Santa Clara



The large industrial and university town of Santa Clara, which is 176 mi/276 km (about a three-hour drive) east of Havana, played a pivotal part in the war to topple the Batista dictatorship. In December 1958, a guerrilla army led by Che Guevara defeated Batista's troops there, causing the dictator to flee Cuba. Guevara was later killed and his remains are interred, along with those of fellow revolutionaries, in a huge mausoleum in the Plaza de la Revolucion. A splendid museum tells of Guevara's life and is a staple of many packaged tours.

While most only visit the town as part of a day trip from Havana, it's certainly worth spending a night. Alongside all of the revolutionary fervor, Santa Clara has an edgy youth scene embodied in its art, music and some of Cuba's best nightlife, including the country's only drag show.

Although the city has few sites of touristic appeal, the nearby colonial town of Remedios oozes historic charm and is a great place to be in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, when the local population indulges in a crazed fireworks fest. Several villages around Remedios also celebrate in similar fashion.

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