World Facts Index > Cuba > Varadero

Varadero is a favourite tourist destination with Cubans as well as foreigners. It is precisely because of this that it has certain distinctive characteristics which set it apart from the rest of the country. It's not really possible to write a 'district guide' as such, but it is possible to give a general description of the place and point out various places of interest to the visitor.

To start with, Varadero's hotel complexes are well equipped in terms of the accommodation, recreational facilities, aquatic sports, and nightlife on offer. In general, tourists do not venture much outside of these complexes, but it has to be said that if they do venture out to explore the area, they will not be disappointed.

The Varadero peninsula and the province of Matanzas offer numerous entertainment options. The heavenly beaches, whose waters emcompass all shades of blue, from bright turquoise to deep blue, invite you to enjoy the various water-sports on offer, or simply to relax and soak up the sun on the beach. If water-sports are your thing, you can choose between diving, crossing the Bahía in a catamaran, or fishing, amongst many other things. Another of the area's attractions is the abundance of important archeological sites. Amongst these are the Cueva de San Ambrosio, with its cave art; the Cuevas de Musulmanes, famous for their ceremonial relevance in the Siboney culture; and Las Salinas ' a salt mine which formed the basis of the region's economy during the colonial era.

This part of the island is equally well known for its natural beauty and as a natural habitat for rare birds, some of which are now extinct in the rest of the world. Many birdwatchers come here on vacation every year in search of that unforgettable experience.

The city of Matanzas also offers sites of archeological importance, numerous caves, including the Cueva de Bellamar, and good camping areas such as the Yumurí and Canasí Valleys, both of which have a rich variety of flora and fauna, rivers and natural viewpoints. If you prefer to tour the city itself, there is much to see, including parks, squares, museums, galleries, etc. The architecture is extremely beautiful and undeniably of Spanish influence and there is a great view of the Bahía de San Juan. It is well worth a visit to this legendary city, birthplace of danzón, the musical style which is still going strong today, years after it was first created.

History of Varadero

The Varadero 18 Km peninsula is located in a place called Hicacos, in the Matanzas province. Here you will find the most famous beaches in Cuba, Caribean blue stretches of water and a constant temperature of 25 ºC throughout the year, which enables the practise of water sports and swimming in any season.

Long before the arrival of the Spanish, this land was inhabited by the Siboney indians, who belong to the indigenous people of Cubacanán. A place of special interest, for both Cuban and foreign tourists in this area, is the San Ambrosio cave. The walls of this cave are covered with drawings and geometrical designs made by these indians, hundreds of years ago.

The region was forever changed with the arrival of the African slaves: these caves are a great testimony of their influence, as they were appropiated by the newcomers and used for performing their religious rites. Nowadays, the entire province is a cultural centre, where important musical and literary manifestations take place.

The Spanish influence in the area is also very strong and can be seen in the architecture, customs, gastronomy and culture in general. The exploitation of the salt mines in Las Salinas by the spaniards began in 1587. The town of Matanzas was founded in 1693. Some say that name pays tribute to the indians massacred by the Spanish conquistadors, although there are other theories maintaining that the name actually alludes to the killing of hundred of spaniards by European pirates who tried to raid the island. Matanzas was once known as the Athens of Cuba. It is now called "ciudad de los puentes" (city of bridges), because of its many bridges. Two big rivers run through this fabulous place, Yumurí and San Juan.

Varadero is the swimming area par excellence in Cuba. It has always been the favourite destination for a lot of Havana residents since the 19th century, when it still belonged to Cárdenas. Back then people used to come to Varadero by steam boat.

The main attractions in Varadero are the beaches, which are surrounded by hotels that provide a holiday plan for the entire family, and the Xanadú mansion, an old colonial residence which has been turned into a restaurant. Other places of interest include the Museo de Municipal, where you can find out about the history of Varadero. Parque Josone is a lush and peaceful park where you can enjoy nature and also have access to a variety of restaurants, cafés, play games and buy local arts and crafts at the market. Once in the city of Matanzas, we recommend you visit the Plaza de La Vigía and the Monumento al Mambí desconocido, which pays tribute to the unsung heroes of the independence war. The Museo Provincial de Matanzas offers an interesting compilation of the local history. It is located inside the Palacio de Junco, an exceptionally beautiful colonial residence. Visit the Teatro Sauto, which was erected in 1863 and is now a national monument. And last but not least, take a walk in Paque Central, a park that will "cater" for the whole family.


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