Cuba’s wild, wild east

Turquoise water. Sugary white sand. Lush tropical trees stretching back into a wide mountain range. When Christopher Columbus swung his ships into the arced bay of Cuba’s eastern end in 1492, a view nearly identical to this one likely greeted him. “I was so astonished by the sight of so much beauty that I can find no words to describe it,” Columbus wrote to his royal Spanish patrons. “[It was] so enchantingly beautiful that it surpasses all others in charm and beauty.” Fast-forward more than 520 years, and surprisingly, this area’s allure hasn’t diminished, nor has the coastline changed much from what Columbus originally observed. In this forgotten corner of the island, you won’t find big resorts or even much tourism at all – for now. (Credit: Tanveer Badal)

The colourful coastal city of Baracoa

The hub of Cuba’s eastern end is the tiny city of Baracoa, which has some powerful claims to fame. Not only is it the spot where Christopher Columbus likely first landed on the island, but it was Cuba’s first capital and oldest Spanish settlement.

Nevertheless, Baracoa’s isolation has kept it from becoming a more celebrated place. The hilly and windy La Farola road, linked from Guantanamo 120km to the west, serves as the sole pipeline in – and it was only finished as recently as 1965. Today, a rickety fleet of small planes fly from Havana twice a week; otherwise, the only way to get there is by boat. The lack of infrastructure is hardly a bad thing, though, as it’s allowed Baracoans to develop traditions, tastes and attitudes that are uniquely their own. (Credit: Tanveer Badal)

Baracoa’s sea-thrashed Malecón

On one side of the Malecòn – a term synonymous with boardwalk – stands an endless swath of Atlantic Ocean. On the other, El Yunque mountain rises behind a jumble of scruffy 18th to 20th Century buildings. During the day, it’s tranquil as people saunter along or sit on the stone wall beside the sea; at night, groups gather under the dim beams of scattered streetlights to stage impromptu music jams or play ball. (Credit: Tanveer Badal)