In Gibara Charm Reigns
Whether enjoying a People-to-People tour or vacationing at the remarkable Playa Guardalavaca in Holquin Province, an overnight trip to the remote and isolated town of Gibara is well worthwhile. For many tourists, a day in Gibara, also commonly known as La Villa Blanca or “The White Town,” represents a life that seems slower and quieter than any other place on the planet. It is only natural to wonder what life would be like living in this beautiful, tranquil town.
That may be what Christopher Columbus wondered when he remarked that the setting was, “the most beautiful land that human eyes saw.” Like several other Cuban towns, there is a reigning debate about whether Columbus landed in the Bay of Gibara or the Bay of Barlay on his first excursion to the magical island.
In 2004, the population of Gibara was almost 73,000 or large enough to enjoy a vibrant and full way of life but secluded enough to become totally absorbed in the setting. And, what a setting it is!
With the natural barrier of the Bay and the surrounding hills of Holquin province providing magnificent solitude, life in Gibara proceeds calmly. Most tourists are surprised by the genuine authenticity of the Gibara the community. You will find natives to be cooperative, interested and engaged in your experiences and observations.
Officially founded late by other Cuban city standards, Gibara was founded on January 16,1817. The White Town enjoys the benefit of a traditional but more modern city plan than many other Cuban cities. The streets are wide, the houses and parks carefully situated and the plan seems less crowded than towns that were founded earlier and outgrew their original plan.
Gibara is divided into the barrios of Arroyo Blanco, Blanquizal, Bocas, Candelaria, Cantimplora, Cupeycillos, Palmita and Rabon. The town was declared a National Monument in 2002. Since 2003, La Villa Blanca has hosted the popular International Festival of Poor Cinema. A trip to the festival is highly recommended but reservations must be secured well in advance.
Most travelers arrive in Gibara after a short bus ride to the Catamarran that can host 80 people and sails across the picturesque bay before landing. If arranged by your hotel or tour provider, guests enjoy free cocktails, snacks and a most entertaining crew. The trip is as surprising as the Villa Blanca.
Once in the town, you will want to have a reservation at the amazing Hotel Ordono where the rooms have 20 foot ceilings that are painted and sculpted. Dinner, breakfast and lunch are included in the fare and the food is better than just about any other restaurant.
Gibara comes alive at night. Great local talent performs every night. Music rises from just about every corner of the city and at times seems to drift down from the neighboring hills. You will never be bored in Gibara.
The magnificent hills are dotted with caves and caverns that guides are always ready to lead tours. Buses take travelers to and from the famous caves.
The town square is Parque Calixto Garcia and is a true square, not a park. It is the center of activity with a wonderful museum of Natural History and the beautiful Iglesia de San Fulgencio church lining the perimeter.
In the middle of the square stands the Cuban version of the Statue of Liberty, a commemoration of the Spanish-American War. The robed female bears a resemblance to the statue in New York. The square is also lined with shade trees and comfortable, but worn, benches. While resting here, you will be forgiven if your mind wanders to a different time in history. The world will not pass you by, but is may seem a bit slower.
Travelguidecuba.com is not a licensed People-to-People tour provider but works closely with licensed providers to help interested travelers enjoy the magic of Cuba. Complete Cuba People-to-People tours are licensed (CT-2013-299822-1) by the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to engage, organize and conduct authorized people-to-people travel to Cuba that engages participants in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba. If you have any questions about travel in Cuba, contact Dave or Yordi at Info@travelguidecuba.com.