Remedios Cuba is a delightful small city located about six miles inland on the northern part of the island, about an hour's drive east of Santa Clara. It is famous for its Remedios Parrandas celebrations and known for some very beautiful casas particulares. Casas particulares are private homes whose owners are licensed to rent out no more than two rooms. These are generally less expensive than hotels and provide wonderful cultural interaction. Almost all provide breakfast, and many will provide three home-cooked meals per day for a small extra charge. The casas particulares in Remedios are often beautiful nineteenth-century mansions with garden terraces and high ceilings.
Parranda de Remedios
Remedios Parrandas is the annual Christmas celebration, beginning around December 16 and continuing through Christmas Eve. Check out a Remedios Parrandas video on youtube to see what it's like. Also called Las Parrandas de Remedios, the festival was started in 1820 by a priest who wanted to boost attendance at the Christmas season midnight masses, which began on the 16th of December. He hired groups of young people who were armed with tin cans, pots and pans, horns, rattles, whistles, and other noisemakers. They would head off into different neighborhoods creating a ruckus and urging townspeople to come to church. Over the years, the groups became more organized, creating entire street bands and engaging in fierce competitions to see who could make the most noise.
Two neighborhoods are particular rivals: San Salvador, represented by a rooster and the colors blue and red, and El Carmen, represented by a globe and the color brown. They spend the entire year secretly creating new ways to make the greatest amount of noise and the most spectacular show, which is revealed in its final glory on the night of December 24. As they continually try to top one another, the Remedios Parrandas 2016 is bound to outdo the previous year, with more elaborate floats, more polished bands, and louder fireworks.
Other than this Remedios Cuba festival, which is the oldest and most famous in Cuba, the town is not on the main tourist route, which is one of the things that make Remedios so charming. There is almost no hassle of begging and hustlers trying to sell you everything from tours to cigars that you get in more visited resort areas and larger cities. There are two churches on the main square here, which is unusual among towns in Cuba. The Church of San Juan Bautista, with its thirteen beautiful gold altars, is a main attraction of the pleasant town square and benefited from a million dollar renovation from 1944 to 1953. The renovation uncovered the altars, which had been hidden under white paint to protect them from pirates. This was financed personally by a wealthy man who was able to trace his ancestry back to the original settlers. The smaller Iglesia del Buen Viaje, on the north side of the square, is currently closed down pending repairs to the structure.
Remedios was founded in 1578 and is considered one of the oldest settlements in the country. The historic city center of Remedios Cuba was declared a National Historic Monument in 1980, and there are still some Spanish colonial structures dating to the seventeenth century. While there isn't the remarkable variety of architecture that you will find in places like Cienfuegos and Old Havana, it still presents a wonderful picture for visitors, especially the buildings around the central square. The town is a good base of operations for scuba diving and snorkeling as there are islands and coral reefs just offshore along the coast here. There are also fabulous beaches here, including Las Coloradas, Playa Larga, and El Paso Beach. In addition to the casas particulares, there are several hotels in town. The best is probably the Hotel Mascotte at Maximo Gomez 114 and overlooking the central square. It is housed in an eighteenth-century mansion with lovely balconies.