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Havana Photos I

Havana was the sixth town founded by the Spanish on the island, called San Cristóbal de la Habana by Pánfilo de Narváez: the name combines San Cristóbal, patron saint of Havana, and Habana, of obscure origin, possibly derived from Habaguanex, a native American chief who controlled that area, as mentioned by Diego Velásquez in his report to the king of Spain. Shortly after the founding of Cuba's first cities, the island served as little more than a base for the Conquista of other lands. Hernán Cortés organized his expedition to Mexico from the island.

Contemporary Havana can essentially be described as three cities in one: Old Havana, Vedado, and the newer suburban districts. Old Havana, with its narrow streets and overhanging balconies, is the traditional centre of part of Havana's commerce, industry, and entertainment, as well as being a residential area.

Viñales Canopy Video

Video of the last section of the Canopy ride in Viñales

Viñales, Pinar del Rio

Before European settlement, Viñales was the home of a remnant Taíno population swelled with runaway slaves. The area was colonised at the beginning of the 1800s by tobacco growers from the Canary Islands, who settled in the Vuelta Abajo region. The first settlement in Viñales is documented in 1871, in the form of a ranch belonging to Don Andrés Hernández Ramos. The town was established in 1878 as a typical community, with church, school, hospital and recreation park.

Viñales is an agricultural area, where crops of fruit, vegetables, coffee and especially tobacco are grown by traditional methods. Fishing is also an important part of the area's economy.

Attractions in Viñales include the Museo Municipal, Casa de Caridad Botanical Gardens, Museo Paleontológico, Palenque (a Maroon village) and the nearby caves (Cueva del Indio, Cueva de José Miguel, Cueva de Santo Tomás) in Valle de Viñales National Park, which were refuges for runaway slaves. There is also a cave that doubles as a nightclub.

Casas particulares offer accommodations to visitors year-round. There are also three hotels located a few kilometers outside of town, rated three stars: La Ermita, Los Jazmines, and Rancho Horizontes San Vicente. The campismo Dos Hermanas comprises 54 cabins (available to tourists), a swimming pool and restaurante.

Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus

Trinidad was founded on December 23, 1514 by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar under the name Villa De la Santísima Trinidad. Francisco Iznaga, a rich Basque landowner in the southern portion of Cuba during the first 30 years of the colonization of Cuba, was elected Mayor of Bayamo in 1540.Iznaga was the originator of a powerful lineage that finally settled in Trinidad where the Torre Iznaga is. His descendents fought for the Independence of Cuba and the Annexation to the US from 1820 to 1900. It is one of the best preserved cities in the Caribbean from the time when the sugar trade was the main industry in the region.

Nowadays, Trinidad's main industry is tobacco processing. The older parts of town are well preserved as the Cuban tourism industry sees benefit from tour groups. In contrast, some parts of town outside the non-tourist areas are very run down and in disrepair, especially in the centre.

Valle de los Ingenios, Sancti Spiritus

Valle de los Ingenios, Valley de los Ingenios or Valley of the Sugar Mills is a series of three interconnected valleys about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) outside of Trinidad, Cuba. The three valleys, San Luis, Santa Rosa and Meyer, were a centre for sugar production from the late 18th century until the late 19th century. At the peak of the industry in Cuba there were over fifty cane sugar mills in operation in the three valleys with over 30,000 slaves working in the mills and the sugar cane plantations that surrounded them. The entire area covers 270 km2 (100 sq mi) and includes the sites of over 70 former sugar mills.

In 1988, Valle de los Ingenios and neighbouring Trinidad were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Although most of the sugar mills are in ruins, intact structures endure at some sites, including Guachinango, where the plantation house remains, and the plantation of Manaca Iznaga, where the owner's house, a tower and some barracones, the original slave quarters, still stand. Although the barracones are now used as housing and are in poor repair, the house (which has been converted into a restaurant) and the "Iznaga Tower" are well maintained. The 45 metre (147 ft) tower was constructed sometime in 1816 by the owner, Alejo Maria Iznaga y Borrell. According to experts, the bell that formerly hung on top of the tower announced the beginning and the end of the work day for the slaves, as well as the times for prayers to the Holy Virgin in the morning, midday and afternoon. It was also used to sound an alarm in case of fire or slave escape. The height and magnificence of the tower served to display Iznaga's power over his slaves and his stature in the sugar industry and local society; at one time it was the tallest structure in Cuba. A recognised landmark of the region, the Iznaga Tower testifies to the area's flourishing material culture in the Spanish colonial period. The large bell now rests at the foot of the tower.

Bayamo, Guantanamo

Bayamo was the second of the seven cities founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, and was established on November 5, 1513. Francisco Iznaga, a rich Basque landowner in the western portion of Cuba during the first 30 years of the colonization of Cuba, was elected Mayor in 1540.Iznaga was the originator of a powerful lineage that finally settled in Trinidad where the Torre Iznaga is. His descendents fought for the Independence of Cuba and the Annexation to the US from 1820 to 1900.

During much of the 16th century it was one of the most important agricultural and commercial settlements of the island. Its inland situation gave it relative security against the pirates who then infested West Indian seas, and the misfortunes of Santiago were the fortunes of Bayamo. Down the Cauto River, then open to the sea for vessels of 200 tons, and through Manzanillo, Bayamo drove a thriving contraband trade that made it at the opening of the 17th century the leading town of Cuba.

In 1827 it acquired the status of city. In the war of 1868–1878 it was an insurgent stronghold; near it was fought one of the most desperate conflicts of the war, and it was nearly destroyed by the opposing parties.

Baracoa, Guantanamo

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."

To the east the Fuerte Matachín (built in 1802) houses and museums are still there standing. To the west the fuerte La Punta (built in 1803) houses a restaurant, with a smaller beach next to it. And the third fort, El Castillo, 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 woodtype, 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.

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.

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