Baracoa Travel Guide, Cuba
Lying on the oyster-shaped Honey Bay (Bahía de Miel), with a beautifully preserved nature, historic atmosphere and a little exotic flavor, Baracoa is one of the most beautiful places in Cuba.
Its aboriginal name means “land of waters” and truly, Baracoa is the wettest part of the island, with several rainfalls and plenty of rivers. No wonder that Baracoa is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the nature here remained in its original beauty. The tropical town along the seaside is embraced by hillsides colored green by the abundant cocoa- and coconut trees, the splendid beaches allures visitors with their graceful palms. The huge, woody and specially shaped Yungue (The Anvil) Mountain towers in the background, its flat top being an excellent place to have a spectacular view over the sea.
Baracoa it’s not just the oldest place on the island, but as a colonial city - it was the first settlement in Cuba, founded by the Spanish, and by no other than Diego Velázquez in 1511 - is the oldest in the Americas. It is supposed that Columbus landed first on this place in 1492, and posted a wooden cross on his arrival, now identified as the famous Cruz de la Parra, which now can be found in Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion Cathedral.
One can feel some historic air lingering about this quiet and somewhat unchanged town, as Baracoa preserved its traditions and customs, these being passed on from father to son. Not to speak of the great number of historic remains, the well known and above mentioned Parra Cross, petroglyphs and pictographs preserved in Potrerillo, Patana, Oscura caves, several forts from the colonial era, 19th century houses, furthermore, there are 50 archeological sites from pre-Columbian times in the area, that once were home to Native American tribes as Siboney, Guanturabey, Taino, Yateras.
A sightseeing in the city is really worth the time. The Baracoan people built three fortresses serving to protect from pirate attacks. The oldest, El Castillo de Santa Bárbara, rises above the town, offering a superb view of the bay and the area, now it functions as a hotel. Fuerte de la Punta, now a restaurant and Fuerte Matachín are also merit visiting, the latter housing the municipal museum, Museo Matachín, where one can see exhibits from Baracoa’s history, its myths and legends, plus an amazing collection of snail shells-polimitas- no more to found.
Of course you can’t leave out Cathedral Nuestra Señora de la Asunción with the Parra Cross, and if you would like a little rest, Parque de la Independencia (Parque Central), just near the church, is the right place for relaxation and a very popular site among tourists and locals.
Besides all these, you can choose from a great variety of activities which will surely color your vacation. The first week of April is the week of passionate street parties-being part of the Baracoan cultural week. After wandering on the bustling and vivid streets, sunbathing or relaxing on perfectly calm beaches will be a recreational time, and excursions, hiking, white-water rafting, boating, and of course swimming are just a few you can choose from.
Unspoiled nature, lush tropical vegetation, rivers, mountains, beaches, remains of the history are all part of what make Baracoa so special and alluring, a place once you visited, you will never forget.