Sancti Spíritus is among the seven cities founded by the Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar over 500 years ago. The city gained wealth and importance through the cultivation of sugar cane. The city has a charming old town with a number of colonial buildings worth seeing.
With a population of almost 150 thousand, Sancti Spíritus is one of the major cities in Cuba. It is situated in the heartland at the foot of the Sierra de Sancti Spíritus, about 70 km from Trinidad. If you drive on the highway, you will pass not far from the city, therefore it certainly makes sense to have at least a brief look at it. The city is located in a fertile region of agriculture and is also a commercial center for sugar cane, tobacco, and food products.
You can easily explore the entire old town by foot. The main attractions are located in the area between the central meeting point of the small town, the Parque Serafín Sánchez and the stone arch bridge on the Yayabo River.
See & Do
You can easily explore the entire old town walking. The most important sights are located in the area between the central meeting point, the Parque Serafín Sánchez and the stone arch bridge on the Yayabo River.
See & Do
- Dating back to 1831, the Yayabo bridge (Puente Yayabo) connects the city center with the Colon district, where the railroad station is located. The bridge is a national monument and provides a beautiful photo opportunity. On the shore a small promenade was constructed.
- At the Plaza Honorato del Castillo stands the Iglesia Parroquial Mayor, dating back to the 17th century. The church is an impressive example of Cuba's Romanesque architecture. Originally, the church was built of wood in 1522. Later, during a pirate raid in the 17th century, it was burned down and then rebuilt in stone. The bell tower, added at the beginning of the 20th century, can be climbed and offers a great view of the city and the surrounding countryside.
- In the Parque Zoológico El Bosque de Sancti Spíritus it is possible to observe crocodiles, monkeys, lions and other animals. Many animals are in cages. Large buffaloes roam freely within the park. According to the scarce financial resources in Cuba, one should not expect too much. For children, a visit can still be worthwhile.
- From Sancti Spíritus, a number of exciting excursions can be undertaken. Peace and relaxation can be found in the mountains of the Sierra del Escambray, where two tropical national parks with great waterfalls can be explored.
- By rental car, Trinidad can be reached in just under two hours via the Circuito Sur, which leads in a southwesterly direction. The scenic route leads along the foothills of the Sierra del Escambray. The fertile soils on the elevated plains were particularly suitable for the cultivation of sugar cane.
- About 14 km before reaching Trinidad, one enters the Valley of the Sugar Mills, which was once the center of the Cuban sugar industry. The connecting road is in an improvable condition, but can still be driven quite smoothly.
Eat & Drink
Within the historic center, there are a number of nice places to eat.
In the pedestrian zone, in a historic building, there is Restaurante 1514, an upscale restaurant that caters mainly to tour groups and other foreigners, although prices remain moderate (around 15 $ for a main course). The restaurant offers a historical ambience, including open-air dining in a leafy courtyard. For the entertainment of the guests, often traditional music is played.
Beyond the gates of the city is known the cozy Taberna Yayabo, which is located on the bridge of the same name. In the tavern, you can not only sit nicely, but also eat quite well. From some seats you have a beautiful view of the Yayabo River and the historic bridge.
Not far from the central Parque Serafín Sánchez, at the beginning of the pedestrian zone, there is a nice café on the top floor of a residential building. The place is especially popular with students. There are two balconies where you can sit and enjoy the view of the city and the countryside. The offer in the alternative restaurant is rather limited, but the prices are quite moderate.
The Viazul station is located about one kilometer west of the city center. If you are not traveling with too much luggage, you can make the trip in about 15 minutes. A cab ride should not cost more than $5. The bus station for shared cabs and local buses is a little further west.
Southwest of downtown is a small train station. However, since Sancti Spíritus is not connected to the important east-west line, there are hardly any trains there. If you are lucky, you can catch a train to Havana from time to time.
The connecting road from or to Trinidad is not in the best condition, but it is easy to drive on. The distance of about 70 kilometers can be covered in about an hour.
Northeast of Sancti Spíritus, the two-lane Autopista Nacional ends. The route to the east then continues on the single-lane Carretera Central de Cuba, which leads to Holguín.
Due to the proximity to the east-west route, a short tour of the city is also a good option during a round trip by rental car.