UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Cuba: The historic center of Camagüey

photo by anymouse1 on Flickr

Camagüey is the third largest city in Cuba, and yet it is not one of the most popular stops for foreign tourists. However, those who ignore Camagüey  in favor of more touristy destinations like Varadero for example miss out on one of the most interesting historical attractions in Cuba, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot. Camagüey fits very well the trope of ‘city of contrasts’, because there is a world of difference between the modern part of the city with its concrete apartment blocks, and the historic center that is the largest of its kind in Cuba. If you are interested in the history of Cuba and the heritage that it left behind, be sure to visit one of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Cuba: The historic center of Camagüey.

History

photo by anymouse1

Camagüey  was founded as Santa Maria del Puerto del Principe in 1515, and it was located slightly closer to the shore than the city as it stands now. But since the riches and convenient position of the city made it a very easy target for pirates, it was moved inland only thirteen years later. The new city was built to as to withstand any attacks and to confuse the attackers: this is why the old town of Camagüey is a maze of tangled streets and haphazard squares. The old town has only one exist – this was a cunning trap for the pirates who should manage to enter the city, and would be cut off from fleeing by the inhabitants. One unusual thing that visitors to Camagüey  are sure to notice are the clay pots that can be seen at every corner. From smaller than a palm to large as a grown person, the pots are everywhere, and they were used to collect clean rain water. Local legends say that if you drink from the personal pot of someone, you will fall in love with them.

Sights

photo by Geoffroy Magnan

The historical center is small and compact, with few attractions as such, yet it is a very pleasant place to explore. There is absolutely no rule to the layout of the streets, and wandering through the alleys and squares can almost make you feel like you’re in labyrinth. However, there are quite a few interesting churches that you might want to see from outside, and perhaps even take a peek inside to see the decorations. The glesia de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, glesia de Nuestra Senora de la Merced and Cathedral de Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria are quite interesting. You can also visit the Museo Provincial Ignacio Agramonte has displays of classical and contemporary art, archaeology and natural sciences.

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