Caribbean Tourism

Matanzas

Matanzas (pop: 115,000) is a sleepy town with old colonial buildings and a busy, ugly industrial zone. Both the rivers Yumurí and San Juan flow through the city.


Most of the old buildings are between the two rivers, with another colonial district, Versalles, to the east of the Río Yumurí. This area was colonized in the 19th century by French refugees from Haiti after the revolution there. The newer district, Pueblo Nuevo, also has many colonial houses. The industrial zone runs along the north shore of the bay, with railways running inland and around the bay.

The town dates from 1693, but became prosperous with the advent of sugar mills in the 1820s, followed by the railway in 1843. Most of the buildings date from this time and by the 1860s it was the second largest town in Cuba after Havana. The Galería de Arte Provincial is on the Plaza de la Vigía. Mon 0900-1700, Tue-Sat 0900-1800, US$2.

Next door is Ediciones Vigía, where you can see books being produced. These are all handmade and in first editions of only 200 copies, so they are collectors’ items, particularly if you get one signed.

Also on Plaza de la Vigía is Teatro Sauto, a magnificent neo-classical building dating from 1862-63 and seating 775 people in three-tiered balconies the floor can be raised to convert the auditorium into a ballroom. Tue-Sun, US$2. Although you will now find numbers written on the streets, locals still refer to names. Streets running N-S in the old town have even numbers, while streets running E-W have odd numbers.

Museums:

Visit the Museo Farmaceútico, which contains the original equipment, porcelain jars, recipes and furnishings of the Botica La Francesa, opened in 1882 by the Triolet family. It was a working pharmacy until 1964, when it was converted into a fascinating museum, believed to be unique in Latin America. Milanés 4951 entre Santa Teresa y Ayuntamiento, on the south side of Parque Libertad, T23197. Mon-Sat 1000-1700, Sun 0800-1200, US$2.

The Museo Provincial is a large museum in the former Palacio del Junco, built by a wealthy plantation owner and dating from 1840. The historical exhibits include an archaeological display and the development of sugar and slavery in the province. Milanés entre Magdalena y Ayllón, T23195. Mon-Sat 1000-1700, Sun 0800-1200, US$1.


More . . .

The East

The main road along the coast towards Matanzas and Varadero is called the Vía Blanca. There are some scenic parts, but you also drive...

Cárdenas

Cárdenas (pop: 75,000) is usually visited as a day trip from Varadero and is empty of tourists, friendly and a good place to meet Cubans....

Baracoa

Close to the most easterly point of the island, Baracoa is an attractive place surrounded by rich, tropical vegetation and the perfect...

Bayamo

Bayamo is the capital of the province of Granma. It was the second town founded by Diego Velázquez in November 1513 and has been declared a...

Guantánamo

Gúantánamo (pop: 205,000) is the most easterly and most mountainous province on the island. The range of the Montañas de Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa...

Holguín

Holguín, (pop: 250,000) was founded in 1545. It is known as the ‘city of the parks’, four of which, Parque Infantil, Parque Carlos Manuel...

Pinar del Río

The capital of Pinar del Río province is lively and attractive, and it gives a good taste of provincial Cuba. The centre consists of single...