Matanzas province is located in the west of Cuba; it’s the second largest province of the Island.

Also known as the Athens of Cuba, this beautiful region is full of natural, cultural and architectural attractions which make it a truly special metropolis.

It’s known worldwide for having one of the highest-demanded top touristic destinations of the country, the famous resort Varadero.

Furthermore, it has such a rich history full of important events since its foundation in the XIV century.

Matanzas is also known as The City of Bridges, since it’s the city which has a larger number of them.

History of Matanzas

In 1508, the first foreign contact to this western part of the Island was made, just when the first outlining of the new territories discovered by Christopher Columbus started years ago.

At that time, a group of 30 Spaniards, including two women who were heading to the east and to do so they needed to cross a mighty river, asked for help to the native aborigines and they offered to take them to the other side of the river using two canoes.

This gesture was not friendly at all, because when they were in the deepest part of the river, they turned over their canoes so the conquerors could fall to the river and drown.

The few who made it to the bank were mutilated and in the end only three men and a woman stayed alive.

This slaughter is the origin of its current name of Matanzas, because it was the first and most momentous rebel action made by the Island natives.

Matanzas province was officially founded on October 12th, 1693, in presence of its governor and some government employees from Havana.

In concordance to the Law of Indias which was in effect at the time, it was decided where the principal buildings would be located; and among them there were the church, the principle streets, the lots, the customs, and others.

Importance of Matanzas in the economic development of the country

From its beginner as a province, Matanzas was considered one of the most active trading zones of the Island.

It was the region with the highest level of sugar and coffee production at the time, products which were exported to resupply the Europeans markets.

Matanzas port was an important element for this economic growth, which was fitted out for this purpose for the first time in 1818, receiving the first Spanish ship, Neptuno.

In the same way, it was the second province to have a railroad, an event that boosted commercial exchange on a great scale.

With the passing of time, during the last decades, it has become an important territory in the petroleum extraction and its transportation in supertankers through Matanzas bay.

It’s also one of the provinces with the highest level of tourism, the second in road density, and it has the second international airport with a high level of air traffic, Juan Gualberto Gómez airport.

Matanzas chemical industry is another important economic sector of the country, a kind of fertilizer is produced; one of a kind in the whole national territory.

Rayon and fibrana cords are also produced in the textile industry, which are unique to Cuba.

When Matanzas was proclaimed as the Athens of Cuba?

The proclamation of Matanzas as the Athens of Cuba took place on February 17th, 1860 by Rafael del Villar, who was the director of the Artistic and Literary Lyceum.

The title was due to the cultural development Matanzas city had reached, especially in literature and the arts.

Important personalities, among them playwrights, writers and musicians, were born there and showed their works in this city.

Among them we can mention Miguel Teurbe Tolón, the violinist José White, Ursula Deville, José Vitoriano Betancourt and others.

Geography of Matanzas

Matanzas province is located in the eastern part of the west of the country. It borders to the north with the Strait of Florida, to the south with the Caribbean Sea, to the east with Villa Clara province and to the west with Mayabeque province.

It has an area of 11 791.82 km² and its population is about 712 418 inhabitants according to the 2017 population census.

Its density is 59.1 inhabitants/ km2; its highest point is Pan de Matanzas at 381 meters, while its largest river is La Palma at 71.0 km.

Its principal beaches are Varadero, Larga and Girón. It also has some cays in the north coast such as Libertad, Blanco, Cruz del Padre, Piedra del Norte and Punta Arenas cays.

It’s the only province of the country with 3 rivers: San Juan, Yumurí and Canímar, being the former the largest one at 64 km.

On the other hand, Matanzas bay is the second deepest in Cuba at 546 meters deep at its mouth, and an area of 14 km long and 7 km wide.

What are the municipalities of Matanzas?

The province is divided into 13 municipalities and among them the main city which has the same name, Matanzas city.

The rest of them are:

  1. Calimete
  2. Cárdenas
  3. Ciénaga de Zapata
  4. Colón
  5. Jagüey Grande
  6. Jovellanos
  7. Limonar
  8. Los Arabos
  9. Martí
  10. Pedro Betancourt
  11. Perico
  12. Unión de Reyes

Map of Matanzas, Cuba

In this map the geographical limits of Matanzas province can be seen in detail, its municipalities and cays.

What’s the weather like in Matanzas city?

The weather in this region is similar to the rest of the provinces of the country, usually hot and sunny, but at the same time humid because of its rivers.

The mean maximum temperature is 30°C and the minimum is 19°C, although in some towns the temperatures can lower to 16°C or even less during the winter months.

The coastal zones are cooler to spend the hot months of June, July and August, while they’re also the coldest territories during the months of December, January and February.

The driest season takes place between the months of November and April; a period of cold fronts and strong winds with sea penetrations hits the region after the beginning of March.

Most relevant places

In Matanzas city there are a vast variety of architectural, cultural, historical and even natural attractions that make it one of the most preferred destinations for national and foreign tourists.

Among the most relevant ones in the province we can mention the following:

  • Sauto theater, one of the most important classic theaters of Cuba.
  • Velasco theater, the most modern of the city.
  • Vigía square, located in the downtown of the city.
  • Saint Charles Borromeo cathedral, with a beautiful neoclassic architecture matching baroque style.
  • Monserrate church, neoclassic architecture from the XIX century founded by a Catalan colonist.
  • Versalles neighborhood, a popular community with French ancestry.
  • Saint Severino castle, an Italian-French fortress from the XVI century, the most important building of the city of Matanzas since its foundation.
  • Concordia bridge, a magnificent work of art built on 1878 with an iron structure from the United States.
  • Bellamar caves, one of the must-visit places, the greatest example of Cuban natural beauty more than 300 thousand years old.
  • Ambrosio cave, a natural place of great national significance, its walls have around 74 pre-Columbian pictures.
  • Saturno cave, a beautiful natural attraction near the airport of Matanzas.
  • Varadero beach, considered one of the most beautiful beaches worldwide, of heavenly beauty it’s located 36 km away from downtown.
  • Josone park, a neoclassic mansion surrounded by an exuberant natural landscape, also located in Varadero and it’s one of the most attractive places in Cuba.
  • Varahicacos ecological reserve, located near Ambrosio cave it has native vegetal specimens more than 600 years old, along with a varied land and aquatic fauna.
  • Zapata swamp, the largest one in the Caribbean area, it occupies around 300 thousand hectares.
  • Laguna del Tesoro, a perfect location for fishing, as well as for ecotourism.
  • Crocodile farm, a facility located in Guamá which has more than 10 thousand crocodile specimens.
  • Montemar Natural Park, one of the places in Cuba chosen for ecological hiking, declared a biosphere reserve.
  • Cochinos bay, located in the Gulf of Cazones where you can find one of the best beaches of Cuba for the practice of aquatic sports such as diving and

Where to eat in Matanzas?

Nowadays, Matanzas province has a great number of state and private establishments where we can enjoy varied offers of traditional and international cuisine.

These are the restaurants top recommended to visit in Matanzas:

  1. Don QKO
  2. La casa del chef
  3. Bistro Bar Atlantida
  4. Kiki’s
  5. Xanadú
  6. Kike-Kcho
  7. Restaurante Paradisius Varadeo Resorts
  8. La Arcada
  9. La Rampa
  10. Salsa Suarez Restaurant y Bar
  11. Waco’s Club
  12. El Caney
  13. La Gruta
  14. Terracita’s Café
  15. El Cacique

Where to stay in Matanzas province?

To stay, national and foreign visitors can choose among diverse offers that go from luxury hotels to private houses.

Among the most popular places within this category throughout the whole province we can mention the following:

  1. La Villa Sonada
  2. Doña Edita House
  3. Costa Azul Villa
  4. Rabelo House
  5. E Velasco Hotel
  6. Alma Cheap Hotel
  7. Bella Vista Cheap Hotel
  8. Villa Guayasimin House
  9. Lola House
  10. La Casa de Ruben
  11. Sol Palmeras Hotel
  12. Muthu Playa Varadero
  13. Gran Caribe Puntarena Playa Caleta Hotel
  14. Santuary at Grand Memories Varadero
  15. Iberostar Selection Varadero