Region and City Guides

Cuba: Is Cienfuegos worth visiting?

After Havana, the usual next stop on Cuban itineraries is the tobacco-producing area of Viñales or time-warped Trinidad. But I had read so much about the architecture of Cienfuegos that I was determined to make it my first stop after Havana.

CIENFUEGOS ORIENTATION

Cienfuegos is layed out on a grid system so orientating yourself is very easy. The streets running in a north-south direction are called ‘calle’ and have odd numbers. For example, the main street that bisects the city is the Paseo El Prado but is also known as Calle 37. The streets running from east to west are called ‘avenida’ and have even numbers.

Paseo del Prado/Calle 37 Cienfuegos Cuba
Paseo del Prado/Calle 37

Maps show a number of beaches on the south side of the city on the Punta Gorda peninsula. These are more swimming areas than beaches. The water didn’t look clean but these swimming areas were popular with locals. Another traveller recommended Playita Junco Sur beach 3-4 kilometres east of the city.

Is Cienfuegos worth visiting for beaches? No, as there are better beaches outside the city. Besides, architecture is what Cienfuegos does best.

Punta Gorda Cienfuegos Cuba
Punta Gorda

CIENFUEGOS ARCHITECTURE

Yes, Cienfuegos architecture differed from the rest of Cuba reflecting its French colonial past. It is definitely worth visiting Cienfuegos to look at this architecture as it is well preserved. The best of the sites can be seen in one day. Here’s a flavour of that architecture.

Palacio de Gobierno Cienfuegos Cuba
Palacio de Gobierno on Parque Jose Marti
Cienfuegos architecture
House on Calle 37

IS CIENFUEGOS WORTH VISITING?

It’s not that Cienfuegos was a disappointment but I simply lingered there too long and got bored. So how many days should you stay in Cienfuegos? One day and an overnight stay is sufficient to see the city centre. Give yourself two nights if doing a day trip to Rancho Luna.

The golden rule of visiting Cuba independently is this: never use a town as a hub to travel to other places. Public transport is limited so stay in the towns you wish to visit. For example, my trip to the Bay of Pigs could have been done as an inexpensive overnight stay at a casa particulare as opposed to an expensive day trip by taxi from Cienfuegos.

Beach problems aside, Cienfuegos also suffers from being over-rated. Lonely Planet called it a “displaced piece of Paris” and I would love to know what piece of Paris they think is displaced. Last but not least, Cienfuegos is a UNESCO World Heritage site and perhaps it’s this tag that sets the highest expectation of all.

The next stop on my trip to Cuba was Trinidad.

Check out my Cuba Solo Travel post for further information on destinations within Cuba.

Author’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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