San Juan Bautista de Los Remedios – or Remedios as it is commonly referred to – holds the distinction of being the 8th oldest village in Cuba. It is a beautiful village located halfway between Santa Clara and Cayo Santa Maria. With no sight of other tourists around us, Remedios adequately paints the laid-back, Caribbean vibe found in rural Cuba.
Jay and I found ourselves in Remedios twice on this particular day – once in the morning to visit the Cathedral and once in the afternoon on our return from Santa Clara to have a bit more time to explore around the main plaza. If you find yourself in this village one day, then here are my Top 3 recommendations:
Iglesia Mayor of San Juan Bautista
The Iglesia Mayor of San Juan Bautista – or Church of St. John the Baptist – is the main attraction in Remedios. Not only is it the oldest Catholic church in Cuba at around 500 years old, but it is one of two churches found in the main plaza of Remedios. This is the only plaza anywhere in Cuba where two churches can be found in the same block.
Tours can be done here Monday to Friday between 9am – 5pm. The main highlight of Iglesia Mayor of San Juan Bautista is the altar, which is decorated with 13 pillars made of Gold. The gold was not discovered until a renovation project that happened during the 1940s as it was hidden under white paint – a technique to hide the precious metal from pirates during Cuba’s earliest days as a Spanish colony in the 1500s.
With a name like that, Jay and I were intrigued to go inside for a drink. While the rest of our group went to a different bar just off Plaza Isabel II to sample a local Cuban drink, we headed for a couple of beers in Driver’s Bar, which is located right across the Iglesia Mayor of San Juan Bautista along a quiet side street.
We have no idea where the name of this bar originated or how long it has been open as our bartenders didn’t speak English, but we enjoyed the laid-back environment given that there was only two other people there – a local couple – with us plus the two bartenders. The walls were covered in various illustrations, including a Ford car advertisement from 1958, while the ceilings were covered in old newspaper articles. After having a couple of cold Cristal beers, Jay and I head over to Plaza Isabel II.
Plaza Isabel II
The Plaza Isabel II is the main town square of Remedios. Right in the middle of the plaza is a small park where you can sit in the gazebo and watch life pass you by or chat with the locals if your Spanish is up to par. Since I enjoy taking artistic photos of my travels – or at least I try to if I can – the plaza gave me plenty of opportunity to practice with the plethora of colonial buildings nearby.
If you fancy trying out your bargaining skills, then there is a small market located right beside the Iglesia Mayor of San Juan Bautista for visitors to pick up some homemade souvenirs. Jay bought a couple of maracas for his Son, and a photo frame to put one of his wedding photos in, which is why we were here in Cuba in the first place. As for myself, I bought a hand painted Cuba “license plate” to hang up on my wall back home.
If you really want to get “off-the-beaten” path in Cuba and really see how the locals live, then Remedios is the place to be. There is something truly serene and tranquil in this gem of a town that is worthy of a visit on your way to either Santa Clara or to the resorts of Cayo Santa Maria.