Visited so far by 2.5 million people, the resting place for Che and 16 of his men killed in action in 1967 in Bolivia is a memorial complex featuring an large square used for parades and large rallies, a monument now emblematic of Santa Clara, and a mausoleum crypt with an exhibit displaying artifacts, photos and memorabilia of Che, an extensive view of his life and work.
Just 3 blocks away from our house, a large square circled by some of the most interesting buildings in town. Always busy with locals going about their lives, since there's a movie theater, a library, cafeterias and offices around the square.
In the evenings, a favourite hangout for people of all ages looking to meet and chat enjoying the breeze, and families to bring their children for a ride in goat-drawn little carts. On weekend nights the municipal orchestra plays from the bandstand at the center of the square.
Monument at the site where guerrilla forces commanded by Che Guevara defeated reinforcements sent in an armoured train (tren blindado) by Batista's army in 1958. The monument include original armoured boxcars with displays of photos, armaments and artifacts inside, and a bulldozer used by the rebels to derail the train.
At a corner of Parque Vidal, La Caridad Theater was built in 1885 and stands as one of the few remaining colonial theaters. Remarkable for its design and decoration, the many arched doors around the building allowed for a good natural ventilation of the hall. Features the original iron grillwork on balconies, and beautiful fresco paintings by Melero and Zelaya covering the ceiling and sides of the stage.
At a corner of Parque Vidal, a museum recreating the ambiance of the homes of the wealthy during the colonial era. The house itself is from the 18th. Century, with a beautiful central courtyard featuring stained glass windows (vitrales) and brick paving, a space often used for concerts. The museum displays art, furniture, porcelain, glass ware and pottery from the colonial period. Admission is $2 CUC.
Since Santa Clara is not as busy with visitors as Havana, a tour of this cigar factory is not crowded or rushed, but a very pleasant experience. Four hundred employees manufacture cigars for renown brands like Romeo y Julieta, Hoyos de Monterrey, Montecristo and Partagas. A small shop across the street sells cigars, rum and coffee. Guided tours (45 min.) are $3 CUC.
Address: Calle Maceo #181, e/ Berenguer y Julio Jover.
Marks the site on a hilltop where Santa Clara was founded in 1689, with a monument surrounding a tamarind tree. The peaceful square features a church from 1748 (Our Lady of El Carmen) and several busts and plaques commemorating people and events from different stages of the city's history. In the last days of the Revolution, rebel forces attacked a Police station in the square, and revolutionary captain Roberto Rodriguez a.k.a.'Vaquerito' (Little Cowboy) was killed in the action; todays's former Police station is a school bearing his name.
Adress: Maximo Gomez and Padre Tuduri (5 blocks north of Parque Vidal)
A great day excursion from Santa Clara, only 50 km. to the South, this large lake (36 km²) in the northern slopes of the Sierra del Escambray offers beautiful views from every angle of its lush vegetation along the lake's banks.
From Hanabanilla Hotel there are boat tours (3 hours) with lunch included to Rio Negro camp and restaurant, 4-hours fishing tours (Hanabanilla is one of the world's best spots for large-mouth bass and trout fishing), motor or row boat rental, hiking excursions thorugh the forests and excursions to local farms to see firsthand the lifestyle in these remote places.
A great tour is a boat and walking excursion to a hidden waterfall and pond in the middle of the mountains (Caburni Falls), one of the most beautiful locations in Central Cuba where you can swim surrounded by a paradisiac lost-world of tropical rainforest and birds.
Fifty minutes to the Northwest of Santa Clara, out of the beaten path and forgotten by tour operators, Remedios is one of the oldest towns in Cuba, and the colonial architecture dominates this peaceful town. Remedios was declared a National Monument town, where you can find 17th. Century buidings still intact. Plaza Mayor square is surrounded by colonial buildings, beautiful monuments, trees, palms and a gazebo, following the Spanish urban standard.
The main attraction of the square is the colonial grand church "Iglesia Mayor" of San Juan Bautista containing 13 beautifully decorated gold altars. Remedios is distinguished for its Christmas festival, "Las Parrandas de Remedios", a popular event of the region that takes place in December every year, when the town splits in two to compete for the most lavish fireworks and floats display possible.
A convenient way to visit Remedios is as a stop-over on the way to the beach places in the Northern coast, although it is well worth visiting as a day excursion, to have the time to visit the grand church, spend time in the square, walk around the cobblestone streets in the surrounding areas and perhaps visit the Caturla Museum, the house of one of the finest Cuban composers from the 20th Century, with beautiful period furniture, colonial architecture and original music sheets with Caturla's compositions.
90 min. drive from Santa Clara, this is a great day excursion to enjoy unspoiled beaches with powder-like white sands and crystal clear waters. On the way to the coast, enjoy the scenery of beautiful rural areas and drive through the towns of Camajuani, Remedios and Caibarien. Then, take a 'pedraplen' or causeway in Spanish that crosses over shallow sea straits and connects a string of islands declared a reserve of the biosphere by UNESCO.
There are all-day catamaran excursions that stop at two good snorkelling spots: a sunken ship and a coral reef. Scuba equipment can be rented at the hotels. Fishing expeditions to catch snapper and grouper can also be booked.
One of the most popular places for visitors and locals alike in Santa Clara. Mejunje is Spanish for 'concoction' and in this is a concoction of styles, tastes and people: the weekly program have days for traditional Cuban music (son) and dancing, trova, salsa, theater, poem reading, local rock bands, and drag shows.
The bohemian-style courtyard in the middle of the ruins of a former hotel is a performing space with a bar. Admission fee is low, so lots of locals are in attendance to enjoy their favourite shows and have a good time.
El Mejunje mainly promotes local talents, although performers and bands from Havana and Santiago often show up since the place is well known.
Address: Calle Marta Abreu #12
In a corner of La Caridad Theater, a small bar with live music, usually a local band playing popular Cuban tunes. Great location to enjoy a coffee or a few drinks looking out to the main square.
Nightclub Boulevard (Carishow) is a small club featuring a variety of shows, live bands, karaoke contests and taped music for dancing; with mostly locals in attendance and plenty of rum available, a lot of highly energetic partying and dancing is guaranteed. Admission is $2 CUC on weekends. The club is also used for birthday parties and other social occassions.
Address: Independencia #225 entre Maceo y Union
A cultural hub for young local artists, this large 19th Century house features art exhibits, traditional Cuban dance nights, folkloric dance and music concerts in the courtyard. Workshops to promote history and the arts are held regularly, so the house is a meeting place for musicians, performers, painters, and local folks attracted to the arts, in a relaxed ambiance.
Address: Independencia #12 esq. Zayas
In a beautiful house from 1927 facing Parque Vidal, a cultural intitution that promotes local artists, hosts art galleries and artisan crafts exhibits, and schedules a variety of music and dance concerts.
A motel in the outskirts of town, hosts every night a fashion show and music by the pool bar, in a very enjoyable setting surrounded by lush vegetation, a tiki-bar, and thatched-roof buildings.
Renta Santa Clara
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