Also known as La Villa Blanca (The White Town), Gibara is situated 33km away from Holguín. Columbus first arrived here in 1492 but the modern day town was founded in 1817. Starting out life as a prosperous trading port, Gibara’s wealth grew off the back of the expanding sugar cane industry and strong trade links to the US and Spain.
But the glory days were not to last. A highway built in the 1920s and the suspension of the town’s train service in 1958 meant that Gibara no longer enjoyed such commercial significance. More recently in 2008 and 2012, the town was hit by Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Sandy - but that hasn’t diminished its enduring charms.
Modern day Gibara
What remains today is an attractive coastal town that feels rather like a living museum of a more traditional Cuba. It’s a place where you can meander around quaint piazzas, wander among aging Spanish buildings, enjoy wonderful seafood and generally soak up a slow paced, easy-going atmosphere.
In fact, aimless ambling is probably the best way to discover Gibara, but there are also local landmarks worth making a point of visiting. Head to Museo de Arte Colonial and the beautiful Museo de Historia Natural, which has an interactive exhibit explaining how life started on Earth along with a collection of stuffed fish and birds. The town’s tree-lined square, Parque Calixto García, also makes for a relaxing stroll. But if you fancy a change of scene entirely, idyllic sandy beaches are just a short hop up the coast.
One of the other reasons to visit Gibara is its annual independent film festival. Started back in 2003, Festival Internacional del Cine Pobre takes place in April and offers a less mainstream, alternative vibe to the more formal state-sponsored events. Attracting cinephiles from around the world, movies are screened in Gibara’s only cinema - the atmospheric Cine Jiba. There’s a great community feel to the festival, typified by the street party that breaks out across town featuring live comedy, concerts and street performances.
Aside from the occasional creative festival, life moves slowly in Gibara and the outside world feels far away. Local guesthouses can be found in the city centre and they usually provide a very warm human experience. It’s also worth highlighting Hotel E Ordoño, which its architecture and admirable restoration gives it a special charm. But for now at least, the intrepid traveller can still come here and discover a Cuba that appears relatively unaffected by the pace of the modern world, and seems in no particular hurry to catch up.
In this fishermen´s town, just 30 minutes from Holguin city, you will find lovely people, delicious seafood, exciting legends and beautiful scenery.
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If you are interested in Cuba's incredibly diverse indigenous biodiversity, the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is worth a visit. Featuring 16 of the 28 protected national plant species and several endemic animals and birds, even those less attracted to flora and fauna will be impressed by the landscape and unspoilt beaches. It is best accessed from Baracoa.
A visit to the Almendares Park is an opportunity to relax in a lush, green setting in the heart of the city. Located by the river-side of the Playa neighbourhood, the park is an example of forward-thinking urban planning and offers some leisure activities for adults and children alike as well as the chance to see Habaneros relaxing with their families.
Playa Ancon just might be Cuba's best south beach. A 15-minute drive from Trinidad, visitors will find white sand, clear water, great diving, and sunny skies on the end of Ancon peninsula. There are three luxury resorts for those looking for an opulent holiday, as well as more modest options for the budget-conscious.
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