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This wave-lashed fort with its emblematic lighthouse was erected between 1589 and 1630 to protect the entrance to Havana harbor from pirates and foreign invaders. Perched high on a rocky bluff above the Atlantic, El Morro has an irregular polygonal shape, 3m-thick walls and a deep protective moat, and is a classic example of Renaissance military architecture.
A Blissful Day At El Morro
After getting the El Morro tickets and passes, you can visit the Maritime Museum, which documents the 1762 British attack of that very complex. In recent years, the castle also has taken on a new role as an exhibition space, where various artists both create and exhibit their art. The complex is also spotted with artisan stalls and small stores of all types, so it's a great place to get in some of your souvenir shopping. In the Cabana, you can learn about how the fortress has been used across the centuries. Under the dictatorships of the first part of the 20th century, the fortress served as a military prison. After the revolution, Che Guevara occupied the space, a time that is documented in the Museum of Che's Rule, which is also housed here.
After having completed the staircase climb ritual on El Morro tour, there is still 90% of the place to be explored. The vaults for exhibitions are easy to explore, unless you happen to come here in February, during the annually held International Book Fair of Havana, when the place gets crowded by books and visitors. Normally, book fair aside, the tour will only take an hour to complete, and you will have enough time to appreciate its history and the beauty of its architecture.
Enjoying one of the most beautiful sunsets in Havana from inside El Morro castle is nearly impossible. Nevertheless, watching the sunsets from inside the castle is not the only option, they are equally beautiful to watch from the outside. Facing the castle's exterior façade, you'll find an ample esplanade where you can linger to watch the sunset. You can sit on the massive old walls of the castle and ponder the power of this Caribbean jewel under Spanish rule. You can listen to the crashing of the sea against the ocean wall and watch the lights turn on as the sun sinks slowly over Old Havana. You can snap some stunning shots of Havana's skyline absorbed in purples, pinks, and orange. It is a breathtaking experience, and absolutely worth the trip. This is surely a nice thing to do and no El Morro tickets and passes needed to see the sunset from the outside.
If you stay at the Cabana after dusk, you will be joined by another wave of tourists, arriving to attend the famous canonazo ceremony. It is an interesting thing to do for your El Morro tour. This nightly ceremony reenacts an 18th century ritual of sounding a canon to signal the closing of the city walls. Although the city no longer fears attacks from pirates or other opportunistic colonial powers, every night at 9pm, Habaneros in full Spanish military regalia continue the tradition.
During an evening visit to the fortress you should save at least 40 minutes for climbing to the lighthouse. Going up the spiral stone staircase might probably be tiring, but the view through the loopholes and from the banister surrounding the beacon are worth the effort. You need to purchase a different El Morro tickets and passes to be able to go to the lighthouse.
Any exploration of Havana is not complete without a visit to El Morro Castle, it being one of the most popular sights in the city. You can enjoy fantastic views over the harbour and Old Havana and exploring the forts walls, ramparts and barracks. Alternatively, the views over towards the imposing fort can be enjoyed from La Punta Castle which is located at the eastern end of the famous Malecón. Do not miss it on your El Morro tour.
How to Get Tickets?
El Morro tickets and passes can be purchased at the ticket booth. There are various fees to pay when you visit the fort including an entrance fee to the main ramparts, an extra cost to climb to the top of the lighthouse, and an entrance fee to enter the fort after 4pm if you wish to be there for the firing of the cannon.
How To Get Around?
You can take a ferry to go to Casablanca, walk around the fort area, or from El Morro you can continue east to beaches such as Bacuranao and Guanabo, and perhaps visit the fort again on your return to climb the 19th-Century lighthouse, watch the sun set, and witness the firing of the cannon which takes place at 9pm every evening.
What Should I Wear?
Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and clothing. We advise dark-coloured shorts, jeans or trousers for women, there are very narrow parts of the staircase with a very low ceiling and you will need to lean on your hands to climb.
Best Time to Visit
El Morro is open all year round and beautiful to visit at any time of the year. However, the sunset is the most beautiful here, so make sure you are nearby before the sunset begins.
Will I Need a Guide?
No, you can take an El Morro tour by yourself and enjoy it without a guide. You can also find everything you need to know about El Morro on this website.
How To Get There?
If you wish to explore independently you can catch a ferry over to Casablanca on the east side of the harbour and walk to the fort; or catch a taxi from your hotel in Old Havana through the tunnel which passes under the entrance to the harbour.
Carry some drinking water with you (there is only one cafeteria inside and it's closed by sunset).