Long Padre Pico Steps, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Santiago De Cuba

One of the oldest cities in the country, Santiago de Cuba is located at the base of the Sierra Maestra Mountains with formidable fortified sea walls facing its large natural bay that looks south to Jamaica and east to Haiti.

The city was forged from fire and revolution. The original settlement was burnt down and rebuilt in 1516. Subsequently attacked by the British and French, the city saw an influx of French immigrants, many of whom came from Haiti following the slave rebellion of 1791.

Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

A little more about Santiago de Cuba

In 1898 the Spanish were defeated at the Battle of San Juan Hill and shortly after surrendered to America. Mid twentieth century saw Cuban revolutionary, Frank Pais, drum up an urban resistance that allied with Castro’s guerrilla force to defeat the Batista government. On the 1st January 1959, Fidel appeared on the balcony of Santiago de Cuba’s city hall, overlooking Parque Cespedes, to declare the Cuban Revolution victorious.

Old Santuago de Cuba, Cuba
Old Santuago de Cuba, Cuba

A holiday to Santiago has a grittier feel than Havana. There’s more of an Afro-Caribbean influence and a distinct sense of ‘separateness’ from the government capital of Havana. It is a bustling and cultural city with a variety of architectural styles. Many famous musicians hail from Santiago, including Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer and Eliades Ochoa, all of whom featured in The Buena Vista Social Club. Santiago is the spiritual home of ‘son’, a distinctly Afro-Cuban music style from which salsa derives, tied closely to the creation of Cuban cultural and national identity.

Santiago hosts lots of cultural events but the mother of all festivals and parties is the carnival in July. Conga drums reverberate around the city as Santiago de Cuba devotes itself to two weeks of dancing and drinking.


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Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba

Visit Moncada Barracks

Explore the site of Castro’s ill-fated first attempt to overthrow Batista in 1953.

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Mojito, Cuba

Soak up traditional Cuban music

Soak up some great traditional music and excellent mojitos at the Casa de la Trova.

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Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de Cuba

Visit the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery

Pay your respects to poet and revolutionary hero Jose Marti, at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery.

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Castle San Pedro de la Roca del Morro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

El Morro Castl

Marvel at El Morro Castle, built to defend the city from pirates but ransacked by Henry Morgan.

Casa de Diego Velazquez, the oldest house in Cuba

Explore Casa Velazquez

Visit Cuba’s oldest existing building, constructed in 1515.

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Meet our experts

A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Rachael Tallents

Adventure, discovery and my curiosity for people and the natural world is what drives my love of travelling.  I am grateful for my parents’ desire to explore, and from an early age my eyes were open to diverse landscapes, cultures, and underwater worlds.

For the last 16 years, I have worked for a leading luxury tour operator designing incredible journeys for discerning clients and travelled to some magical places. I am excited to have joined Steppes Travel, and to be working for a company with such strong ethical and sustainable values.

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John Faithfull

Since 1999, John has returned multiple times to explore this fascinating Caribbean island that charms and challenges in equal measure. Attracting visitors with a heady mix of music, cigars and revolution, there is a dynamic new generation of artists, entrepreneurs and thinkers waiting to be discovered beneath the surface.

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