Surroundings, Havana

Outside of central Havana are a number of interesting suburbs and small villages that can be easily explored during a day trip from the city.

Parque Lenin

Just south of Havana is the Parque Lenin, a large acreage designed to entertain both children and adults. The park serves as an amusement area for children as well as a beautiful green space for adults, and contains a huge monument to Lenin. The Lenin monument, one of the most prominent features of Parque Lenin, was designed by Lev Korbel in the early 1980s. The monument is a carving of Lenin's head, set in marble, that stands 9m / 30ft high and weighs approximately 1,200 tons.
A visitors' train with open-air carriages runs through the park, allowing passengers to get on and off and different points. Some of the attractions in Parque Lenin are the Galeria de Arte Amelia Pelaez, the Bosque Martiano, an amphitheatre, an aquarium, swimming pools, and stables. There is also a large artificial lake, Embalse Paso Sequito, that can be explored by renting a rowboat.
Visitors to Parque Lenin often just take advantage of the walking paths, the park benches, and the on site café or restaurant.

Guanabacoa, Cuba

Guanabacoa city, note that Guanabacoa is also the name of the surrounding region, is known historically for being an important center in the slave trade during the early 17th Century. Consequently there is a strong Afro-Cuban culture that exists here.
There are a few visitor attractions in Guanabacoa including the Iglesia de Guanabacoa, sometimes referred to as the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Ascuncion, which was built in the first half of the 18th Century. There is also a Franciscan monastery, Convento de Santo Domingo from the same time period, with an impressive interior but it is not always open. For a historical perspective on the Afro-Cuban culture check out the Museo Municipal de Guanabacoa, which also focuses on the history of Cuba during the 1700s and 1800s. If shopping is what you are looking for, head to the Bazar de Reproducciones, which carries all types of crafts and miscellaneous items. Also of interest in Regla is the Museo Municipal de Regla, which describes the history of Regla and information on the Afro-Cuban religions.
Guanabacoa has little by way of tourist facilities and is best visited on a day trip from Havana.

Finca La Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba

Finca La Vigia was the part time residence of Ernest Hemingway for twenty years, between 1939 and 1959. It is located not far from Havana in the town of San Francisco de Paula. Despite all of the turmoil experienced in Cuba during that time period, including the Revolution, Hemingway still came to this villa, but in 1959 decided it was too difficult and moved to the United States.
Upon his death Finca La Vigia was turned into a museum, the Museo Hemingway. The house was left as Hemingway had left it. On display are over 8,000 books, pieces of art, stuffed hunting trophies, the author's typewriter, and other personal belongings. Visitors are not allowed inside but can see in from the outside, unless it is raining in which case the house is closed up. Visitors can wander through the garden to see Hemingway's fishing boat, "Pilar", which he had kept in Cojimar. There is also a pet cemetery in the garden, not surprisingly, given his love of cats.

Nuestra Senora de la Virgen de Regla, Regla, Cuba

Regla is one of the old towns on the shore opposite Habana Vieja, now an industrial port town. This town is unique because of its Afro-Cuban heritage, which developed when freed slaves settled here in the 19th Century. One of the primary attractions in Regla is the Nuestra Senora de la Virgen de Regla. This church contains La Santisima Virgen de Regla, a statue of a black Madonna, (a copy of the original) which carries a legend. As the story goes the statue was carved in the 5th Century and while in transit across the Strait of Gibraltar was involved in a storm but miraculously survived. Consequently the Virgen de Regla is the patron saint of fishermen and also of Havana. As a result, the Nuestra Senora de la Virgen de Regla is an important church in the area.
La Santisima Virgen de Regla is the focus of a pilgrimage here on September 7, when the image is carried in a procession.

Cojimar, Cuba

Cojimar is a small fishing village just east of Havana. It is a pleasant village resembling most fishing villages but distinguished by its association to Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway frequented Cojimar in the 1950s, kept his boat the "Pilar here, and it is said that he could often be seen in the streets socializing with locals. He made this village the setting for his novel "The Old Man and the Sea". There is a square named in Hemingway's honor with a bust of the man. People will point out Hemingway's favorite restaurant, La Terraza. In Cojimar Ernest Hemingway is everywhere! If you are a fan of his, you will likely enjoy Cojimar.
Today the village attracts artists from Havana and other parts of Cuba.

Santuario de San Lazaro, El Rincon, Cuba

In the little village of El Rincon is the Santuario de San Lazaro, sight of a huge pilgrimage on December 17th. As many as 50,000 worshippers make the pilgrimage, leaving trails of blood from their scraped knees, as they make their way to the church. Santuario de San Lazaro is a large white church dedicated to the patron saint of the sick, St Lazarus. In the Afro-Cuban culture this same saint is known as Babalu Aye. The church stands next to a former lepers' hospital, which has been converted into a more modern hospital dealing with dermatological problems.
To the right of the church stands a fountain with holy water that worshippers believe will heal the sick and injured.

National Botanical Garden of Cuba

The Jardin Botanico Nacional is a 1,500 acre area with plants from around the globe. The garden is divided into zones, although it is poorly marked. The best option is to take a train tour through the garden. This generally takes about two hours and explores the entire grounds of the Jardin Botanico Nacional. Visitors can bring along a guide, which can be easily found near the front gate.
Some of the highlights of the park are the Jardin Japones (Japanese Garden) with a pond, waterfalls, and covered areas, and the Pabellones de Exposicion, with cactuses and tropical plants. For a look at local plants check out the Caribbean section which contains approximately 3,500 species of plants native to Cuba.
Address: Carretera del Rocio Km 3, Calabazar, Arroyo Naranjo, Cuba

Statue of Christ, Casablanca, Cuba

Casablanca, an old fishing village now part of Havana's surroundings, lies just across the harbor from old Havana. Its claim to fame is the 18m / 60ft high statue of Christ, the Cristo de La Habana, or Estatua de Cristo as it is also known. The statue is well known throughout Cuba and can be seen from many points around Havana. This white marble statue of Christ was commissioned by the wife of Batista and was sculpted by J. Madera. From the base there are good views of the surrounding area, particularly in the evening. Also in Casablanca, behind the Estatua de Cristo is the Observatorio Nacional, although visitors can only view it from the outside.

Humour Museum, San Antonio de los Banos, Cuba

Located southwest of Havana, the town of San Antonio de Baños is home to a unique attraction, the Humour Museum. Drawings and cartoons present a humorous portrayal of Cuban history. The museum can easily be visited as a day excursion from Havana.

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