Cienfuegos is a beautiful port city in the southern coast of Cuba, right in the middle of the island. It is known for its uncharacteristic architecture. Unlike many other colonial cities like Havana and Trinidad were the architectural influence is markedly Spanish, Cienfuegos looks remarkably like a French colonial town.
Cienfuegos was, indeed, founded by French colonists in 1745 and the main historic buildings in the city centre are unmistakably French. The Terry theatre is perhaps the best example to illustrate this peculiar aspect of Cienfuegos.
However, the Caribbean vibe and the lingering Spanish influence are persistent, resulting in an interesting and unique city. Being the most recently founded city in Cuba it has a more clean, modern, and spacious feel, and along with its other attributes this gained the city the nickname The Pearl of the South.
Cienfuegos’ beauty is further enhanced by the Escambray mountain range providing a stunningly beautiful backdrop for the city. One of the most popular activities among visitors and locals alike is to trek from Cienfuegos to the Nicho waterfall in the Escambray. The Bay of Cienfuegos is atypically clean and inviting, and some of the best hotels and Casas Particulares (Private B&Bs) are lined up along the bay with spectacular views towards the Caribbean Sea.
The Historic Centre of Cienfuegos is UNESCO Heritage certified. Within this centre you can visit many notable buildings and monuments including Jagua Fort, Jose Marti Park, Cienfuegos Cathedral, Reina Cemetery. The impressive Botanical Garden just outside of Cienfuegos is known to contain more than 2000 different species of tropical plants and has ties to Harvard University from as early as the 1920s. You’ll understand why the French picked Cienfuegos as their ideal Caribbean retreat if you head over to the breezy and open-spaced Punta Gorda where pretty houses front up directly to the peaceful bay waters, and wandering along the flat bay boulevard makes for an easy stroll to many bars and restaurants.
Like many other Cuban cities, Cienfuegos has strong musical traditions. The city is incredibly proud of being the birthplace of one of Cuba’s most revered musicians, Beny More (1919-1963), considered by many the greatest singer in Cuban music history.
Cienfuegos is usually a stopover for travellers going from Havana to nearby Trinidad, Cayo Santa Maria and Western Cuba towards Santiago. Visitors stay typically one or two nights before continuing their journey towards the west. The city serves as an excellent base to recover from the journey from Havana, and to explore nearby Bay of Pigs, Playa Giron, the Zapata Swamps, and the dozens of charming little coves between Cienfuegos and Trinidad.
The city has its own airport and benefited from a surge in tourism after the Obama administration eased travel restrictions from the US to Cuba and direct flights from Florida to Cienfuegos started shortly after. However, the Trump administration reinstated travel
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