Holidays in Baracoa
At the site of Christopher Columbus' first Cuba landing sits Baracoa, the island's original Spanish settlement. Founded in 1511, the city's isolation eventually contributed to its outsider reputation-it's been home over the centuries to smugglers, Haitian refugees, and independence fighters. Finally connected to the rest of the island by road after the Revolution, things have normalised a bit since then-but only slightly. Read on to check out what makes Baracoa the most unique spot in Cuba.
Baracoa Holiday Deal
Enjoy the vibrancy of Havana, the heritage of Trinidad and the serene seaside beauty of Varadero
- Enjoy colonial grandeur in Trinidad and soak up the local time-warped atmosphere
- Bask on the glorious Varadero beach at a luxury, adults-only all-inclusive resort
- Stay in Havana's most highly rated hotel, with an iconic location facing Parque Central
Baracoa is perhaps the most interesting Cuban city that no one's ever heard of! Hugging a long, crescent-shaped bay with the backdrop of an iconic table top mountain, this is one of Cuba's most isolated major settlements. The result of this is that Baracoa has developed a distinct regional culture-at once totally Cuban, but at the same time something else entirely.
Another side effect of this isolation is that the tourism industry hasn't taken hold quite as strongly as in other comparable locales. If you're dreaming of the "authentic" Cuba, this is it-a charming if quite simple downtown area, a number of major historic sites, waterfalls and mountains, beautiful beaches, and a tourist lodging capacity of just under 300.
Christopher Columbus was the first European to land here back in 1492, and Baracoa was officially founded as Cuba's capital by conquistador Diego Velazquez de Cuellar in 1511. This period was short-lived, however, as the capital was transferred to Santiago de Cuba only four years later and finally moved to Havana in 1553.
Over the centuries, Baracoa has played a wide variety of roles. The city was for a time a favourite target of marauding pirates, leading to the construction of a number of Spanish fortifications still present throughout the city. During the Haitian Revolution it acted as refuge for over 100 French families who would change the cultural fabric of the area. And, in the prelude to the Cuban War of Independence, the city received a number of rebellious prisoners in hopes of keeping their influence at bay.
All these ingredients were left to mix undisturbed until the 1960s, when the Revolutionary government finally managed to connect Baracoa to the rest of the island via La Farola, a massive undertaking of a highway connecting the city to Santiago de Cuba. It had finally become a bit easier for outsiders to visit here.
Some seven kilometres west of Baracoa sits the iconic el Yunque table mountain. Named after its striking shape (yunque means "anvil" in Spanish), the mountain was first described by Christopher Columbus and is today declared a national monument by the Cuban government. A moderately difficult day hike, a local guide will take you up the 575-meter climb for a small fee.
Southeast of town sits the Parque Natural Majayara, home to fantastic hiking, breath taking caves, and a number of freshwater swimming holes. Additionally, if you're just looking to relax, the area is home to a variety of beautiful beaches, primarily to the northwest of town.
Thanks to Baracoa's unique history, the city's culture is like no other place in Cuba. This is manifested especially in the regional cuisine, due in large part to the Haitian French influence.
While you're here, try Cucurucho, a mix of coconut, sugar, and assorted fruits wrapped up in a palm leaf to go. Additionally, make sure to taste some local chocolate, a staple indulgence of this major cocoa-growing region.
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