Santiago de Cuba

Santiago, the original capital of the island of Cuba, was founded in 1514, and is today the centre of the province of Santiago de Cuba in the southeast of the island, 485 miles (780km) from the present capital, Havana.

One of the most picturesque cities in Cuba, it is a hilly city with sloping streets, nestled between the coast and the Sierra Maestra mountain range. Santiago boasts a number of monuments and museums associated with Cuba's long struggle for national independence. The city also claims to have the oldest home in the Americas, the Case de Diego Velazquez, the residence of the Spanish governor of old, which is a highlight of the city's historic quarter. Santiago is a diverse city, with many population groups in its neighbourhoods, including the French-Haitian district of Tivoli.

The city is also known for its annual carnival, renowned to be even bigger and more riotous than Havana's version (it did come first, after all). It is also blessed with closely situated natural areas, including the 80,000-hectare (197,684 acre) Baconao Park, which begins in the city and ends in the lagoon of the same name. It is climatically the hottest part of Cuba, with average temperatures of 90°F (32°C).