Santa Clara (pop. 175,000), 300 kilometers east of Havana , is the provincial capital of Villa Clara. Straddling the Carretera Central and within five minutes of the Autopista, it is strategically located at the center of Cuba. The city was established within the confluence of the Ríos Bélico and Cubanicay in 1689, when residents of Remedios  grew tired of constant pirate raids and moved inland.
Later it functioned as a plum in Cuba’s Wars of Independence. On December 31, 1958, Che Guevara’s Rebel Army attacked the town and derailed a troop train carrying reinforcements and U.S. armaments bound for Oriente. Two days later, the Rebel Army captured the city, which became known as el último reducto de la tiranía batistiana (the last fortress of Batista’s tyranny). Within 24 hours, the dictator fled the island.
Today Santa Clara is an important industrial town. It is also home to the Universidad Central de las Villas.
By Air: Flights arrive at Aeropuerto Internacional Abel Santamaría (tel. 042/21-4402), 10 kilometers northeast of the city. Havanatur (Máximo Gómez #13, e/ Independencia y Barreras, tel. 042/20-4001) sells Cubana tickets.
By Bus: The Terminal de Ómnibus Nacionales (Av. Cincuentenario, Independencia y Oquendo, tel. 0422/29-2214) is on the Carretera Central, 2.5 kilometers west of the city center. Víazul (tel. 0422/22-2523) buses between Havana and Santiago stop in Santa Clara.
By Train: Most trains traveling between Havana  and Santiago de Cuba stop in Santa Clara. The Estación de Ferrocarriles (tel. 042/20-2895) is at the northern end of Luis Estévez, seven blocks from Parque Vidal . Same-day tickets are sold at the ticket office (tel. 042/20-0854) on the south side of the square. Seats on the regular are sold up to 24 hours in advance; seats on the especial can be bought only one hour in advance of departure.
By Car: You can rent cars from Cubacar (Marta Abreu #130, tel. 042/20-9118) and Rex (Marta Abreu #130, tel. 042/22-2244, irl [at] rexz [dot] com).
By Organized Excursion: Tour agencies include Cubanacán (Colón, e/ Candelaria y San Cristóbal, tel. 042/20-5189), Cubatur (Martha Abreu #10, e/ Máximo Gómez y Villuendas, tel. 042/20-8980, cubaturvc [at] enet [dot] cu), and Havanatur (Máximo Gómez #13, e/ Independencia y Barreras, tel. 042/20-4001).