Baracoa near the eastern tip of Cuba

Monday, 17 October 2016 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General

Sunset at the Bay of Honey © Paul Postiaux/cc-by-sa-3.0

Sunset at the Bay of Honey © Paul Postiaux/cc-by-sa-3.0

Baracoa is a municipality and city in Guantánamo Province near the eastern tip of Cuba. It was discovered by Admiral Christopher Colombus on November 27, 1492, and then founded by the first governor of Cuba, the Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar in August 15, 1511. It is the oldest Spanish settlement in Cuba and was its first capital (the basis for its nickname Ciudad Primada, “First City”). Baracoa is located on the spot where Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba on his first voyage. It is thought that the name stems from the indigenous Arauaca language word meaning “the presence of the sea”. Baracoa lies on the Bay of Honey (Bahía de Miel) and is surrounded by a wide mountain range (including the Sierra del Purial), which causes it to be quite isolated, apart from a single mountain road built in the 1960s.

The main products in the region are banana, coconut and cacao. It is Cuba’s main chocolate manufacturing area. The remote location at the eastern end of the Cuban island has kept the influence of mass tourism quite low, despite the idyllic location. Baracoa can be reached by bus from Santiago de Cuba (four hours) or by plane from Havana (two hours). Baracoa has some very typical dishes, such as cucurucho, a mix of coconut and lots of sugar and other ingredients like orange, guava and pineapple and wrapped in a palm leaf. Another is Bacán, which is made from bananas and wrapped in a banana leaf. And of course there is lots of chocolate in this cocoa producing region.

Sunset at the Bay of Honey © Paul Postiaux/cc-by-sa-3.0 The Bay of Honey with El Yunque towering in the background © HYanWong © Kaldym1952 La Niña Bonita © Alexander Terrero/cc-by-sa-3.0 La Niña Bonita © Alexander Terrero/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Marcel601 Parque Independencia © Rastapopulous/cc-by-sa-3.0 Playa Manglito © Paul Postiaux/cc-by-sa-3.0
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The Bay of Honey with El Yunque towering in the background © HYanWong
To the east the Fuerte Matachín (built in 1802) is still standing and contains houses and museums. To the west the Fuerte La Punta (built in 1803) houses a restaurant; there is a small beach next to the fort. The third fort, El Castillo, which sits on a steep hill with a commanding view of the town and both bays, is now Hotel El Castillo. The other hotels in Baracoa are Hotel Porto Santo, Hotel La Rusa, Hostal La Habanera and Villa Maguana. There are also a few casas particulares. The Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Asunción houses the earings of the Cruz de la Parra, a cross that Cali is supposed to have brought from Spain. Although it has been carbon dated to approximately that period, it is made from a local type of wood, which means at least part of the story is not correct. There are two music venues near the central Parque Independencia, the touristy Flan de Queso and the more traditional Casa de la Flana. Nearby are the rivers Miel and Toa, the latter of which has many waterfalls, the best known of which is ‘el Saltadero’, which is 17 m high.

The 575 m high table mountain el Yunque (the anvil) is 10 km to the west of Baracoa. It is a remnant of a plateau and because of its isolation it houses several unique species of ferns and palms. The only official and easiest approach to climb it starts at campismo El Yunque (simple lodgings for Cubans only), where a guide is obligatory (about 15 euro). From Baracoa, it is possible to visit the Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt located about 20 kilometers north. Salto Fino is the highest waterfall in the Caribbean, located in this municipality, is produced by a sudden drop in the Arroyo del Infierno (Hell’s stream), a tributary of the Quibijan river. That river, along with 71 others, flows into the Toa river, which is the largest river in Cuba. The 305-meter-high Salto Fino waterfall is recorded as the 20th highest water chute in the world. Sadly, during the night of 5 October 2016, Hurricane “Matthew” damaged the city center heavily. The residents (approximately 35,000 and over 300,000 in the coastal region) were evacuated before the storm hit Cuba.

Read more on Baracoa, Wikivoyage Baracoa and Wikipedia Baracoa (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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