Cienfuegos and Villa Clara Provinces
Villa Clara and Cienfuegos Provinces lie due east of Matanzas Province, with Villa Clara north of Cienfuegos. Together they share some of the prettiest scenery in Cuba. The region is skipped by most tourists, who whiz by along the Autopista or Carretera Central bound for Oriente or the colonial city of Trinidad, in Sancti Spíritus Province. Such haste is a pity, for you are likely to miss one of my favorite regions in Cuba.
The southern and eastern portions of Villa Clara Province are dominated by beautiful rolling uplands called the Alturas de Santa Clara. The Alturas rise gradually to the steep, pine-clad Sierra Escambray. Today cool forests tantalize bird-watchers and hikers, with artificial lakes good for fishing, a famous health spa, and an invigorating climate. The mountains extend south and west into Cienfuegos Province, which surpasses even Havana in industrial output.
Industry is centered on the city of Cienfuegos, a major port town that also boasts some splendid colonial architecture and, nearby, a fine botanical garden, while the city of Santa Clara (also an important industrial and university city) should be on every traveler’s itinerary for the fascinating Museo de Che (Guevara). Nearby, the historic town of Remedios is caught in a delightful time-warp.
Villa Clara is second only to Pinar del Río as a center of tobacco production, centered on the scenic Vuelta Arriba region, east of the provincial capital. Here, Remedios and neighboring villages are renowned for their parrandas, unique year-end carnival-style revelries that border on mayhem. Nearby, gorgeous beaches lie in the Cayos de Villa Clara.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition