After resting on the beach by our resort for a few days, we decided it was high time we visit the city nearby, Holguín, in order to get a better sense of Cuban culture. We booked a tour (named ‘Loco-Holguín’) through our Air Canada Vacations representative at the resort and were taken on a lovely tour of the city and its surrounding areas.
Taking the Train Through the Country Side
The first stop of our tour was at the local train station (this is being generous with what we saw, as you can see from the pictures below). Unfortunately, the train we were meant to ride, Cuba’s second oldest train built in the 1800s, had broken down so we embarked on a newer train for our journey. We rode the train for about 20-30 minutes through the country side, waving at locals who would come out of their homes to marvel at the train. There were also some great musicians aboard playing some traditional Cuban music that really added to the ambiance.
Climbing to the Top of the Hill of the Cross (Loma de la Cruz)
This was quite the walk. Our tour guide dropped us off at the bottom of ‘Loma de la Cruz’ (Hill of the Cross) where we climbed over 400 stairs in the blistering sun to get to the top. Along the way, we chatted with some locals who pointed out various sights that could be seen from various viewpoints (i.e. the main cellular tower, the radio station, etc.).
Once we made it to the top, we were immediately rewarded with a 360 degree view of beautiful mountain and city-scapes. It truly is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. After taking a short rest (cause we needed it – soooo swweeaatyyyy) we proceeded to snapping shots from every possible angle, like the good tourists that we are 😉
FYI: Although the locals who we chatted with on our way up were quite nice, they did expect a tip once we had reached the top. We didn’t mind, but if this isn’t your thing know that locals are not allowed at the top of the hill (the area is monitored by both security cameras and guards).
Note: our tour guide did give us the option of taking the bus to the top, so not to worry if you don’t think you would be able to make it to the top by walking; there is an alternative.
Attending an Afro-Cuban Dance Show
After eating a delicious lunch at a restaurant near the main square (included in our tour), we attended an Afro-Cuban dance show. The dancers showed off a wide variety of colourful and interesting costumes and even had a few props thrown in. An eclectic mix of both traditional Cuban and African dances/music, it made for a truly interesting and unusual show.
Shopping at the Local Market and Walking the Streets of the City
After the show we were allotted about an hour of free time in the city. We walked around the streets, went into some stores and stumbled upon a great market. Here we purchased a beautiful watercolour painting depicting the city of Havana. It was sold to us by a young teen that made the paper on which it was painted himself with banana leaves, and then painted by his grandmother. It is one of our favourite souvenirs and now hangs in the entryway of our apartment.
Relaxing in the Main Square, Parque Calixto Garcia
Once we had explored the city to our taste, we took a break and relaxed in the city’s main square, Parque Calixto Garcia. We did as the locals did and sat on the surrounding benches, ate peanuts bought from a local vendor and chatted about our vacation. Apparently this is something the locals do quite often as indoor activities can get quite hot (since most people do not have air conditioning) and internet is still quite sparse and slow pretty much everywhere in the country.
All in all we were quite glad to have taken this tour, if anything for the insight on local culture/life that our tour guide was able to provide. However, it was quite expensive and we probably would have been able to do this for less if we had hired a taxi for the day and done a bit more research on the local sights beforehand.
Have you ever been to Holguín?
If so, tell us about your experience in the comment section below!
Like it? Pin it!
Never miss an update – sign up to our newsletter!
Bonus: You’ll even get a free copy of our printable His & Hers Carry-On Essentials Packing List!