Santa Clara (pop: 237,581 alt: 112m) is a pleasant university city in the centre of the island best known for being the site of the last and definitive battle of the Revolution and the last resting place of Che Guevara. It is 300 km from Havana and 196 km from Varadero.
In December 1958, before Castro entered Havana, Batista sent an armoured train with military supplies including guns, ammunition and soldiers, to Santiago de Cuba to counter-attack the revolutionaries. However, Che Guevara and his troops were hiding in the outskirts of Santa Clara (on the Loma de Capiro and in the university), waiting for the train. On 28 December 1958 it was ambushed in the afternoon. The soldiers on the train surrendered quickly and the fighting for the train was soon over. However, the battle for the city lasted nearly four days, until 1 January 1959 when news spread that Batista had fled the country.
Heading east on Calle Independencia towards Camajuaní, between Río Cubanicay and the railway line, is the Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado, where four of the carriages of Batista’s troop train are preserved. There is a museum inside the wagons showing weapons and other things carried on the train. Tue-Sat 0900- 1200, 1500-1900, Sun 0900-1200. There is also a monument on top of El Capiro, the hill where Che and his troops waited to attack the train. You can get an excellent view of the city from here, just as Che did in 1958.
A monument to Che has been built in the Plaza de la Revolución Ernesto Guevara, with a huge bronze statue of Che on top of a large concrete plinth, a bas-relief scene depicting Che in battle and an inscription of a letter from Che to Fidel. The remains of Che and his comrades who fell in Bolivia have been interred here. It is on Prolongación Marta Abreu after the Carretera Central forks to the north; look out for La Victoria service station, entrance on Calle Rafael Tristá, which runs parallel. Under the monument is a museum, the Museo Histórico de la Revolución, with good displays in Spanish and a video about Che’s life and role in the Revolution, as well as displays of the battle in Santa Clara. Recommended. Tue-Sun 0900-1200, 1400-1700, US$2. Bicitaxi US$1 per person from the centre.