Santiago map key
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Descriptionhotels map

Located at the eastern end of the island, Cuba's second city is very different to the capital, Havana. Set around a deep bay at the base of the Sierra Maestre the city feels somewhat remote from the rest of the island giving Santiago a unique and sometimes provincial feel to it. Founded by the Spanish in the early 16th century Santiago was briefly Cuba's capital till it was replaced by Havana in 1553. The end of the 18th century saw a huge influx of French settlers from Haiti and this merely served to reinforce the differences between Santiago and the rest of the country. It hardly seems surprising then that Santiago should have been the cradle of the revolution and a bastion of Cuban nationalism ever since. Largely as a result of its rich cultural and ethnic diversity Santiago has also become Cuba's musical centre while the city is often referred to as being the most Caribbean area of Cuba, a reference perhaps to the fact that this part of the island moves at its own, even more relaxed pace.


Visitors to Santiago who want access to a beach without having to leave the city will find a nice, simple one by the Morro Castle. About 45 minutes drive west of the city at Chivrico are a couple of All Inclusive resort hotels which offer excellent value for money. The entire coastline in Santiago is quite rugged - the sand on the beaches darker and sugary, rather than the fine white sand found elsewhere.


There are a number of excursions available from Santiago including Baracoa, Bayamo, the Sierra Maestre and even Jamaica. For perhaps the most original excursion in Cuba it's hard to beat a trip to Guantanamo from where you can observe the US naval base. 19kms northwest of the city lies the small village of EL Cobre, Cuba's most outwardly religious centre where the island's only basilica watches over the village. Built in 1927 it commemorates the discovery of a statue of the Virgin Mary by 3 young boys in 1608 and the belief that since then she has watched over and protected the village's inhabitants.


Getting There

Santiago is linked to Havana by daily flights. The airport is approximately 20 minutes drive from the town centre and flights take approximately 2 hours. From Santiago City we can also arrange land transfers to Guardalavaca, Chivrico, Baracoa, Bayamo & Camaguey.


Despite its many attractions accommodation in Santiago City is still very limited. Most people's first choice is the Casa Granda hotel which scores highly for location and character but does less well on most other counts. The smaller, nearby San Basilio is equally characterful and offers better, more personal service. The Melia Santiago in the north of the city offers the best accommodation and facilities and service but lacks any character and is a short taxi-ride from the historic centre. Next door to the Melia Santiago is the budget Las Americas hotel. Early booking is recommended for Santiago, especially during July & August. Alternatively, we also feature a number of casa particulars in Santiago that we can pre-book.

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