Established in 1514 as Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe in the centre of what is now Cuba's cattle country, long known as the town of tinajones (large earthen jars), the third largest city on the island was long isolated from the rest of the island until the railway passed through in 1903, then the Carretera Central, trans-island highway in 1931.
Its local historical hero is an army general, Ignacio Agramonte who died fighting in 1873. Camaguey boasts a wide architectural heritage with some 300 hectares of buildings in good condition, and the largest contingent of Catholics in the country who pray in its numerous baroque churches. On June 8, 2008, the town center's 54 hectares were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Details here.
The influence of its settlers from Andalucia has given Camaguey some lovely ornate small plazas surrounded by colonial mansions. The country's great contemporary poet Nicolas Guillén (1902-1989), exiled under Batista, eulogist of negritude, interbreeding and the Revolución as well as first president of the UNEAC (Cuban writers and artists) is remembered on calle Hermanos Agüero in his childhood house, now a museum.
Its ballet troupe of 75 dancers, Ballet Folclórico de Camagüey is the second most important in the country, having created works more than 130 times around the world since its foundation in 1968. Its theatre, music, puppet and magic venues and groups also attract spectators regularly.
ROUTEMAPS (km) Bayamo, 211
Cayo Coco, 200
Cayo Sabinal, 75
Ciego de Avila, 111 Esmeralda, 87
La Habana, 543
Las Tunas, 124
Moron, 148 Nuevitas, 79 Playa Santa Lucia, 109
Santa Clara, 269
Santa Cruz del Sur, 82 Santiago, 317
Sierra de Cubitas, 32
SEE.KNOW.DO Mercado Agropecuario El Rio, the farmers market fruits, vegetables including ñames, boniatos, malangas, yuccas and all varieties in between, meats, sandwiches, freshly-squeezed orange juice for pennies : unique in Cuba •Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria - photo•Casa de Jesus Suarez Gayol who led student movement against Batista, was first Minister of Sugar and died in Bolivia with the Che : a small but moving museum •Casa Natal de Ignacio Agromonte•Casa Natal de Nicolas Guillen on calle Hermanos Agüero •Casino Campestre (nice large park in centre : see box below) •Museo Hospital San Juan de Dios, Plaza San Juan de Dios •Iglesia del Carmen a rare two-steepled church; in pink •Iglesia de la Soledad near narrowest street in Cuba, el Callejon de la Soledad •Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Merced with some ceiling paintings •Museo provincial Ignacio Agromonte, avenida de los Martires, La Vigia •Plaza San Juan de Dios•Monasterio de las Ursulinas•Galeria Alejo Carpentier•Tifereht Israel Synagogue
PALADARES El Cardenal, calle Marti 309 for its great (best in Cuba?) comidas criollas; La Terraza, calle Santa Rosa 8 for mutton, chicken and pork; El Califa, calle San Clemente (Raul Lamar) 49 : hearty meats for the macho in you. Lonely Planet says its "food is fantastic"; La Mandarina Roja on Padre Olallo 731 offers Chinese food in pesos;
RESTAURANTS Best choice is La Isabela in what used to be a cinema, honors Cuba's movie directors and serves lasagna, fettucine and a good pizza : always crowded since it opened in April 08, corner Agramonte and Independencia; El Retorno very affordable fare (fried yucca, piglet) on calle Bella Vista; Bodegan Don Cayetano calle Republica 79 for prawns, tuna and chorizo, tavern-style; lovely Parador de Los Tres Reyes on Plaza San Juan de Dios for chicken and next door in a fab location : LaCampana de Toledo in courtyard, main courses from 7cuc to 18cuc; Don Ronquillo, Calle Ignacio Agramonte 406 expensive but in a nice setting on Galeria Colonial's shaded patio; payable in moneda nacional : El Ovejito in Plaza del Carmen for lamb chops; the very popular menu at Rancho Luna on Plaza Maceo; La Volante for its version of the national dish, ropa vieja (mashed pork);
DINING ROOMSin local hotels : Salon Caribe on 5th floor of Gran Hotel, calle Maceo 67; the dining room at the Hotel Colon, calle republica 472; Hotel Plaza, calle Van Horne 1; Hotel Puerto Principe, ave de los Martires;
LUNCHES, ETC Snacks, pastries or ice cream Meson for local beer on calle Republica; Impacto (sundaes and cake) on Republica 366; Calle Republica's ice creams; fried chicken at Cafeteria Las Ruinas on Maceo; Cafeteria El Ferro near the estacion de tren; Panaderia Doña Neli, facing the Gran Hotel, a good bakery; burgers in the Gran Hotel snack bar; Vicaria Pollito's chicken specialties (5km on way to Nuevitas) SERVICES Tourist info center Infotur (too rare in Cuba) on Agramonte 448 also harbors the organized tours desks of Havanatur 28-8604 offices and wimming pool at the Gran Hotel (2cuc); Rent a bike at Cafeteria Las Ruinas or at Islazul, corner Maceo; car rental at Hotel Camaguey : Havanautos (32) 27-2239, Cubataxi (32) 28-1247, Public library : Biblioteca Publica Cisneros 177 (32) 29-37-73, Policlínica Centro's medical services, calle República 211 (32) 29-7810 EcoTur (32) 22-5844ecotur @ caonao.cu.
TRANSPORTATION Bus for Playa Santa Lucia (3xday) •Bus Viazul link above and below (32) 27-0194 terminal is named Alvaro Barba, 3 km southeast on way to Sibanicu •Planes airport is 9km northeast on way to Nuevitas with a daily flight to La Habana Aeropuerto Ignacio Agromonte (32) 26-1862 •Trains (local and national links above) Estacion de Ferrocaril, Avenida Carlos J. Finlay (32) 28-3214) Worthy of note : a day train leaves for Moron 148 km northeast of here through Florida and Ciego de Avila. Moron is the gateway to cayos Coco, Guillermo, Paredon Grande and Romano at 15h30 every afternoon.
Viazul goes by here east and west 8 x day to/from Varadero, Santiago, Havana and Trinidad via Santa Clara, Sancti Spiritus, Trinidad (twice), Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Las Tunas Rutas 16 + 24 + 25 + Cardenas & Colon (to/from Varadero) - Ruta 26
"A gift for all", "a significant turn", "a memorable milestone", "an historic event", the beatification on November 29 2008 of Cuban José Olallo, brother of the Order de San Juan de Dios, who looked after the sick and the dying for over five decades. "He's the saint of charity, of service to the sick." ••• Photos : Raul Castro accepting a bible from local Bishop Miguel Angel Ortiz during the ceremony witnessed by 30,000 participants •|• Portrait of José Olallo Valdés (1820-1899)
Click above to open an article in PDF form
from the UNESCO Courier by Marilyn Bobes, Cuban poet.
"Things were better in the old days", the saying goes. More so here (exilios are coming back en masse and buying up the town) and even more so if you loved trains and stations such as the local Estacion del Ferro-Carril
ECOTOURING : A HANDFUL OF DAY TRIPS Casas particulares can book you passage on an 8-seat Viazul minibus to La Boca (Los Cocos), a quiet spot at the entrance of the canal de Nuevitas. One can see Cayo Sabinal on the horizon. Departs at 8:30, returns at 5 p.m. Tickets 12cuc p.p. return. Otherwise, drive to Santa Lucia : there is a 12km-long playa.
••• Local agency Ecotur can handle visits to Cayo Sabinal as well as the regional parks and responsible tourism which includes an excursion named Cocodrilo which visits a tiny settlement once populated by aborigines along rio Maximo where a corcodile nursery can now be found. It's only 50 km away near Minas.
A newer offering goes to the old sugar mill works in the town of Brasil where a 30's era house La Casona has been restaured to offer 8 bedrooms for outdoors people who have to get up early for catch & release fishing off Cayo Romano. In Cuba, dial 0 32 60-6380
Still another proposed excursion is called Flamencotur which is a catamaran cruise among the cayos where flamingos thrive the largest nesting of these birds in the Caribbean near Nuevitas. And a popular visit is the one to a farm, Finca La Belen about 30 miles or 50 km from Camaguey with a menu of trekking, bird watching with a restaurant and swimming pool to relax.
CASINO CAMPESTRE : CITIZENS WIN ALL THE TIME Since its creation in 1902, the central city park named Casino Campestre as enchanted visitors who can enjoy its sights while walking by a children's park, a mini zoo and some monumentos : the one celebrating Salvador Cisneros Betancourt named President by the revolutionaries of 1898; the monument to the Libertador Desconocido (the unknown liberator, at left), the monumento dedicated to Barberan & Collar and a cave like those found in European city parks at the beginning of the last century : La Gruta, influenced by Catalan Modernism. Other statues include Manuel Ramon Silva and another representing Gonzalo de Quesada, José Marti's assistant and, in red and white, the same colors it had in 1928, an eclectic-styled gazebo, the Glorieta.
The stage called El Castillito is the scene of actors and comics such as Sir Clown a local troupe presently touring the island with a show named Ambulantes.
DOWN SOUTH : a town reborn, beaches and cayos About 82 km southeast, via Santa Rosa and La Daseada, the town of Santa Cruz del Sur, (Holy Cross of the South) on the Caribbean coast, from where one may find playas Bonita 2,5km off town or Las Playuelas 8k away. Town was totally wiped out (2,000 dead) in 1932 but now survives with fishing and land grazing and food growing shared by a population of 49,904 (2007).
Fishermen still ply some of the hitherto unknown 36 cayos offshore of the province of Camaguey. Closest to the coast : Carnero, Muerto, Pinipiniche, Mate Adentro, Bergantines, Pasa Honda or Güincho; furthest : Rabihocardo and Loma). SIERRA DE CUBITAS Some 26 km northeast of town via Paso de Lesca (map), in the middle of the Sierra de Cubitas lies the newly-appointed Reserva Ecológica Limones-Tuabaquey A nature interpretation centre is to start in 2010 to welcome up to 60 visitors overnight with forests to explore and nature to observe.
(Photo at left links to Cuban web site with details (in Español).
A MOMENT OF SILENCE, POR FAVOR, IN ONE OF ITS CHURCHES Nuestra Señora de la Soledad•Nuestra Señora de la Merced•Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, Parroquial Mayor•Nuestra Señora de Santa Ana•Nuestra Señora del Carmen•San Juan de Dios•Iglesia de la Caridad•Sagrado Corazon de Jesus•Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje
EVENINGS • Every saturday evening in San Juan de Diospark, travellers (some all the way from the cayos) gather to enjoy songs, dances and traditional Afro Cuban music which resound and abound in the great square. Colours and movements mix with drums and congas and captivate the spectators in a show that includes rites and santeria music in Cuba. It's called Wemilere and it's followed by an invitation to dinner at La Campana de Toledo for typical fare.
LA VIDA LOCA Noche Camagueyana is a weekly "saturday nite folly" street fiesta (food and alcohol stalls, loud music for lookers, shakers and minglers) stretching on calle Republica from the train station to La Soledad;
BARS include tiny but so atmospheric El Cambio on Marti corner Independencia. Opened in 1909, named "Casa de la Suerte" or House of Luck : go see why •La Terraza where locals abound, blaber and drink •Patio Colonial in Galeria Colonial •Taberna Bucanero on Republica has a pirate theme •La Bigornia for barely-adult and flashily-clad chicas; the piano bar at the Gran Hotel is best spot for, as says Lonely Planet "cross-cultural fertilization" between tourists and jiniteras; there may be a 9 pm show in the swimming pool •Hotel Colon's bar is also enticing and nice to gawk in
SHOWS Galeria Uneac on Cisneros 159, trova and rumba shows with two saturday-only concerts •Casa de la Trova at Cisneros 171 in front of Agramonte statue in park in a lovely and compact setting. Sunday mornings, seniors gather to sing the old standards •El Colonial is a cabaret with a 7cuc cover for local artists performing variety shows and standup comedy •Sala Teatro José Luis Tasende on Ramon Guerrero with stage plays by professional troupe Conjunto Dramatico •Teatro Principal on Padre Valencia 64 where you can with luck see the ballet troupe of 75 dancers, Ballet Folclórico de Camagüey having performed works more than 130 times around the world since its foundation in 1968; the troupe toured Italy in May 2010; other local dance troupes include Ballet de Camaguey and Ballet Contemporaneo Endedans•Copacabana is a discoteca on main road facing the ballet center •Teatro Cubano de la Magia (Cuba's magic theatre on General Gomez 364) •Teatro Guiñol de Camaguey (Puppets on Lugareño, corner San Clemente) •Baseball at Estadio Candido Gonzalez, avenida 26 de Julio •Cinemas : the last one standing is the Encanto on calle Agramonte.
ANNUAL CULTURAL EVENTS Jornadas de la Cultura Camagueyana (Dozens of events and shows during the first two weeks of February) • Since 1997, the month of May sees another great edition of the Festival Nacional de Teatro Camagüey held in local venues Teatro del Viento, Teatro de la Enseñanza Artística, el Principal, Casino Campestre, the Guiñol Theatre and the Edad de Oro theater featuring (in 2010, 21 plays were presented) by authors and actors from all over the island Other local annual cultural events include : Festival de Teatro Carlos Moctezuma (Childrens' Theater in June) •Carnival San Juan Camagueyano (African music, parades, dancing, late June) •Encuentro de Cultura Popular Tradicional (Folk Dances in July) •Cruzada Literaria (Literary crusade in August) •Salón Provincial Fidelio Ponce de León (Provincial Plastic Arts Fair in September) •Feria Provincial de Arte Popular (Provincial Popular Art Fair in October) •Fiesta de la Joven Guitarra (Young guitarists, solists or in groups in October) •Fiesta de las Flores (Flower arrangement contests, poetry, conferences in November) •Festival Internacional de Videoarte (Art on Video in November) with hundreds of works from Canadá, España, Alemania, Italia, Francia, Colombia and Cuba in 2013, the 6th annual edition.
HEED THE HINTS IN THIS FINE PRINT
::: Make sure that in your first email or phone call you specify that you want to book a room in that particular casa and that you will reconfirm your booking on arrival in Cuba. Unless you only want a room in any house which may be of the same quality, not the specific casa you booked through photos on these websites ::: So as to not abandon expecting owners with empty rooms, reconfirm (or call ahead to cancel) your booking by phone as soon as you can after arriving in Cuba ::: Please write or phone a casa owner to cancel a booking. As late as it may seem, it allows them a chance to rebook. ::: Children under the age of 16 may share a bedroom with adults for free. Specify the child's age when booking. ::: Since October 2010, maximum bedroom capacity is not limited to two adults ::: Also, large casas are not limited to renting only two bedrooms per night. ::: At the end of the casa name, the V signals the casa was suggested by travelers or owners but not verified by the website staff. If you try it and like it, write us about it. ::: Unless otherwise mentioned, the average room rates and service prices are : 20-25cuc per bedroom per night [up to 40+ for 4 in a room]; breakfasts 3-5cuc, dinners 7-10cuc. ::: Any casa particular anywhere in Cuba must have a hot water shower, otherwise it cannot have a permit to rent ::: Please share your Complaints, comments & suggestions webmaster [@]cubacasas.net
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MIRIAM Upstairs, two ac bedrooms, private ensuites Calle Joaquin de Aguero 525, one floor up, e/ 25 de Julio y Perucho Figueredo in repartoLa Vigia. Locate on this Google map. Tel. (32) 28-2120 Cell 52 70 32 52
DALGIS Upstairs, two ac bedrooms, private ensuites Independencia 251, one floor up, e/ Hermanos Agueros y General Gomez, Plaza de Maceo at one end of pedestrian street. Tel. (32) 28-5732
LA CHINA V Upstairs, two ac br's, ensuites, terrace Calle Padre Valencia 57, entre San Ramon y Lugareno, facing Teatro principal. Tél. (32) 28-3028
DELFIN y ELENA One aircon bedroom, ensuite, lovely patio Calle E.J. Varona (San Ramon Norte) # 171, entre Santa Rita (El Solitario) y San Esteban (O. Primelles), in town center near Casa natal Ignacio Agromonte. Tel (32) 29-7262
ELSA Two ac bedrooms, private baths, lovely patio Calle San Fernando # 62, entre Tio Perico y Triana, some 200 meters from Plaza de la Juventud, in the heart of town. Tel (32) 29-8104
CASA DEYSI V Upstairs, two aircon bedrooms, ensuites Calle Santa Rita (Solitario) 16 A (Altos-upstairs) entre República y Santa Rosa, 60 m from calle Republica. Tél. (32) 29-3448 cell 53 13 55 30
LOS VITRALESV Two aircon bedrooms, private baths Calle Avellaneda 3, e/General Gomez y Marti, town center near Parque Marti. Tel. (32) 29-5866
LOS HELECHOSV One aircon bedroom, private bath Calle República No. 68, entre Pobres y Luaces, facing the Museo Estudiantil Tel. (32) 29-4868 Cell 52 31 18 97
ANGEL CÉSARV Two aircon bedrooms, private baths Calle Maceo 62, entre General Gómez y Ignacio Agramonte, upstairs, next door to Gran Hotel. Tel. (32) 29-8271 cell 52 84 77 54
MAYRA y GASPARV Two aircon bedrooms, private baths Calle General Gómez No. 546, almost on corner of calle Amalia Simoni, near Plaza de La Habana. Tel. (32) 29-6725 cell 52 89 15 90
CARIDADV Two aircon bedrooms, private baths Calle Oscar Primelles #310 A, e/Bartolomé Maso y Padre Olallo in centre, five blocks from Plaza de los Trabajadores. Tel. (32) 29-1554
LANCARA V Two aircon bedrooms, private baths Calle Avellaneda 160 e/ Jaime y Ignacio Agramonte, behind La Soledad church. Tel. (32) 23-3187 Cell 52 81 03 75
FREDDY y MARY V Two aircon bedrooms, private baths Calle 1ra paralela #311, e/Fernando de Zayas y Manuel R Artola, repartoLa Vigía (Florat) a few blocks north of Museo Ignacio Agramonte. Tél. (32) 28-5811 Cell 52 75 29 46
CONCHITA V Two aircon bedrooms, shared bathroom Calle San Ramon 2 Oeste (upstairs), e/General Gomez y Principe, two blocks from the bulevar. Tel (32) 29-4576