Famous actors on the stage of the impressive Terry Theatre and the worldwide biggest sugar exporting trade in the port – Cienfuegos is still keeping in mind these glorious times…
For the regulars out there that also speak a bit of Spanish, Cienfuegos translates to “Hundred Fires” and it’s a lovely town on the southern coast of Cuba, in the province with the same name. 250 km from Havana, the city stands near the Bay of Cienfuegos being an important trade center for the sugar, coffee and tobacco exports from the early 1800s.
The town has a lot of old colonial buildings giving it that Old World feel and earning it the nickname “La Perla del Sur” – The Pearl of the South among circles but also with locals. It’s also worth noting that Cienfuegos has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means that here you’ll be able to see things unique to this part of the world.
Travel & Arrival
Getting into Cienfuegos isn’t easy, as Cuba hasn’t the most open borders in the world, especially to American citizens. As usual, we’ll start with the air travel, provided by the Jaime Gonzales Airport which has three charter flights a week from Miami. For European travelers, an easier way would be to get to Abel Santa Maria Airport in Santa Clara and then catch a bus.
There are several busses that travel between Havana and Trinidad and also stop in Cienfuegos, and a couple that travel between Varadero and Santa Clara. Basically, a group can either catch the morning run or the afternoon one.
The most popular way of getting to Cienfuegos by foreign parties is by train from Havana with two trips every day, one in the morning and one in the late evening. Be prepared for a long trip though as the trains move notoriously slow.
Avant & Après Sail
Once in Cienfuegos the fun can begin, as most visitors are simply entranced by its old aristocratic feel and lovely neoclassical style buildings, Among the most important are the Government Palace (City Hall), San Lorenzo School, the Bishopric, the Ferrer Palace, the former lyceum and even some of the residential houses in the town’s center. You might also want to check out the Tomas terry theater and the Museo Historico.
Another lovely tourist attraction is the way to get around town in coches or horse-drawn carriages which are cheap but very picturesque. Most of the rides follow the famous Boulevard Paseo del Prado which is also the commercial center, with a lot of shops.
A sensory overload, Cienfuegos will also appeal to your taste buds, as the Cuban cuisine is an eclectic mix of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines, with the spices and techniques that were made popular by Creole cooks. Local restaurants come to meet the guests’ preferences with a wide assortment of recipes that include local dishes but also international too. You can choose to dine at the restaurant of a fancy hotel downtown or simply hangout at one of the pizzerias or bodegas scattered throughout the city.
And when the sun sets of the Bahia del Cienfuegos, the fun begins at any of the venues specialized in entertaining the crowds. Nightclubs and bars feature live salsa music and of course plenty of dancing as real Cubans do it.
Events & Actions
In and around the city, the locals made sure that any visitor won’t get bored while in Cienfuegos. Among the most popular activities are freshwater fishing, trips by the harbor in a boat and a walk on the seafront (malecon) at dusk. Of course, sailing is also a favorite pastime as is walking about the center of the old town admiring the various buildings and people.
As far as events go, the most well-known are the Festival de Camaron (shrimp festival) in April, the celebration of the city’s foundation (also in April) and in August, the Carnival (an event inherited from the Caribberean culture) as well as the Beny More Festival which goes on every other year.