Cuba's central Cienfuegos province has become a stronghold for culture in the heart of the Caribbean Island, where there are many institutions and a well-preserved architecture.
The province has two dozen libraries, 11 museums, over 30 movie theaters and five theaters, in addition to houses of culture, art galleries and monuments, which contribute to keeping the region's traditions alive for the enjoyment of both national and foreign vacationers.
Among Cienfuegos' many attractions is the so-called José Martí Park, situated on the site where the village of Fernandina de Jagua was officially founded in April 1819, and featuring stone and bronze busts in honor of the city's most relevant citizens.
Other attractions are the Arc of Triumph, the only one of its kind in the country, which was built in 1902, and the Tomás Terry Theater - one of the three most important theaters on the Island and a silent witness to great performances by world-renowned artists such as Enrico Caruso.
However, the city's most emblematic building is the Palacio del Valle, or Valle Palace, constructed by an Italian engineer and financed by a rich Spanish settler. The edifice's architecture combines elements of such styles as gothic, romantic, Byzantine and baroque, making emphasis on the Mudejar style.
The cityscape is complemented by the Purísima Concepción Cathedral, which is famous for its elegant Corinthian-style altar and a stained-glass window featuring the Twelve Apostles, which was brought from France during the days of the Paris Commune.
Another major site in the city is the Reina Cemetery, built in 1830 and declared a National Monument. It is a true museum of funeral art where visitors can see its burial system based on vertical niches, which was in vogue during the Spanish colonial period.
Also relevant is the Tomás Acea Cemetery, considered by experts the necropolis with the richest history in the country. It was built in 1926 and its gate is a replica of the Parthenon.
Cienfuegos also has natural values. That is the case of the Botanical Gardens, which was built in 1901 and treasures a great collection of palm trees that is among the top ten collections of its kind in the world.
Covering 97 hectares, the Botanical Gardens is home to 2,000 species, 70 percent of which are exotic, including 23 varieties of bamboos, 65 of jagüeyes and 280 of cork and big-bellied palms.
Aficionados to ecotourism can visit El Nicho by taking an ascending road on the Guamuaya mountain range and crossing the Yaguanabo Valley, south of Alturas de Trinidad, or Trinidad Heights.
In El Nicho, travelers can enjoy the breathtaking view of El Negro fall, where water falls from a height of over 30 meters and hits the rocks in the bottom, forming a whirlpool of foam that creates a persistent fog.
All these elements make up a unique offer that thousands of travelers who every year visit the Pearl of the South, as Cienfuegos is also known, cannot refuse.