The Southern Coast of the Easter Provinces of Cuba
By Dr. Martin Luis.
The tours we had described so far covered the whole Northern coast of our country except the small section between the city of Baracoa and Punta de Quemado (Quemado Tip), the easternmost tip of Cuba. But you should not think that there is nothing else interesting to see for the Southern coast and its inner near territories has natural elements that are unique in the country. It is true that both coasts have bag bays (bays with a narrow entrance and wide interior), archipelagos, coastal reefs, swamps, beaches and other natural elements but the influence of the climate factors, the disposition of the relief and the local geological evolution make the two coasts different.
If you decide to continue visiting interesting places next to our Southern coasts, you will enjoy new natural and cultural elements near the Caribbean Sea. There are five coastal sections in the Southern coast of Cuba. Start from the Southern coast of the Eastern provinces, departing from Baracoa: Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba and Granma. Which surprises await you? Next we give you brief summarized information of this first section of the South coast, which will be enlarged as far as we describe in detail your tour along the seaboard, as we did in previous articles about the Northern coast.
This first section: it goes from Punta de Quemado up to Cabo Cruz (Cross Cape). It is unique in our country regarding the presence of natural, social and cultural elements, being the most outstanding:
The best preserved marine terrace systems of the Caribbean: either emerged or underwater. They are located at both sides of this section. They are excellently preserved worldwide, particularly those next to Cabo Cruz. This is one of the values that justifies it's been declared Parque Nacional Desembarco del Granma (Granma Landing National Park), also declared Natural Heritage of Mankind. This Park and its terraces can be visited because it counts with a great program of public use.
The Sierra Maestra Mountain System: it is the largest, widest and highest mountain range of the country. It is located at the edge of the coast, between Baconao and Cabo Cruz. The road that goes parallel to the coast next to the Caribbean Sea, locally known as Pilón Road, between Santiago de Cuba and Pilón is of great beauty and unique in the country regarding its surroundings. It has all kind of rocks, especially volcanic ones; they are polished by the intense waves of the Caribbean and commonly found at both sides of the road.
The Turquino National Park: it is the highest in Cuba, located at the Sierra Maestra. It has numerous peaks, more than fifteen, which exceed the 1 300 m of height, including the highest in our country: Turquino Royal Peak with 1974 m, Cuba Peak with 1872 and Suecia (Sweden) Peak with 1734 m. It has great values from the landscape, flora, fauna and historical points of view. It is considered the roof of Cuba and unique of its type in our country. It also counts with a program of public use.
The Baconao Reserve of the Biosphere: located between Guantánamo and Santiago de Cuba cities. It has a tourist infrastructure that allows you to stay in the area and coordinate your visit, which should be requested to the ministries of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA), of Agriculture and of Tourism. In this Reserve there is also the Jurassic Prehistoric Park, a place of great interest.
The deepest of the Cuban waters: at a few kilometers from the coast, the depth is almost of 6 000 km, one of the biggest in the Caribbean. It is known as the Bartlet or Oriente Basin. There are almost 9 kilometers between the bottom of the basin and the top of the Turquino Royal Peak. This great depth is due to the fact that the basin is at the limit between the North American Plate and the Caribbean Micro Plate. In the whole area, particularly around the Santiago de Cuba bay, the micro earthquakes are frequent, many of them imperceptibles.
An excellent road: all the coast can be traveled without difficulty for the communications are very good, even the harbors or defiles that communicate the rest of the country with the coast are crossed by these roads. Many hotels, camping sites, marinas, diving centers and places to stay in are along this road that goes parallel to the Southern coast, crossing beaches and passing not far from very interesting places such as the Monitongos, the desert zone of Guantánamo or La Gran Piedra (the Big Stone), a miniature copy of the Argentinean Tandil.
Two important cities: Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo: they both are province capitals. The first is towards the central part of the coast, while the second is at the easternmost part of it. These are the Cuban cities that are influenced the most by the Caribbean culture. They both have an intensive cultural life, although the first one is outstanding for being the oldest, the most populated and the second important city of Cuba after Havana. It has more than a million inhabitants.
Santiago de Cuba was for a short period of time the capital of Cuba. It is a city with a lot of history, either during the colonial times or during the Republic. It has several museums and other places of historical interest, particularly about the time that preceded the triumph of the Revolution. As well as other Cuban cities it is known with other names: the Hero City and the Caribbean Capital.
The Caridad del Cobre Virgin Sanctuary (patron Saint of Cuba): It is a Sanctuary - Basilica placed on a hill near the Cobre (Copper) village, close to Santiago de Cuba. It was inaugurated on September 1927; eleven years after S.S Benedicto XV accepted the petition letter of generals, officers and veterans of the Liberation Army where they requested the Caridad del Cobre Virgin, to be proclaimed the patron saint of Cuba.
It is the center of pilgrimage for many Cubans. It is visited all the year round. The temple has a long stairway flanked by twelve small pilasters crowned with lights that are covered with crystal trapezoidal figures. It leads to the two-floor Sanctuary. In its middle part there is a central tower with a clock. It ends in an ogival tower of red tiles with a cross on the top. At both sides of the central tower and behind it, there are two other pointed towers.
If you are in Baracoa city, this tour will allow you to continue your trip along the Cuban coasts. If you are somewhere else in Cuba, take your car and make a reservation from your hotel and cheer up to visit this part of Cuba, so different from the rest of the country. Lovely surprises await you.
Dr. Martin Luis is a Cuba vacations website blogger and content collaborator at http://www.umbrellatravel.com
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.