The city of Santiago de Cuba, in the eastern part of the country, has the privileged of being the capital of the Caribbean, due to its geographical location and its 500-year history.
Founded in 1515 by Governor Diego Velázquez, Santiago de Cuba was the island's capital until 1607, a period during which it was affected by several disasters, including an earthquake that shook the city in 1675 and the predating attacks of corsairs and pirates.
Santiago de Cuba's historic heart is full of museums, in addition to its former Arms Square, which is currently known as the Céspedes Park as a tribute to the Father of Cuba's Homeland, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes.
The park is surrounded by several Spanish-colonial buildings, including the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption, which was built in the 16th century and holds a painting that many experts consider the oldest in Cuba.
In addition, it is Diego Velázquez's house, which is the oldest building in Cuba and also housed the House of Contract and the Crown's Foundry.
The city's protection led the Spanish monarchy to build the fortress of San Pedro de la Roca del Morro in the 16th century.
Declared Humankind's Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1997, the fortress was part of the city's defensive system, although its military impact was minimal, as it took several years to complete the works.
Its main designer and architect was the famous Italian military engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli, who also built the fortresses in the village of San Cristobal de La Habana.
The defense system in Santiago de Cuba consists of La Socapa, La Avanzada and La Estrella, which are considered the largest and most complete military engineering system from the Renaissance period in the Caribbean.
With a minimal utility from the military viewpoint, due to the delays in its construction, Santiago de Cuba's Morro Castle currently houses the Museum of Piracy.
Outside the city's limits is the so-called Gran Piedra, which is the largest in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. It weighs nearly 70,000 tons and is some 1,220 meters above sea level.
About 452 steps lead to the Gran Piedra, in which visitors are surrounded by abundant vegetation, ferns, orchids and other plant species.
Several hundreds of plant species, including 222 species of fern, and 22 percent of endemic plants, complement the area's tourist offer, in addition to 926 animal species, including the tocororo (Cuban trogon), Cuba's national bird.
Near Santiago de Cuba is the Sanctuary of the Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba's patron saint, where thousands of people go every year to seek hope and make their dreams come true.