This is not a post where we’ll feature vintage like pictures with pink flamingos two feet next to us on the beach. That would be in other parts of the Caribbean Sea. Hopefully, we’ll get to tell that story too somewhere in the future. This is a post about our 2 days in Cienfuegos, Cuba, the so-called “Pearl of the South”.
Cienfuegos had already influences of the Spanish Enlightment when it was founded by French emmigrants, who enriched the urban architecture and turned the narrow streets into large boulevards. This is the reason why this colonial town is different from any other in Cuba.
Highlights of our stay
- Stroll around Plaza Jose Marti and visit the Ferrer Palace.
- Walk in Punta Gorda to see the chic palaces of the 1920s elites and visit Palacio de Valle to gaze at the stunning Moorish architecture.
- Boat tour on the Guanaroca Lagoon to watch flamingos. Curiosity: our boat tour guide enlightened us about why flamingos are pink. Simply put, they eat organisms, such as shrimps. For a more scientific explanation, >> read this article! Also, they are monogamous, they mate for life and have one egg per year which both male and female take care of. We saw a colony of flamingos, but couldn’t get closer than 20 m, not to scare them away.
- Craving for a beach already? Rancho Luna beach stays nearby Cienfuegos. We checked it out shortly in the morning before our Guanaroca Lagoon boat tour commenced.
- Catch the sunset (and a mojito) on the rooftop of Cubanacan Boutique La Union.
As a note, wandering the streets and choosing to visit the flamingos lake proved to be more than enough in this small city.
An interesting encounter
Until arriving in Cienfuegos, we hand’t had the chance to hop in one of those classic American cars. For some reason, we always got into rather lousy Ladas. Still, to get to the Guanaroca Lagoon, we caught the first cool taxi. We also made sure to tell the driver about it. He proudly commented: “This is a 48 Chevrolet, like Al Capone.” Was it? Our driver was also the first Cuban to openly admit about the unhappy system people live in. He works part-time as a radiologist in a hospital for 12 Cuc (=12€) per month. Choosing to work in tourism helps him and his family survive. While claiming about the healthcare system that is free, he didn’t refrain himself from adding that “although it might be true, the hospitals are not equipped with modern (& enough) technology to deal with all the medical situations and diagnostics. We need money to buy technology! But the U.S. banks are restricted from lending to Cuba”.
Later on, when we asked him if they could travel outside the country, he laughed ironically: “Yes, we do! But with what money, the 20€ salary/month?” Our driver also told us about the great Cuba before the revolution that we’d often heard people talking about: Cuba before the revolution was better, Cuba before URSS was better: “El peso cubano valued more than the dollar. There were different times. Cuba was the first country of Latin America to have phone, train, and color TV. Now it’s harder. The production hasn’t advanced, you have to import everything, buying either in $ or €.” The drive back to casa ended with our talkative taxi driver saying a phrase that stuck with us ´til this day: “When you took the plane back home, you didn’t just enter a plane, you entered a time-machine.”
From Cienfuegos we headed to Trinidad, in a yet unknown corner of heaven. Watch our blog for next updates! Even better, subscribe to our blog to get the new posts notifications right in your inbox! 🙂
What else to do in Cinefuegos:
Go on a tour to see El Nicho Waterfalls. We opted for the lagoon instead since we were already keen on seeing the Caburní waterfall in Topes de Colantes, Trinidad.
Where to stay in Cienfuegos:
We chose Gaviota d Jagua Casa Particular at the doorstep of Malecón, which we highly recommend, mainly due to the host, Luis, who is knowledgeable, polite and friendly.
Where to eat in Cienfuegos:
Las Mamparas where it’s advisable to book in advance.
Getting to Cienfuegos:
We came from Viñales by Viazul bus, but there are also direct buses from Havana or elsewhere; Many travellers whom we met chose to travel by taxi colectivo (the ones you share with other passengers).