On the southern coast of Cuba, roughly 150 miles from Havana, lies a beautiful and charming city known as the “Pearl of the South”. Rich with Cuban culture, and adorned by spectacular examples of Cuban architecture, as well as natural beauty, Cienfuegos is a city that every visitor to Cuba should see. Set along the Bay of Jagua, Cienfuegos held a significant position in the Caribbean throughout Colonial times and continues to be a central urban area in modern Cuba.
The city was originally settled by the native Taino people, whose presence was strong throughout Cuba in pre-Columbus times. In the early 1800’s, the town was attractive to many French settlers due to its fertile soil and prominent position along Caribbean trade routes. As the sugar industry thrived across the New World, so did the city of Cienfuegos. As a result, numerous ornate buildings were constructed throughout the city and are heavily concentrated within the Historic Center of Cienfuegos.
Here, tourists can marvel at famous buildings like the Cathedral of Cienfuegos, the Tomas Terry Theatre, or the Palacio de Valle. The palace is especially interesting; with its architectural styles of Spanish, Baroque, Romanesque, and Gothic influence, it captures the true essence of Cuban design and is set right on the picturesque waters of the bay, making it an ideal location. Completed in 1917, the Palacio is nearly 100 years old and features beautiful artistic displays both inside and out.
Another wonderful place to visit while in Cienfuegos is the nearby Botanical Garden of Cienfuegos. While it is largely unkempt and a bit wild, this exceptional place has over 2,000 species of tropical plants and over 400 types of orchids. Visitors can certainly get lost here so it may be best to seek the help of one of Cuba Travel Adventures Group’s Cuban English speaking tour guides to provide valuable information about everything to do with these Botanical Gardens.
For those interested in history and military sites, check out the Jagua Fortress (Castillo de Jagua), which sits over the city. Erected during colonial times to protect the bay from marauding pirates, the fort played a massive role in enabling the city to prosper. Now it’s worth a look and is reached via an enjoyable ferry ride across the bay.
A place that animal lovers will enjoy is the Delfinario de Cienfuegos. A spectacular dolphin performance showcases the fine qualities of these sea mammals, while interactive petting and swimming with the dolphins is a delight for kids and a joy to experience.
Some people love nature, and Cienfuegos happens to have some of the best natural beauty in all of Cuba. One particular area is the Guanaroca Lagoon, just a short 15-minute drive outside of the city. Home to many flamingos and pelicans, the area draws many visitors for its pleasant nature walk and enjoyable boating activities on the water. Another favorite spot is the El Nicho waterfalls. A short drive outside of the city, the falls offer bountiful waters for visitors to swim in, and numerous spots for picture-taking opportunities. Playa Ancon just 30 minutes away is one of the nicest city area beaches in all of Cuba. However you may decide to take in Cienfuegos, be ready for an exciting experience in a place full of Cuban culture.