After one day of diving at Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs), we decided to visit the beautiful city of Cienfuegos before returning to Havana.
As we were driving the back roads we noticed the pavement changing color, we slowed down and saw that one lane was covered with what looked like sand or dirt. After seeing the second kilometer-long stretch of road with one-lane covered with the lighter stuff, we had to stop. It turned out to be rice, which the local cooperative had spread on the road for drying. Workers were raking it and bagging it. Unusual, to our eyes, but effective.
Cienfuegos has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was settled in 1803 by a small number of families from Bordeaux, France. The area was mostly unpopulated since Columbus (Colon) visited here on his second trip to the new world in 1494. Soon after the Louisiana Purchase was completed, more settlers of French ancestry arrived from the U.S.
Today, the historical center features numerous neo-classical buildings, lovely parks, and a busy bay leading to the Caribbean. We probably had one of our better meals here at the Cienfuegos Club, which is also the yacht club and home to two sailboat charter companies. But, the real joy of the city is seeing the amazing architecture.
Built in 1917 by a wealthy Spaniard, the Moorish-style Palacio del Valle is in the Punta Gorda neighborhood. It’s now an upscale neighborhood with a rooftop terrace. Views are free – a cuba libre is 5 CUC.
We spent the night at a Casa Particular that sat on a narrow peninsula surrounded by the bay. The rooms were 30 CUC and breakfast (which was massive) was 5 CUC. The drive from Cienfuegos to Havana is about four hours.