Top 5 sights in Baracoa
The beautiful first capital of Cuba, nicknamed Ciudad Primera, is one of the most interesting places in Cuba, and yet it is far from being as popular with tourists as many resorts and large cities. Baracoa, surrounded by mountain ranges and nestled in the Bay of Honey, has always been isolated and difficult to reach, and even today it is far from being on the beaten path. But just because the city isn’t overrun by tourists, it doesn’t mean that Baracoa doesn’t have any attractions. On the contrary, the city and its surroundings are a treasure trove of historical, cultural and natural sites that you could visit. The top 5 sights in Baracoa are no the most famous tourist attractions in Cuba, but they are definitely ‘among the most fascinating places you’ll see in the country.
Baracoa has three fortresses that used to defend the city, and Fuerte Matachin is one of the most important of the three. The fortress was completed in 1802 and it houses the Matachin Museum, a very interesting little history museum that explores not only the colonial past of Baracoa, but also its Taino roots, and the part that Baracoa played in the Cuban revolution.
Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
Nuestra Señora de la Asunción could have been one of the oldest churches in Cuba, had it not been destroyed by the French in 1652. The church was rebuilt in the early 19th century, and although the building has no frills and little decoration, it houses the Cross of Parra, one of the oldest artifacts in the Americas that can be associated with Columbus. The explorer supposedly erected the wooden cross himself near Baracoa, and even if that’s questionable, the cross is certainly very old.
Parque de la Independecia
The Parque de la Independencia is more than a sight, it is a local institution where you can see Baracoan life unfold before your eyes. The park is a popular gathering spot, and the perfect place to get a feel for the rhythm of life in the city. The main landmark in the park is a statue of the Taino rebel Hatuey.
The Museum of Archaeology is one of the newest museums in Baracoa, but it is one of the best places in Cuba to learn about Taino culture and history. The museum is set up in the Cuevas del Paraiso, which were used by the Taino as burial sites. There are thousands of Taino objects on display, as well as the skeletons of those buried within, and a 3000 year old petroglyph.
Fabrica de Tabacos Manuel Fuente
Visiting a cigar factory while you’re in Cuba is a must, and the Manuel Fuente cigar factory is not a bad candidate for a visit. You get to see the process of hand-rolling tobacco leaves into cigars, and other interesting preparation methods, and maybe even sample a few fresh cigars.