270km (168 miles) E of Havana
Santa Clara was founded in 1689 by settlers from Remedios looking for a site inland that would be less vulnerable to pirate attack. Heading east from Havana, Santa Clara marks the start of Cuba's central region. The city is strategically located on the island's spine, right on the main highway and train lines, and is the capital of Villa Clara province. Santa Clara is home to one of Cuba's principal colleges, la Universidad Central de las Villas (Las Villas Central University), and it played an important role in both the independence and revolutionary wars. Thanks to the latter, Santa Clara is known as Che Guevara's City. Today, it is also home to several industrial factories, the legacy of Guevara's tenure as Minister of Industry and his special relationship with this city. In addition to being an interesting destination in its own right, Santa Clara serves as the gateway to the colonial treasure of Remedios and the up-and-coming beaches of la Cayería del Norte (the Northern Cays).