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Cienfuegos Travel Information

Cienfuegos, or commonly known as 'The Pearl of the South', is a quiet port city in south central Cuba. Before the Spanish conquest, the area was inhabited by the aboriginal community of Jagua. During the years of colonization, it was not a relevant settlement until 1819, when a group of French planters moved over from the American Louisiana and founded what they then named 'Fernandina de Jagua' in honor of King Fernando VII and the indigenous settlers. This French influenced has left a mark in its inhabitants and culture, reflected on many aspects of local life, especially in architecture.

In 1745, the Spanish built a fort at the mouth of the bay named 'Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Jagua', in order to protect the settlement but mostly to restrict the access to the wonderful sea inlet for the pirates that constantly roamed the Caribbean and used them as hideouts. The fort still stands as one of the best examples of military colonial architecture and has been declared a National Monument.

Cienfuegos Main Square and the buildings surrounding it, count themselves among UNESCO's Cultural Heritage Sites since 2005. The city teems with highly decorated constructions, mainly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many of them an interesting mix of styles but with a remarkable neoclassical influence. Avenues and streets are perfectly rectilinear, long and wide, following the grid French pattern. Other French features in architecture are clearly seen in the vitreaux windows and small arches in many of the palaces and mansions.

Cienfuegos was one of Cuba's chief sugar-producing areas, but it has always owned its wealth to the active trading activities of its port, the country's third largest. This province shares a section of the central mountain range, where coffee constitutes its main produce. The city is not highly touristic and its attractions are the main square, the bay and the botanical gardens.

Cienfuegos Tours coming soon!

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Main Attractions

Marti Park

It originally served as the Arms Square and it occupies an ample green section in downtown. The park features an Arc de Trionfe from 1902, as a remainder to the foundation of the Cuban Republic. Several remarkable buildings surround the park, such as Ferrer Palace, the residence of a former local sugar baron, used today as a cultural institution. The palace has the appearance of a wedding cake and is crowned by a fancy lookout tower on one end. Tomás Terry Theater, a 19th century jewel, stands on the park's northern side. It was built in 1889 by a Venezuelan in grateful gesture to the place that has contributed to his fortune. Opened in 1890 with a performance of Verdi's 'Aida', it still remains in excellent conditions, preserving all the original fixtures and decorations. The theater has welcome world stars like Ana Pavlova and Enrico Caruso, and nowadays it offers all sorts of cultural performances. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception lies on the park?s eastern end. It is a construction from 1869, characterized by its neoclassical touch, soft lines and French-made stain glasses, which depict the twelve catholic apostles. The southern end is occupied by the former Spanish casino, now the City Museum with exhibits on the local history.

 

Reina Cemetery

Located on the city?s western sector, it is considered one of the oldest in Cuba, founded between 1830 and 1840. It still preserves some of the Spanish and Cuban soldiers tombs from the Independence Wars, but most of the mausoleums and tombs are in need of urgent restoration. The city owns another cemetery named Tomás Acea, featuring a grand entrance, similar to the Greek Acropolis. It was one of the country's first garden cemeteries.

 

Dolphinarium

Located on Rancho Luna Beach, 18 km south of the city. The dolphins shows are highly entertaining and may be combined with sea lions. After each 30 minute performance (10 am and 1.30pm, closed on Wednesday), visitors have the opportunity to swim with the dolphins (optional and not free).

 

Botanical Gardens

The largest and oldest botanical garden in Cuba; founded in 1901 by Edward Atkins and supervised by Harvard University until 1962, it has 96 ha covered by over 2000 plant species, being the most remarkable the bamboos, palm trees and focuses. It is located on the road to Trinidad and open every day from 8am-4pm, English-speaking guides available.

 

Valle Palace

It is by far the most outstanding jewel of architecture in the city and probably in Central Cuba. Built in 1913 by a Spanish businessman, it features a rich mixture of styles, built predominantly Moorish. For this reason it has come to be named the Alhambra of the Caribbean. It is crowned by 3 towers that represent love, religion and war.

 

Rancho Luna Beach

18km to the south, it is Cienfuegos chief swimming spot. Golden sands and coral reefs are a common sight. There are two hotel resorts in the area and a diving center.

Marti Park
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