Travel Guide Draft Ciego de Avila

Ciego de Avila

The location of the province in the middle of the country makes it a ‘cultural frontier’ between the East and the West. For long time just a stop on the way from the East to the West, Ciego de Avila is now a newly ambitious territory after the development of the tourism industry in Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo.

The Cayos, made popular by Hemingway’s novel ‘Island in the Stream’ are now the main reason to go to Ciego de Avila, for their sublime beaches soaking up in incomparable turquoise waters.

However, Ciego’ is also the most eccentric one in Cuba. Indeed, the emigration, during the XIXth century, of many Caribbeans, bringing with them their culture and traditions, made this province a one of its kind in Cuba. You can play cricket in Baragua, find some non Cuban folk dances in Majagua along with some voodoo or Fireworks traditions.

Ciego de Avila is also featuring many folk festivals. In August, in Baragua is celebrated with music songs and dances the “Aniversario de la Emancipacion de los Esclavos” (anniversary of the freeing of slaves), in September Moron is celebrating the “Carnaval Aquatico” over the “Laguna de Leche” and in November inhabitant from Majagua are dancing in the streets for the “Fiesta de los Bandos Rojos y Azul”.

Geogrqphy

The province of Ciego de Avila is located in the very center of the island, and thus was always a crossing point from the West to the East. It is although crossed by the “Caretera Central”, Cuba’s biggest highway.

The North coast is characterized by sandbanks and keys, part of the “Jardines del Rey” archipelago offering idyllic beaches and crystalline waters, while the South coast is mostly made of mangroves. The province hosts inland the largest natural lake of Cuba, the “Laguna de Leche”.

The main cities are Moron on the North of the province and Ciego de Avila on the South.

Brief History

Moron is the oldest city of the province. It was founded in 1543. Ciego de Avila, the capital city of the province was founded some 300 years later, in 1840. It was a military town located along the great defensive wall, “La Torcha” which was going from Moron to Jucaro.

The province was for centuries just a crossing point on the road crossing the island from East to West.

During the XIXth century, many Haitians, Jamaicans, Dominicans or Barbadians emigrated to Ciego de Avila, bringing with them their culture and traditions.

In 1975, the province of Ciego de Avila was created, after the government decided to separate it from the Camaguey province.

See and Do

Ciego de Avila is not the most popular province of Cuba, meanwhile its central location is offering various activities. Paradise coastal landscape and pristine beaches, an untouched nature as well as charming and authentic cities. It worth a stop on your way from one end to the other end of the island.

Sights

Ciego de Avila

Capital city of the homonym province, Ciego de Avila is a very modern. Founded in the late XIXth century as a military town, it later developed thanks to sugarcane and pineapple industry. Inhabitants are very proud of the city they call the ‘city of porches’ for the numerous columned facades of the buildings in the city center. Moreover, the city hosts two of the best municipal museums in Cuba.

Away from the buzz of the touristic places, Ciego de Avila feels like real modern days Cuba.

Parque Marti

In the center of the city, this colonial park was built in 1877 in honor of the king of Spain. It was then renamed after the Cuban hero Jose Marti, which statue thrones in the center of the square. Very typical for Cuba, the square is bordered with trees, under which locals like to sit and relax. The place is nice to watch the activity of the town. In the surroundings streets, you will find some shops, bars, restaurants and a street market. Next to the park is the “Iglesia Catolica”, church dedicated to San Eugenio de la Palma, and the city hall.

Parque de la Ciudad

Cuba’s most innovative and interesting ‘urban green’ park was built on an old wasteland. Old steam trains, modern art… most of the decor is made from scrap, recycled into attractions. It also features playgrounds for kids, and artificial lake, the “Lago la Turbina” and good restaurants, one of them located inside an old aircraft.

El Boulevard

The “Boulevard” is a nice pedestrian street you will appreciate to stroll down, between the art exposed in the street and the relaxing green areas.

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Moron

Located North of the province, Moron offer many attractions in the surroundings. Being close to the beaches and keys of the “Jardines del Rey” archipelago, it is an good alternative for those who don’t want to stay in the coastal resorts. Founded three centuries before Ciego de Avila, its column facades architecture, matching the one of the province’s capital, is better preserved.

Terminal de Ferrocarriles

The location of Moron on the island had made it the main railway crossroad of the country. Thus, the wonderful 1923 neocolonial railway station is a historical institution in the province. Little has changed since its construction and you can still appreciate the large paintings, the stained-glass skylight or the hand-written departures times of trains.

Cayo Coco

Fourth largest island in Cuba, Cayo Coco is the second destination, after Varadero, for beach tourism. Since the 1990’s, the swamps were transformed into a paradise for tourists as the resorts were built. Worldly famous for the perfect quality of its white powdery sand beaches and clear waters, Cayo Coco is the place for beachgoers to enjoy farniente and water activities.

Parque Natural el Baga

The eco project is showing a rich mix of environments, from mangroves to lakes and rehabilitated coastline. This splendid natural park is home to more than 130 bird species.

Cayo Guillermo

Made famous by 1970 Hemingway’s novel ‘Islands in the Stream’, Cayo Guillermo developed with tourism in the early 90’s. The North coast is made of stunning beaches like “Playa Pilar” and its turquoise waters, while the mangroves on the South are home to some pink flamingos. The Atlantic reef and its numerous colorful fishes is a perfect spot for diving or snorkeling, while its fishy waters are ideal for deep-sea fishing. On the beach, the warm trade-winds are delighting the kite-surfers. Smaller than its neighbor, Cayo Guillermo stands as more attractive and exotic.

The Cayos, (Coco, Guillermo and Romano) are connected between each other and to mainland by a causeway crossing the “Bahia de Perros”.

Playa Pilar

For many, this is the best beach of the Cayos, much better and less touristy than the ones of Cayo Coco, “Playa Pilar” is a real postcard. A sublime white powder sand, warm crystal clear waters, ideal for sunbathing and relaxing, you can also rent some kayaks or spend some time snorkeling observing the numerous angel fishes and other colorful fishes, sea stars and crabs. On the beach, you will also find a bar and an excellent restaurant, all painted in white and blue. For the anecdote, the beach is named after Hemingway’s boat, ‘El Pilar’.

“Playa Pilar” is a real paradise where you feel comfortable and forget about everything.

Isla Media Luna

Off the “Playa Pilar”, this small island is another piece of paradise. A catamaran tour take you to the island, giving you the possibility to snorkel around the coral reefs in the middle of a myriad of tropical fishes. On the island, chickens and rabbits are coexisting with hermit crabs. References to Hemingway are everywhere.

Museums

Museo Provincial Simon Reyes

Probably Cuba’s best municipal museum is in Ciego de Avila. In a columned building typical of the architecture of the province, this small museum present the History of Cuba, from the pre-Colombian times until present days. Explanations are also given about the numerous folk festivals the province is hosting or about the Afro-Cuban religion and deities. You will also learn a lot about the ”War of Independence”, a scale model showing “la trocha”, a wall erected in the province to avoid the rich provinces of the West to be conquered by rebels, the ‘Revolucion’ and the important Cuban figures. Guides are very passionate and willing to pass on their knowledge.

Museo Caonabo

This is Moron’s museum of history and archeology. Located in the former city bank, you can enjoy a splendid view of the town from the rooftop lookout.

Do

Laguna de Leche

Cuba’s largest natural lake is called the “Milk Lake” for the lime deposit reflecting a white color on the water. Abundance of fishes such as carps, tilapia or tarpon makes i tan excellent fishing spot. You can take some guided fishing tours or simple boat rides over the lake.

Every year, it is the venue for the “Carnaval Aquatico de Moron”.

Loma de Cunagua

The reserve of “Loma de Cunagua” is a protected area for fauna and flora, and Ciego de Avila’s main nature attraction. Horseback ride the reserve, stop for some birdwatching and have a meal at the ranchon restaurant before hiking the trails up to the highest point of the province for stunning views over the land and the ocean.

Laguna la Redonda

This laguna is a truly breathtaking lake surrounded by impressive mangroves and an untouched nature. Taking a boat ride around is a fantastic experience. Guides are nice, funny and very professional. They will show you around so that you can observe wild orchids, hummingbirds’ nests or simply enjoy the beauty and calm of the place. Like fishing? The lake is full of bass and trout. The restaurant near-by is serving some delicious “calentico”, a filet of fish with ketchup and tabasco.

El Pueblo Holandes

Close to “Laguna le Redonda”, on top of a hill, the small village features Dutch style houses, built as a home for cattle workers. It worth a short stop on your way, for it is incongruous to find it there.

Water activities

From Cayo Coco or Cayo Guillermo, you can find many water related activities. Motorboat tours through the mangrove channels, deep-sea fishing trips for barracuda red snapper or marlins, or scuba diving.

Eat.

Restaurants

Don Avila You will appreciate the generous creole food served in this restaurant of Ciego de Avila, at least as much as you will love the ambience provided there, with the old style bar and its own cigar outlet.

Fonda la Estrella (Ciego de Avila) “Ropa Vieja”, Paella, here the cuisine is tasty and at incredibly cheap prices.

Piano Bar Contrary to what it seems it is a restaurant, and one of the best one in the province (Moron). The menu suggest great Caribbean dishes of pork or seafood, the service is irreproachable. Ambience is guaranteed with some live music at weekends.

Restaurante Maite la Qbana Savory and classy, very creative and generous, Maite will delight you with its Cuban and international dishes. A fantastic dining option in Moron.

Lenny’s Bar and Grill This Cayo Coco beach shack is one of the best place to eat. Very friendly atmosphere, atmospheric view on the ocean, the food is just fantastic, wonderful shrimps, perfect lobster, all grilled just in front of you.

Ranchon Playa Pilar Great beach bar and restaurant on “Playa Pilar”. The lobster is particularly good. And, what to say about the view on the precious beach.

Ranchon Cuba Libre By the beach, on Cayo Guillermo, this very simple restaurant is proposing some traditional Cuban cuisine and delightful seafood. The beach ambience and the music are a plus.

La Atarrava Literally over the « Laguna de Leche », this ‘on stilts’ restaurant serves fabulous seafood for very cheap price. The house specialty is the ”pescado Montero”, a dish made of filet of fish with ham and cheese.

Pescado Frito (Ranchon la Boca) Another eating venue located on “Laguna de Leche”, famous for its seafood, fried catfish, carp or tilapia.

Laguna la Redondda Great place for creole cuisine. The house specialty the delicious “calentico”, a filet of fish with ketchup and tabasco.

Entertainment

Drinks and Nightlife

Casa de la Trova Miguel Angel Luna Located in a colonial building in the center of CIego de Avila, Casa de la Trova’s live music shows are amongst the best in the province with local ‘trovadorres’ coming up every Thursdays.

Casa de la Cultura This Cuban ‘entertainment institution’ is the perfect place to dance, from ‘folklorico’, traditional South American dances to danzon.

Patio de Gallo Moron’s most popular entertainment venue, part bar, part club, featuring some live music and cabaret shows.

La Cueva del Jabalí A club in a natural cave. This is Cayo Coco’s best music and dancing venue. DJ sets and live Cuban rhythms are played while people get crazy on the dancefloor. The atmosphere is spectacular

Cabaret Cueva Out of Moron, on the shores of “Laguna de Leche”, the place is still very popular amongst locals which like the unique ambience of this cabaret located in a cave.

Shopping

La Epoca Artex souvenir shop in CIago de Avila

Pauvet Galeria This is the place you are looking for if you want to buy some unique souvenir of art. In this Ciego de Avila workshop / showroom, you can watch artisans creating unique crafted pieces.

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