The municipality is dominated by low mountain ranges of the Cordillera de Guaniguanico such as Sierra de los Órganos, and the town consists mostly of one-story wooden houses with porches.
Beautiful limestone formations known as Mogotes cover the scenic valley, providing a stunning landscape. Before European settlement, the area was the home of a small Taíno population mixed with runaway slaves.
Tobacco growers from the Canary Islands, who settled in the Vuelta Abajo region, colonized the area at the beginning of the 1800s and the first settlement in Viñales is documented in 1871, in the form of a ranch belonging to Don Andrés Hernández Ramos. The actual town was established in 1878 as a typical community, with church, school, hospital and recreational park.
Viñales is an agricultural area, where crops of fruit, vegetables, coffee and especially tobacco are grown by traditional methods. Over the last two decades the town has been developed as a premiere tourist destination.
The Viñales Valley has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since November 1999, for its unique karst landscape and traditional agriculture as well as vernacular architecture, crafts and music.
The city is dubbed La Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South), and known as a clean, orderly and prosperous city located along the beautiful bay.
Cienfuegos is one of the chief seaports of Cuba, hosting cargo shipments and recreational boats, and much of the downtown area is located along the water.
The city has traditionally been at the center of the sugar trade, which has dwindled over the last two and a half decades, as well as coffee and tobacco. Some of the best coffee in the country is produced in the central region of the country.
The area was called the Cacicazgo de Jagua by the early Spaniards, and was settled by indigenous people. French immigrants from Bordeaux and Louisiana, led by Don Louis de Clouet, on April 22, 1819, later settled it.
Its original name was Fernandina de Jagua, in honor of Ferdinand VII of Spain. The settlement became a Spanish Villa in 1829, and later a city in 1880. The city was subsequently named Cienfuegos, which literally means “100 fires in Spanish.” The French and Spanish influence makes the city unique culturally and architecturally.
The city center contains 6 buildings from 1819–1850, 327 buildings from 1851–1900, and 1188 buildings from the 20th century. There is no other place in the Caribbean, which contains such a remarkable cluster of neoclassical structures.
Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar founded the city on December 23, 1514 under the name Villa de la Santísima Trinidad.
The city went through booms and busts, including the most prosperous years when it was built on the back of the 19th- century sugar and slave trade.
At its zenith, in 1827, one of the 56 sugar mills in the region harvested the biggest cane haul in the world — just under a million kilos of white pressed crystals. This enormous, conspicuous wealth shaped the town and no expense was spared in fashioning the finest Spanish colonial mansions, plazas and churches, which still stand testament to the vainglory of this profiteering era. Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, it has been one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites since 1988.
Nowadays, Trinidad’s main industries are related to agriculture, including tobacco processing, and tourism.
Despite limited infrastructure, including an antiquated water system and limited hotels, the city receives hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
The growing private sector is flourishing in the city, where B&Bs and private restaurants have sprung up all over the place. The city is also known for its rich music, and there are several houses of music to enjoy in town.
The city is known for its fusion of cultures, coming from a mixture of Spanish, African, French, Haitians and West Indians.
La Tumba Francesa, is this city’s dance which is a dance expression that began with the arrival of the French planters and their slaves from Haiti in 1791. This dance is part of their priceless heritage and in 2003 it was named by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The singular beauty of Santiago’s landscapes, the nearby sea and mountains, the lively atmosphere, and its friendly inhabitants are characteristics that distinguish the city and make it a desirable destination for events and tourism.
The local citadel of San Pedro de la Roca was added by the UNESCO World Heritage as “the most complete, best-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture, based on Italian and Renaissance design principles.
The city was the last of the seven original townships founded in Cuba by conquistador Diego Velazquez. It also functioned as the country’s capital until 1550, and today it is the capital of Santiago de Cuba province, which has a surface area of 6343 square kilometers, 70% of which is occupied by mountainous terrain.
The city has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants and it spans a total of 728 km2, making it the third largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region.
Havana was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and due to its strategic location it served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the continent, becoming a stopping point for the treasure-laden Spanish galleons crossing between the New World and the Old World. King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City in 1592, and walls and forts were built to protect the fortunes that were held there soon after.
The sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana’s harbor in 1898 was the immediate cause of the Spanish- American War.
Present day Havana can be described as three cities in one: Old Havana, Vedado, and the newer suburban districts. Old Havana, with its narrow streets and overhanging balconies, is the traditional center of Havana’s commerce, industry, and entertainment, as well as being a residential area. It’s a main tourist attraction.
To the north and west a newer section, centered on the uptown area known as Vedado, has become the rival of Old Havana for commercial activity and nightlife. It is also home to the University and many residential neighborhoods.
A third Havana is that of the more affluent residential and industrial districts that spread out mostly to the west, most notably the Miramar zone. Located west of Vedado along the coast, it remains Havana’s exclusive area; mansions, foreign embassies, diplomatic residences, upscale shops, and facilities for wealthy foreigners are common in the area.
EXPERTS IN CUBA TRAVEL
VIÑALES in Pinar del Rio province
SANTIAGO DE CUBA
Camagüey was founded in 1514, and was originally named Santa Maria del Puerto Del Principe.
Camagüey is not absent of natural beauty, in spite of the apparent monotony of its plains, the rivers that cross it have been made marvelous green zones and natural pools, figured in the limestone rock, like the well-known forms in the Maximo river. The little islands in the north and in the south are valuable reservations of the flora and fauna, its beaches of white sand and transparent waters are breathtaking.
The province has 120 kilometers of beaches, almost 25 percent of the whole country. The best beaches in the zone are in the Boca, near the access channel to the Nuevitas Bay, semi isolated and little visited. Immerse in this water and you can see an incredible variety of coral (50 species), more than 200 types of sponges and 500 of tropical fishes. Following to the west, are the Jardines Del Rey discovered by Diego Velazquez and named for the king of Spain. The Keys are connected to the island by causeways. In this zone area lives an important colony of pink flamingo on the Caribbean.
Camagüey is the biggest province in the country, with more than 14 thousand square kilometers, its geography is characterized for extensive plain, which makes the province an ideal place to cultivate sugar cane, and shepherd a great number of cattle.
Its Colonial Historical Center is the largest UNESCO World Heritage Site. The constant pirate attacks forced the first residents to move the city in 1516 to the border of the Caonao River, in 1528 the city finally settled in the center of the province and today everybody calls it Camagüey.
This province offers a wide range of architecture. It has museums and cultural institutions such as the Teatro Sauto and has a proximity to significant Cuban natural areas such as Cienaga de Zapata National Park, Caves of Bellamar. In the heart of the city we can find the Jose White cultural center, the place where more than a century ago was danced the first “danzon” composed by Miguel Failde.
The Spanish named the place as Matanzas, after a ship with thirty men and two women shipwrecked nearby the port and were attacked and killed by the Indians. Matanzas has the pride of having in its territory, one of the best beaches in the world: Varadero, a masterpiece of nature. The fine white sand and its warm transparent waters makes it one of the most important and recognized beaches in the world.
Founded in 1511 by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, Baracoa is a visceral place of fickle weather and haunting legends.
Semi-abandoned in the mid-16th century, the town became a Cuban Siberia where rebellious revolutionaries were sent as prisoners. In the early 19th century French planters crossed the 70km-wide Windward Passage from Haiti and began farming the local staples of coconut, cocoa and coffee in the mountains and the economic wheels began to turn.
Baracoa developed in relative isolation from the rest of Cuba until the opening of La Farola in 1964, a factor that has strongly influenced its singular culture. Today its premier attractions include trekking up mysterious El Yunque, the region's signature flat-topped mountain, or indulging in some inspired local cooking using ingredients and flavors found nowhere else in Cuba.
Historians place the foundation date sometime between 1513 and 1524 by Spanish nobleman Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa, originally founded by him on the 13th of April 1514. Documents reflect that this settlement was only preceded by Baracoa (1511) and (Bayamo)(1512). Considering these facts some believe it was actually founded before Trinidad (1514).
Rumor has it that Vasco, in order to avoid tax payments to the crown, maintained the village hidden from the knowledge of the King of Spain as long as he could, but the village grew quickly, and at some point it had to be recognized.
Through his wife, the daughter of the Cacique of Sabaneque, Vasco received a huge land grant as a personal fief from Governor Diego Velazquez as stipulated by Spanish law, therefore it had no municipal entity to govern the town. Upon Vasco's death in Puerto Principe in 1550 the town obtained its charter.
It was originally called Santa Cruz de la Sabana, Santa Cruz de Vasco Porcallo, Santa Cruz de la Sabana del Cayo and lastly by 1578 San Juan de los Remedios de la Sabana del Cayo. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries there was a steady progress defined by land grants, which allowed for a stable population settlement. The economic growth relied on agriculture and cattle raising, eventually becoming one of the major beef suppliers to the Florida colonies.
By 1678 the demarcation between Remedios and Sancti Spiritus was already established. Along with cattle raising the sugar industry was developed and the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century the cultivation of tobacco began coffee and cacao. In 1682, a major dispute arose among the settlers, led by Father Gonzalez de la Cruz, who claimed that satanic forces had taken hold of the place.
This led the Spanish Crown to send a Royal Decree dated 29 January 1684 transferring the settlement to another place. Only 18 families left the town and went on to establish on the 15th of July 1689 the village of Santa Clara, today an important city in the center of Cuba and the capital of the province of Villa Clara.
Its long history is particularly evident in the city center (declared National Historic Monument in 1980), where 17th century Spanish architecture can still be found intact.