CubaPLUS Magazine

Holguín, the beauty that impressed Christopher Columbus

By: Mercy Ramos, Photos: José (Tito) Meriño
Holguín, the beauty that impressed Christopher Columbus

When the Genoese navigator Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba, such was the beauty of the places he visited that he could only say: &This is the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen" and today, five centuries on, those words are truer than ever as the charm of the region, and the whole island, remains and is even greater.
Holguín, the beauty that impressed Christopher Columbus
Bariay was the first place visited by Columbus on the island, on the northern coast of what is now Holguín province, whose natural landscapes of mountain ranges, plains and splendid beaches make it one of the most attractive destinations in the largest Antillean Island.

Located in the northeast of the country, Holguín was founded in 1720 and is bordered to the north by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Granma, to the west by Las Tunas and to the east by Guantánamo.
Holguín, the beauty that impressed Christopher Columbus
It is the fourth largest province with an area of 9,292 km2, a political-administrative division of 14 municipalities and a population of 1,032,670 inhabitants, more than 50% of whom live in urban areas.

Holguín’s beaches are among the most picturesque in the Caribbean region. Its warm and safe waters, sheltered by coral formations, are surrounded by thick vegetation that contrasts with and enhances the color of the sand and the sea. Guardalavaca, Pesquero, Esmeralda, Don Lino and Costa Verde are considered among the best beach resorts in the country, where visitors can practice all the nautical sports they wish.
Holguín, the beauty that impressed Christopher Columbus
A unique place is Cayo Saetía, a practically virgin magical islet of about 42 square kilometers, accessible by sea or land, according to the tourist’s preference.

In addition to its beaches, with unparalleled fine sand and warm, transparent waters, Saetía offers visitors the option of going on safaris, tours by jeep or truck, to observe the local fauna. This consists of deer, buffaloes and even ostriches and other exotic species, brought mainly from Africa and India, including zebras, camels, deer and antelopes, adapted perfectly to the environment.

But there aren’t only vacation beaches, there is much more. The province boasts numerous historical, cultural, anthropological, scenic and tourist sites.

Known as the archeological capital of Cuba, it has the privilege of having the only museum in the Caribbean that exhibits primitive funerary habits: an aboriginal cemetery of the Araucanians, Cuba’s first inhabitants.

Within the province is Pinares de Mayarí, a paradise to which visitors always want to return. Its mountainous terrain formed in a plateau, pine forests, and a cool tropical climate with a temperature several degrees below the national average, is magnificent scenery for a spectacular vacation, far from city noise and activity - total relaxation.
Holguín, the beauty that impressed Christopher Columbus
An unmissable spot is Bahía de Naranjo Natural Park, with a surface area of 4.2 square kilometers that includes, among other things, five inland keys featuring Cayo Jutía in the central area, and 25 million cubic liters of water on which the natural park is located.

Among the keys there is an aquarium, which can only be accessed by boat. There is the Cayo Naranjo Dolphinarium, in the middle of the sea, where you can watch dolphin shows and, best of all, swim with this noble marine species, to the delight of young and old.

Another wonderful site is the Guayabo waterfall, considered among the largest in Cuba, where one can take a relaxing dip, after a two-hour walk, which includes the Rafael pools.

Also among Holguín’s treasures is the Rocazul Biopark, inaugurated in 2005, with wonderful flora and fauna observed during the tour along its trails, where you can also do trekking, naturalist navigation and diving.

This territory is a natural reserve that stands out for its ancient stones of blueish color, called serpentinites, estimated to be over 70 million years old.

The municipality of Gibara, located a little more than 30 kilometers from the provincial capital, is a privileged place, right on the north coast, with wonderful beaches, and is also known as the &Villa Blanca", due to the ancient defensive walls that protected it in colonial times. There are numerous museums and historical However, it is best known for an event that has transcended borders and that has made the city stand out for almost two decades: the Gibara International Film Festival, attended by prestigious Cuban and foreign film professionals, and founded by the late Cuban filmmaker Humberto Solás.

Finally, the capital of the province, known as the City of Parks, has great historical spots, including Calixto García Park, the Cathedral of San Isidoro and La Periquera.

However, the most famous site is undoubtedly the Loma de la Cruz, whose 458 steps have seen many events.

Its name comes from a large wooden cross placed for the first time in 1790 at 261 meters above sea level, where it was one of the most strategic points for the city’s defense. The traditional Spanish religious festival Romerías de Mayo was established there, celebrated every year to the delight of Holguineros and foreigners, and is one of the most important popular festivities in the country.

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