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Exploring Tourism in Cuba
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Cuba Popular Places to Visit

Plaza De La Revolucion (jose Marti Memorial)

Due to its important place in Havana's history, the Plaza de la Revolucion deserves at least a brief stop if only to absorb the events that transpired here. Castro delivered speeches in this vast square, attracting more than a million people at times. And in 1998, during a visit to Cuba, Pope John Paul II celebrated mass here.

In the center of the Plaza de la Revolucion stands a 109-meter gray tower, a memorial to the Cuban national hero, Jose Marti, while a large, white marble statue of him lies at its base. Below the statue is the entrance to the interior of the Jose Marti Memorial, which contains a museum on Marti. Ascend the tower for incredible views over Havana. Opposite the memorial, the famous giant portrait of Che Guevara adorns the Ministry of Interior building.

Havana, Cuba

Parque Historico Militar

The Parque Historico Militar encompasses two of Havana's famous fortresses: the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, also known as El Morro, and Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana. Presiding over the entrance of the Bay of Havana, El Morro was built in the late 16th century and early 17th century to fend off pirates, and looks much the same as it did back then. The lighthouse was replaced with one of stone in the middle of the 19th century, but its original lamp still shines out to sea. You can ascend to the top of the fort to admire impressive views of the ocean and city.

A short stroll from El Morro, Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana, constructed in the 1770s, was the biggest fort the Spanish ever built, as well as the most expensive. The fort became a military prison during the Batista regime and was later used as the headquarters for Che Guevara after the Revolution. You can explore the museums here, which trace the history of this fascinating fort, but the most popular time to visit is at night when actors dressed in 19th-century costumes perform Ceremonia del Cañonazo, a cannon-firing ceremony at 9pm.

Havana, Cuba

Castillo De San Pedro Del Morro

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Castillo del Morro is one of the best-preserved Spanish fortresses of the 17th century. It stands at the entrance to the Bay of Santiago, about 10 kilometers southwest of Santiago de Cuba, the country's second largest city. Perched high atop a cliff, the structure was designed in 1587, but took decades to build and was finally completed at the end of the 17th century. It was originally intended to protect against pirate attacks, but also served as a prison in the late 1700s before being once again converted into a fortress. Today, you can explore the many different levels of the fort, learn about pirates and the fort history in the small museum, and enjoy impressive views over the bay.

Other cultural highlights of Santiago de Cuba include the Diego Velazquez Museum and Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia, home to the remains of some of Cuba's most famous military figures. Less than an hour from the city by car, Parque Baconao is a World Heritage Biosphere Reserve where you can tour coffee plantations, wander through beautiful botanical gardens, and enjoy stunning 360-degree views over the mountains and sea from the 1,234 meter summit of Gran Piedra, a large volcanic rock.

Santiago De Cuba, Cuba

Museo Nacional De Bellas Artes

If you're an art lover, don't miss Havana's Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), with its vast and impressive collection of international and Cuban art. The collection is housed in two buildings, and includes works from ancient times to the present day. Clad in sumptuous Italian marble, the restored Spanish Renaissance-style Palacio del Centro Asturiano was designed in the 1920s by Manuel Bustos. It displays international art, including works by European Masters; ancient art from Greece, Rome, and Egypt; and works from Asia, the United States, and Latin America. The Spanish collection, in particular, is a highlight.

The striking marble sculpture, "Form, Space and Light," greets visitors at the entrance to the second venue, which dates from 1959. This Rationalist-style Palacio de Bellas Artes building displays a thought-provoking collection focusing on Cuban Art from the 17th century to the present day, including sculptures, prints, and paintings.

Havana, Cuba

Che Guevara Mausoleum

When beach towns and resorts all start to seem the same, Santa Clara, the famous site of the last guerrilla battle led by Che Guevara in 1958, will add some depth to a Cuban itinerary. Che's body was laid to rest here, and his mausoleum (Mausoleo del Che Guevara) and monument, the Memorial Comandante Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, are the town's big attractions. Etched on the bronze statue of Che Guevara in Plaza de la Revolucion is his final letter to Fidel Castro, while the mausoleum lies beneath.

Adjacent to the monument, the Museo Historico de la Revolucion exhibits some of Che's personal items. Che fans should also see the poignant Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado, a small boxcar museum and the site of the final battle between Che Guevara and the Batista troops.

Santa Clara, Cuba

The Malecon

Conceived in 1901 and partly built in 1902 and beyond, the Malecon is Havana's famous seafront promenade. A walk along here offers a stroll through the history of the city. The promenade runs seven kilometers from the Habana Vieja quarter to the Vedado, the central business district. Along the way, you will find an assortment of well-preserved 20th-century buildings that represent a mixture of architectural styles, including Art Deco and Neo Moorish. Painted in pastel pinks and yellows, the buildings are a photographer's delight, especially in the golden glow of dusk. People-watching is a favorite pastime here. Young lovers saunter hand-in-hand, local fishermen cast their lines, and children clamber along the sea wall.

Havana, Cuba

Baracoa

One of the highlights of eastern Cuba is beautiful Baracoa, the oldest city in the country. It was founded in 1511 in the province of Guantanamo, and construction began on the first church here around that time. Cut off from much of the outside world until the 1960s, when the La Farola highway was built, the city still has a remote feel. Today, visitors come here for the charming colonial architecture and lush countryside, where waterfalls and pretty beaches provide a cool counterpoint to the steamy jungle. The flat-topped peak of El Yunque presides over all this tropical beauty, beckoning hikers to take the guided ascent to its 589-meter summit. The hillside is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve where rare birds and plants thrive.

To really appreciate the spectacular scenery, take a drive down the winding La Farola highway, a 49-kilometer stretch from Baracoa over the mountains to Cajobabo. The Museo Municipal is also worth a look. Housed in the Fuerte Matachin military fortress, it provides a glimpse of Baracoa's fascinating history, and the fort itself offers great views over the bay. About 20 kilometers northwest of Baracoa is one of the area's best beaches, picture-perfect Playa Maguana. If you're adventurous, you can rent a bicycle in Baracoa and peddle out here. Flights to Baracoa depart frequently from Havana.

Baracoa, Cuba

Parque Nacional Viñales

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Parque Nacional Viñales is a beautiful, verdant valley in the Sierra de los Organos, north of Pinar del Rio. Steep limestone hills, called mogotes, slice through the valleys, creating a dramatic landscape. The valley floors in the Parque Nacional Viñales are agricultural areas where tobacco, fruit, and vegetables are grown. For outdoor enthusiasts, the park offers fantastic hiking and horseback riding in the hills. Nearby, the charming town of Viñales is a great base for exploring the surrounding area. Tour companies also offer day trips here from Havana.

Pinar Del Rio, Cuba

Playa Paraíso

In a country known for its beautiful beaches, Playa Paraíso (Paradise Beach), on the island of Cayo Largo del Sur, is one of Cuba's best. This sublime strand of powdery white sand and baby blue sea skirts the sheltered western edge of the island and merges with the equally ravishing Playa Sirena. The island of Cayo Largo del Sur is truly a sun seeker's destination with a typically dry, sunny climate and few tourist attractions besides beautiful beaches and many hotels and resorts.

Cayo Largo, Cuba

Guardalavaca

Rimmed by glittering beaches, Guardalavaca, in the Holguin province, is quieter and more remote than Varadero. Lush foliage fringes the sweeping strand of beach here, providing plenty of shady patches for those seeking respite from the tropical sun. Divers and snorkelers can explore a plethora of sea life along the coral reefs.

West of Guardalavaca, Bahia de Naranjo encompasses a large slice of coast and three islands, including Cayo Naranjo with the popular Dolphinarium, offering close-up encounters with these gregarious creatures.

Holguín, Cuba