Matanzas is both the name of a province, as well as its regional capital, located in west central Cuba.
With both a northern (Atlantic) and southern (Caribbean) coastline, the province of Matanzas is located to the west of Havana and to the east of the historic towns of Santa Clara, Cienfuegos & Trinidad.
Although somewhat short on cultural destinations, the province is home to Cuba’s largest beach resort, Varadero, situated roughly midway along its north coast.
The south coast is dominated by the vast, mangrove dominated Zapata Peninsula as well as being home to Playa Larga and the infamous Bay of Pigs.
A little history
Although not amongst the very oldest towns in Cuba, Matanzas can still trace its origins back as far as 1693 when San Carlos y San Severino de Matanzas was first settled by a number of families from the Canary Islands in Spain.
Set on a broad, sheltered bay of the same name, Matanzas town is known as the City of Bridges on account of the seventeen bridges that span the three rivers criss-crossing town (the rivers Yumuri, San Juan & Canimar).
Economically, the area around Matanzas was at the forefront of the Cuban sugar industry and, as with the industry in general, where there was sugar, there were slaves. By the mid-19th century, it is thought that there were over 100,000 slaves in Matanzas province alone.
Accordingly, the town was at the centre of numerous revolts and uprisings and, today, is a bastion of Afro-Caribbean traditions.
Is Matanzas worth visiting?
With its attractive setting, three hundred years of history, fine main plaza and a plethora of colonial era buildings, you would imagine that Matanzas would be very much on the Cuban tourist trail.
In fact, very few visitors to Cuba bother to explore the sites of Matanzas even though thousands of people pass through it every day as the town is directly en-route between Havana & Varadero.
Although it does have its charms, and has been spruced up in the last few years, the overwhelming challenge the town faces is that there are greater charms to be found elsewhere, especially in the aforementioned cities of Havana, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos & Trinidad.
The only exception to our hesitancy is for anyone planning to spend the majority of their holiday on the beaches of Varadero or, to a lesser extent, Jibacoa, and looking for an outing. In that case, a day trip to Matanzas is certainly worth considering and is easily organised locally, through one’s hotel.
Until relatively recently, and hopefully this will resume sometime in the future, the town was also the terminus of the iconic Hershey Train, a popular excursion from Havana.
Hotels in Matanzas
As stated, very few people visit Matanzas and fewer still stay the night.
For anyone determined to overnight in town, both the Hotel E Velasco (pictured below) & Hotel E Louvre are part of a state owned chain of heritage hotels that, while in no way luxurious, are both full of local charm and perfectly comfortable.
For your peace of mind, all Beyond The Ordinary holidays are fully financially protected under the ATOL scheme.