Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia have arrived in Cuba on the first state visit to the island by a Spanish royal.

The couple disembarked in Havana at the start of a three-day visit to Cuba’s capital and the eastern city of Santiago.

The king and queen will tour historic sites during the week as Havana celebrates the 500th anniversary of its founding, but they will leave before the actual anniversary on Saturday.

The trip has sparked criticism from right-wing politicians in Spain and inspired critical opinion pieces in conservative-leaning newspapers over a trip seen as a step forward for normal relations between Spain and its former colony, a single-party Communist state that cracks down harshly on dissent.

The royal couple plan to meet cultural figures and entrepreneurs but avoid interaction with members of Cuba’s illegal political opposition.

Spanish hotel chains and other tourism-related businesses serve hundreds of thousands of travellers to Cuba each year, and hundreds of thousands of Cubans have claimed Spanish citizenship through laws granting passports to the children and grandchildren of Spanish immigrants.