Cienfuegos Province Attractions
The little province of Cienfuegos lies between Matanzas, Villa Clara, and Sancti Spritus Provinces, along Cuba's southern coast. The province is usually by passed by most travelers because it does not have any big name attractions or resorts, but the region does have some worthwhile sights. The province's capital city, also named Cienfuegos, is home to some beautiful colonial architecture and serves as a good base for exploring outlying areas. It is a quiet town and not over run by tourists. Along the coastal region of Cienfuegos visitors will find some pleasant small towns and beaches, as well as good scuba diving sites.
Cienfuegos, sitting on the large inland bay known as Bahia de Cienfuegos, is the capital of the province of the same name. It was once nicknamed "the Pearl of the South" and although the historic city center is still well preserved and maintains a pleasant atmosphere, the industry that has developed around the bay has lessened the cities appeal. Cienfuegos was discovered by Columbus in 1494. A fortress was built here in the mid 1700s but the town was not founded until the early 1800s.This is a mid sized city with an active arts and cultural scene. The architecture and layout of Cienfuegos make it a pleasant place to visit, and the area known as Punta Gorda has some beautiful old houses.
Jardin Botanico Soledad
The Jardin Botanico Soledad is about 16km / 10mi east of Cienfuegos towards Trinidad. The garden was the creation of Edwin Atkins, a sugar plantation owner, who in 1912 designed the garden as a type of experimentation ground in an attempt to improve his growing techniques. Atkin set aside a portion of his property for a sugar can research center and later added other tropical plants and trees. In 1919 the property was bought by the University of Harvard and turned it into the Harvard Botanical Station for Tropical Research and Sugar Cane Investigation. The land became the property of the government after in 1961, following the revolution and is now known as the Jardin Botanico Soledad, named for the Soledad sugar words that was owned by Edwin Atkins.The garden covers 90 ha / 220 acres and contains some 2,000 plant species. The Jardin Botanico Soledad is best visited on a guided tour with explanations of what you are seeing.
Palacio de Valle
Located in the Punto Gorda section of Cienfuegos is the Palacio de Valle. This massive structure is truly palatial with large, high ceiling rooms, turrets, scalloped arches and fine detail, with elements of Gothic, Venetian, and Neo-Moorish styles that combine to create this fantastic building. The Palacio de Valle was built for wealthy sugar merchant Oclico del Valle Blanco, and was completed in 1917. The T shaped building has three corner towers, each with a different design. The roof top terrace offers incredible views over the water. Today the palace is used as an upper end restaurant, although it generally receives mediocre to bad reviews, and the roof area is a lounge where visitors can stop without having to order a full meal.
Teatro Tomas Terry
One of the most impressive buildings in Cienfuegos is the Teatro Tomas Terry on the north end of Parque Marti. This theatre was built by the family of Tomas Terry, the former mayor of Cienfuegos, as a tribute to the man, following his death. A statue of Tomas Terry stands in the lobby. This Italian looking theatre was the creation of architect Lino Sanchez Marmol and was built in 1889. The two story Teatro Tomas Terry has five arches on the ground level to mark each entrance, while the second level displays square window and a small central balcony. On the roof level, three arches frame gold murals, giving the theatre a distinct flare. The interior of the building, which can hold up to 950 people, contains wood carved seats and the ceiling is adorned with an exquisite painted ceiling.
Castillo de Jagua
The Castillo de Jagua is located just outside of Cienfuegos. This castle, built by Jose Tantete, stands at the entrance to the Bay, Bahia de Cienfuegos and can be reached either by road heading west from Cienfuegos, or by taking a short ferry ride from the east shore across the mouth of the Bay to the west shore. The Citadel was designed to be a safeguard against pirates in the first half of the 18th Century. Entrance to the Castillo de Jagua is by a drawbridge over a moat, which is now dry. In the fortress courtyard is an old prison and chapel. There is a legend about the castle being haunted by a woman wearing blue who would taunt and terrorize the guards.The Castillo de Jagua has been turned into a restaurant and lounge.
Palacio de Ferrer (Casa de Cultura Benjamin Duarte)
The unmistakable Palacio de Ferrer is located on the main plaza in Cienfuegos. The palace, built in the 1890s, contains a variety of architectural styles but the blue domed tower in one corner is the most memorable portion. A wrought iron staircase leads to the upper dome where visitors are treated to fine views over the city.The Palacio de Ferrer contains the Casa de Cultura Benjamin Duarte and is open to the public. The interior is known for the Italian marble floors and walls, cut in Italy before being transported to Cuba. The Casa de Cultura Bejamin Duarte offers spaces for music, dance, and other arts, although it is mostly targeted towards children.
Parque Marti in Cienfuegos is the former Plaza de Armas. This large open space is the center of the city and is marked by a round ground plaque in the middle of the square; the zero kilometer (kilometer zero). On one side of the Parque Marti is the provincial government building, Palacio del Ayuntamiento. At the entrance to the park is the Archo de Triunfo, which is the only arch of triumph in Cuba. Shortly after passing under the arch you will find a marble statue of Jose Marti.Also on Parque Marti are the 950 seat Teatro Thomas Terry, the Casa de la Cultura Benjamin Duarte with a tower visitors can climb, and the Catedral de la Purisima Conception.
Cementerio General La Reina
The Cementerio General La Rein in Cienfuegos, although now in a state of decline, is still a unique place. This neo-Classical style cemetery was established in the 1830s and contains the graves of soldiers from the independence wars. The most noteworthy item in the cemetery is the Bella Durmiente (Sleeping Beauty), a beautiful statue / headstone of a sleeping lady, which supposedly represents a heart broken young woman. The Cementerio General La Reina is a national monument in Cuba.There is also another cemetery in Cienfuegos called Cementerio Tomas Acea, remarkable for its entrance, which is a replica of the Parthenon in Greece.
Museo de la Clandestinidad Hermanas Giral Andreu
The Museo de la Clandestinidad Hermanas Giral Andreu in Cienfuegos is housed in the birthplace of Lourdes and Cristina Giral. These sisters were revolutionaries who were eventually killed in 1958 during the Batista regime. Although the house itself is not particularly interesting the Museo de la Clandestinidad Hermanas Giral Andreu in Cienfuegos features exhibits on the Revolution of 1959, which provide insight into the propaganda campaign that accompanied the revolution. There is also a photo collection from the 5 September 1957 uprising. This attraction will be of most interest to people with some knowledge of the events of the 1957 uprising.
If you only visit one war museum in Cuba, the Museo Historico Naval Nacional in Cienfuegos is the one to see. Although from the outside it does not look particularly special or appealing, it offers some the best displays in Cuba on the history of the Cuban Navy. The museum explores the anti-Batista rebellion of 5 September 1957, and the country's declaration of war on Germany, Tokyo, and Rome. The Museo Historio Naval Nacional also provides information on the Bay of Pigs Invasion at Playa Giron as well as other miscellaneous items like old Spanish coins and other maritime finds.
The Cienfuegos region known as Punta Gorda is a narrow strip of land that juts out into the ocean. This area of Cienfuegos was inhabited primarily by aristocrats in the early 20th Century. Consequently there are many beautiful old homes and art nouveau villas in Punta Gorda. Some of the homes are brightly painted in pink, yellow and blue colors which give the area a unique charm. The road runs along the ocean and is lined by palm trees. There are great views out over the bay and a drive along Punta Gorda makes for a pleasant afternoon outing when visitors have had too much sun and spent too much time on the beach for one day.
The impressive Cathedral in Cienfuegos, Catedral de la Purisima Concepcion, is located on the square, Parque Marti. Completed in 1869, the pale colored cathedral has a neo-Classical façade with two large red capped bell towers of different heights, three arched entrances and French stained glass windows of the Twelve Apostles. The interior has neo-Gothic characteristics and is worth stepping inside for at least a quick look if possible. The Catedral de la Purisima Concepcion is the most imposing building on the square and impossible to miss.
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