Bayamo Travel Guide, Cuba
The capital city of Granma province, Bayamo, is one of the seven original villas of Cuba, having a nearly five century-old history as it was the second Spanish settlement, founded by Diego Velazquez in 1513. Bayamo’s historical importance grew after the revolution of the 1950’s, it is considered that the Cuban independence was born here.
For a provincial capital, Bayamo is relatively small - with a population of 130,000 people - and quiet, maybe it’s hard to believe that the town was a crucial revolutionary site, along with the mountains of the Sierra Maestra. It is Bayamo, where the national anthem, the ‘himno nacional’ was first sung, in 1869, after it became the capital of the Republic in Arms. And the heavily forested, hardly passable mountains of the Sierra Maestra - south of Bayamo, at Oriente region’s corner- were the hideout for Fidel Castro and his rebels after their exile in Mexico, in 1956.
Needless to say that Bayamo and the province of Granma have had an essential role in Cuba’s history. Nowadays, Bayamo and the Sierra Maestra are known rather for their historical references than being tourists’ destinations. Although Bayamo is nice and peaceful, the people here and the well preserved colonial structures are not famous for impressing tourists. Anyhow, however impenetrable the Sierra Maestra is, it is really worth to follow the steps of Castro and Che Guevara, seeing the installations if the rebels, still in good condition.
Now the Sierra Maestra is a national park, with an astonishingly verdant and rough range stretching down to the Caribbean coast, and following the bending coastline approaching Santiago de Cuba really merits the effort, the scenes are splendid.
Many hotels can be found on the rocky coast, and though the sand is not so impressive, the mountain and sea offer a majestic view. Diving and hiking possibilities and nice package prices wait tourists here.
Attached to the rich history are of course very fine examples of Spanish colonial architecture, well maintained, which can be observed when visiting several buildings and museums. Major sightseeing spots include the birth house of Céspedes "father of the Cuban nation", now working as a museum, Parque Céspedes, Museo Provincal, near Céspedes’s birth house, which exposes accounts about the burning of the city (when, in 1869 the citizens preferred burning it down, rather to hand it to the Spanish troops) and about other important moments from Cuba’s past. Furthermore, the Anthem's Square and the Cathedral of Bayamo are also worth a visit, just as Retablo de los Héroes and the former garrison.
Culture and leisure are meeting in Bayamo, besides all these cultural spots, visitors can have a great time on the beaches, enjoy the passionate Cuban rhythms - at Casa de la Trova, for example, and don’t forget about trying out the horse-drawn carriages, by now real symbols of Bayamo. There is a tradition to build these coaches in their original form, and many tourists don’t hesitate to enjoy a ride on these typical, colonial-style carriages. It is worth a try, really.
Bayamo offers to visitors a glimpse into Cuba’s history, culture, traditions, and entertainment at the same time. It is a special Cuban city, fulfilling all tastes.