Tour of Matanzas, the most touristic city in Cuba
At present, Matanzas has become the Cuban province that tourists visit the most. Among the areas that constitute the center of their interests we find Varadero and the Ciénaga de Zapata. The first, as one of the most beautiful beaches and the second, as the largest and best preserved wetland in the insular Caribbean, with 23 protected areas.
Matanzas tourism contributes between 30% and 40% of the income in the country. The Varadero tourist complex is in constant development, has more than 12 thousand rooms and is one of the most visited destinations in the excursions or tours modality in Cuba.
The accesses to the province are: the Vía Blanca from Havana, bordering the north coast; the National Highway, towards the southern part of the territory and along the Central Highway; the railway and the international airport. Varadero has air access using the facilities of the marina Puertosol Dársena de Varadero, Chapelín and Gaviota Varadero, all with customs service, (we recommend to the traveler accommodation in private rental houses in Varadero, whose prices are extremely cheap and services are excellent provided by landlords). For its part, the Juan Gualberto Gómez international airport is the second busiest in the country and is strategically located within the Girón international corridor area.
Varadero annually receives around 70% of all visitors who come to the Island; but it is not the only tourist attraction in the province. The Bellamar Caves are another of the attractions that tops the list of the largest number of tourists per year. It is one of the most explored caves. It was discovered in the 19th century. It is 2 km long and is made up of crystalline formations with a large number of stalagmites and stalactites.
In Matanzas the picturesque landscapes of the Hanabanilla, La Palma, San Juan and Yumurí rivers are also impressive. The emblematic Concordia Bridge extends over the latter, the city’s first reinforced concrete bridge, inaugurated on November 3, 1878 by Captain General Arsenio Martínez Campos.
Other of its bridges are: the Sánchez Figueras, designed by the engineer Conrado Martínez and built in 1916 over the San Juan River, near the market square; El Giratorio is the only one of its kind in the country; the Calixto García bridge, 73 meters long and more than 6 meters; and the Bacunayagua bridge, inaugurated on September 26, 1959, is considered one of the seven Cuban wonders of civil engineering. That is why this city is called by everyone as “the city of bridges”.
From the Mirador de Bacunayagua, you can enjoy one of the most spectacular places in Cuba: the Yumurí Valley, 8 km wide, surrounded by limestone cliffs 150 meters high.
The Río Canímar Tourist Park is the best comfort facility of the Popular Camping in the province of Matanzas, it is located 27 kilometers from Varadero, it is considered an archaeological site of great value in the province, with evidence of aboriginal communities and reports of 31 settlements . This site receives around 60 thousand foreign tourists every year.
In Canímar you can enjoy riding gentle horses and bulls, rowing boat rides, resting in a hammock and climbing a small mountain where you will find a typical peasant hut. On the left bank of the Canímar River, the Tropicana Matanzas cabaret complements these options.
In the historic center it is pleasant to visit the Cathedral of San Carlos; the Parque de la Libertad; the Pharmaceutical Museum; the Artistic and Literary Lyceum; and the Sauto Theater, one of the island’s architectural jewels with frescoes by Daniel D’Allaglio. From the Plaza de la Vigía area you can access the Fire Station, the old Customs House, the Junco Palace and the ruins of the Castillo de San Severino in the Dock area.
For those who practice snokerling, the most surprising place is the Laguna de Maya, Flora and Fauna Reserve, where there is a guide service to visit the reefs in the area near the coast. It is about 15 km east of the city of Matanzas on the road that goes to Varadero.
To the south of the province is La Ciénaga de Zapata. It has virgin forests, swamp and swamp vegetation, centuries-old mangroves and beaches without any pollution. It was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 2000. Among the fauna, the most relevant thing is that in this territory you can see the Cuban crocodile and there are no dangerous animals, allowing the total enjoyment of nature.
Access is through a road that leads to the National Highway, at Km 142. The main alternatives for tourists are: Boca de Guamá, where there are restaurants specialized in crocodile meat; the Crocodile Farm, a place where you can take photos with various specimens; the Laguna del Tesoro, which is accessed by boat from Boca del Guamá; a tourist center located in the middle of the Laguna del Tesoro, with 49 cabins, a nightclub and a restaurant; Long Beach; Girón Beach; The Fish Cave and the La Salina and Santo Tomás Trails, in high demand by those interested in bird watching.
These are just some of the destinations with the highest demand in western Cuba. Sites that increase visitors every year and Matanzas is consolidated as one of the most attractive provinces on the island.