For some cities I just don’t know what to write. I don’t know how to explain why I loved this place and why I think everyone should go there. A place can be so beautiful and yet when people ask me why I recommend going there, I can only say “it’s just so stunning”. It’s a good thing we’ve got cameras, because Cienfuegos in Cuba is one of these places. It’s not a huge city, and you don’t need a whole lot of time to explore it, but there is a reason all those cruise ships dock here for an afternoon.
I arrived in Cienfuegos by shared taxi. I shared it with my travel buddy and two girls we’d met in Playa Larga on a dive and snorkel trip. They had booked accommodation in Punta Gorda and we had no clue where we were going to stay. So we got off at the same place and knocked on some doors until we found something that suited us and our budget. This casa looked pretty nice and we were just a walk along the Malecon away from the town. So after getting some water from the tiny shop right on the corner, we headed for the center along the big boulevard.
Closer to town there are some little shops that sell art and behind a big door was a chocolate shop/café where you could buy treats for just a few CUP. Turning left we found the real center of town. There was a gorgeous shopping street. Now shopping is always very limited in Cuba, but there were also some markets, so this is a great place to shop for souvenirs. Other than that you’ll mostly find rum. We weren’t ready for the rum yet, so went for a lemonade on Plaza de Armas. I thought I could use the bathroom while I was there, but found out that going to a fancy hotel does not mean fancy toilets. The floors were gross, the doors didn’t close and the toilets didn’t flush. To add to the disaster the strap from my bags dipped into the toilet bowl, the one that couldn’t flush!
My time in Cienfuegos consisted mainly of just walking around. There was a strong contrast between the renovated buildings of colonial Cuba and the streets adjacent to that, that were a lot rougher and where real life happened. Just one street away from the tourist stalls, that line the street all the way to the cruise ship terminal, we saw vendors selling things from their bicycles and people at work. Every house here was so photogenic. It was amazing to just wander and find little gems.
One of the gems was a museum where some tourists were entertained by dancers on the ground floor. On the side was a door, with a lady sitting in a plastic chair. You could go up the stairs here to get to a little tower on the roof of the building. It seemed like nobody actually went there even though it was only 1CUC. The building was old and desperately needed renovations. On the first floor we found some ladies sitting in a big room which was half outside. We asked if we could have a look around and even though the women were surprised, they let us roam through the building. We found old chandeliers, beautiful tiles, and old bathrooms. At the top of the building was the tower with a winding staircase. Only one person at a time was allowed up and looking at the structure we gladly listened to this advice. The view over the city and the sea was stunning. We immediately started organizing massive parties in our head. This would be the perfect location.
After walking around and exploring buildings, we found a hole in the wall place to get some food. Then we took off to the rooftop terrace of some expensive hotel and sipped on some cocktails in the sunshine. We were ready for that rum now; daiquiri, canchanchara… The waiter was explaining to us how to pronounce this sugar cane drink. It sounds like a type of song or dance. After a few drinks we had dinner at Las Mamparas, which was the cutest place with gorgeous food. To make the day even better, we saw the sunset from the Malecon and enjoyed the evening like a local.
So I don’t know what exactly to mention when I am talking about Cienfuegos. Cienfuegos was just a very relaxing town to be in. It was picture perfect. It was pure enjoyment. But maybe I should just let the photos speak for me instead.