature trees, benches, a fountain, and the domed Paula Church. When visitors are ready to take time away from other attractions, this can be one of the great places to sit down and pause for reflection.

Alejandro Robaina Tobacco Plantation

Alejandro Robaina Tobacco Plantation

The Alejandro Robaina Tobacco Plantation is one of Cuba's top tourist attractions—however, you won't find any signs guiding you to its fields some 17 kilometres southwest of Pinar del Rio. Since it's a private enterprise, its plantation tours operate in something of a legal grey area; regardless, they come highly recommended. Though famed proprietor Alejandro Robaina passed away a few years ago, his farm continues to grow what is arguably the world's finest tobacco. Take a tour and find out why!

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