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The province and city of Matanzas is situated on the north coast of the Caribbean island of Cuba, on the Bay of Matanzas and just 56 miles east of the capital city of Havana. Only 20 miles to the east is the popular holiday resort of Varadero. Matanzas is known as the city of bridges with 17 of them crossing the three rivers which cross the area, including Rios San Juan, Canimar and Yumuri. It has also been called the Venice of Cuba and Athens of Cuba because of its many poets. During the colonial era Matanzas was one of the main regions in Cuba that produced sugar and many African slaves were brought here. In 1841 over 62% of its population were slaves. There is still a strong Afro-Cuban folklore tradition in existence in the region.
There is much to see in the city of Matanzas. The Sauto Theatre was opened in 1863 and still produces plays, ballet, opera and classical concerts throughout the year. The Catedral San Carlos de Borromeo was built in the 18th century and was once a fine and ornate building, now in a dilapidated state but still worth a visit. The heritage house of Quinat de Bellamar was once the largest home on the Bay of Matanzas. Built in the 18th century it was sold to the church in early 1900s and most of the structure was demolished in 1956 leaving just the facade and living room which is now a church. In the city of Matanza boating is available on the River Canimar.
Varadero is the largest beach resort in Cuba and located in the province of Matanzas. It is situated 140km east of Havana and is also known as Playa Azul. Located on the Hicacos Peninsula which is only one kilometre wide, the land stretches for 20 km with its most northern tip being the most northerly point in the island. The beaches here consist of fine, soft white sand and are gently sloping, making it a perfect location for safe bathing. To the north east is virgin forest and a nature reserve. The Hicacos Point Natural Park contains the Cave of Ambrosio, Mangon Lake and the ruins of an old salt works.
There is a lively nightlife in Varadero. With many international restaurants to choose from serving Italian, fast food, Spanish and local cuisine and beach bars and cafes to enjoy throughout the day and evening, visitors are spoilt for choice. Evening entertainment includes cabaret and live bands playing salsa and son and over 100 nightclubs and discos, many of which do not open until midnight and continue late into the early hours. Varadero makes a great base for exploring the region or for chilling out on the beach.
Transport links are excellent in the area. The city of Matanzas is served by its own airport, Juan Gualberto Gomez Airport and there are two railway stations both linked to Havana. The city is also connected to Havana and Varadero by the Via Blanca Highway. With regular flights to Havana from the UK, Matanzas is easily accessible by car, train, bus or plane. Car hire is readily available at the airports and major cities and holiday resorts in Cuba, providing the visitor with an excellent way to see more of the island.