• Lynn Lundstrom Belles

The Fathom Cienfuegos Bus in Cuba – Architecture in Abundance

Some of you are probably wondering like we were, what to expect on the Fathom Cienfuegos bus ride in, Cuba.  After all Cienfuegos is a small town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  As Architects we always know that a UNESCO site will have Architecture in abundance!  We didn’t want to miss ANY of it!  We always LOVE to WALK it for the most intimate experience of all, but we had to be back to the ship by 1:00 pm.

  When you walk you experience an element of surprise in every step.

You literally sniff out the coolest experiences. 

After disembarking the ship we showed our IDs and the dogs sniffed our bags at the secure checkpoint, and then we were free!   We could get on the bus or take off on foot….  a decision had to be made.  We were distracted by some souvenir vendors while procrastinating……  We noticed that the next bus was filling up. It was apparent that we could get on and get going right away! So, we decided to just do it.  It was already really HOT and destined to keep getting hotter.  The cool ride sounded good.  As the bus pulled away from the secure port area we could see how close we really were to the town and continued wondering if it had been the right thing to do, or not…. Ambivalent!

From the Fathom Cienfuegos Bus the town looked like this

the streets of Cienfuegos
Cienfuegos Cuba

OK – – now we are wishing we were out there walking on that sidewalk…..  Isn’t it GRAND?

fathom Cruise to Cuba

The condition of the buildings make the photos look like paintings!  Photography really brings out the beauty of the imperfections!

streets of cuba

The streets in town are very narrow.  Almost not wide enough for our bus and traffic coming the other way.  But soon we knew we were headed to some place that we had not wanted to walk to.  The coastal region of Cienfuegos where tourism is alive and well.  

Welcome to

The bus drove us along the sea wall on Paseo El Prado – almost out to the end of the peninsula.

Seemingly it was a popular place to sit – or maybe wait for a bus???

We got a glimpse of several mansions that have been converted to clubs, hotels or hostels and even an original 1950’s hotel.  We saw them through the bus window but that’s clearly better than not seeing them at all, right?  (pun intended)

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Hostal Palacio Azul – Blue Palace Hostel


A Hostel with 9 guest rooms.  The tour guide explained that guests can expect very personalized service here.

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Club Cienfuegos – like a Country Club


These Palacia’s (mansions) are found in Cienfuego’s protected area which is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

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UNESCO World Heritage Site Boundaries in Cienfuegos Cuba


It really was great that the bus gave us a ride almost all the way out to the end…  We even saw an authentic 1950’s style “Hotel Jagua”

Cienfuegos Cuba Hotel

No matter where we are in the world I have this internal sense of where we are and am ALWAYS able to find it on a map upon our return. I go to google and type in the name of the place like Cienfuegos Cuba” zoom in until I recognize it!  I can easily find the pier where the ship parked and then work my way through my memory from there!  That is how I am able to find the names of the places and report them to you.  I look them up on Google Maps!  You can even do it before your trip. Try it some time.

At the very end was the Cienfuegos icon!  It’s Cupola is in all of the fathom promotional material. We recognized it right away!

Punta Gorda

Le Palacio de Valle est un ancien palais du siècle, style mauresque, roman, gothique et vénitien de la ville de Cienfuegos à Cuba. Ce palais est actuellement un hôtel restaurant.

Palacio de Valle is an architectural jewel at a location called Punta Gorda, which translates into English as “fat tip” which I suppose refers to the widened area, on a map, near the tip of the peninsula, in the city of Cienfuegos. The Architecture is reminiscent of Spanish-Moorish art with influences of Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque and Mudejar arts.  You can’t get far enough away from it to take a good pic, (at least from inside the bus) so we hope you enjoy these zooms of a couple details!!  (our favorite part anyway).

Palacio de Valle is a place of cultural events, a restaurant (specializing in seafood), museum and bar.  The museum is called the National Heritage Memorial.  Yes we would have loved to get in here!  Maybe next time.  Here is a link to the Cienfuegos Website where you can see how fabulous the interior is!  Palacio de Valle.

The bus turned around at Punta Gordo – and so we enjoyed the other side of the street on the way back to town.  We were amazed by a row of what looked like single family Art Deco Style homes – reminded us of South Beach in Florida, back in the day….

Yep – we would take any one of those!  They are so cute!  We didn’t quite understand what they were – some kind of tourism housing – the guide said “they used to be single family homes but now they are ______”  I didn’t get it, but clearly they were re-purposed for tourism because of their location and significance to the city of Cienfuegos.

The bus turned away from the UNESCO area and drove us through the modern part of Cienfuegos where we saw the Baseball Stadium and the University, before dropping us off near Plaza de Armas (the city center).

Fathom Cienfuegos Bus in Summary

Rob and I are adventurous rebels.  The only bus we would normally consider taking is a public transportation bus, but on this trip we really wanted to learn what the “Fathom Experience” was like…  We wanted to be able to share it with you accurately.  So we always did a portion of the bus tour at each destination.  Each day Fathom Travel has “HavanaTur” buses arranged to meet the ship, so that we could tour each destination in comfort while seeing the best of the best that there was to see.  Although Fathom’s intent is genuine we found the bus rides to be somewhat lacking of the required “people to people” experience.  While on the bus we are only really exposed to one or two Cuban people, the tour guides.  Of course you do get off the bus, to see concerts or to shop, and then you are the one responsible for the depth of your experience.

Since we were only in Cienfuegos for a very short time the bus really did offer the best overview.  We got to see a lot in only about 30 minutes, and we can thank the bus that we now know about this tourism corridor.  We think it is a great way to shop for a perfect place to return to – Which was exactly what we decided about Cienfuegos Cuba! We got to see a LOT of Architecture, and experienced the flavor of the different types of neighborhoods!!  Do yourself a favor and take the bus ride down Paseo El Prado and back!  We recommend it!

As we stepped off the bus this little gal gave me a look.  Still trying to figure out what her eyes were saying….

Curious Cuban Girl

Maybe she was just curious about my camera, or thought my hair was a funny color.  Many times when we visit foreign countries we see children begging for money.  No where in CUBA did we experience this!  No one, adults or children were begging for anything!!  I wish I could say that about the United States!

Alas we were now out of the bus and ON FOOT!  Our favored mode of transportation!!    Stay tuned for more – we really sniffed out a diamond in the rough in Cienfuegos.  We were trying to go with the flow, but eventually our personalities got in the way and we just had to break free!!  We did our own little people to people exchange later in the day!  We got into a mansion that was undergoing renovation on the public square with a view of the whole town!!  When you Travel Like an Architect™ your curiosity just naturally draws you in to the coolest places!

All in all we were really glad to have taken the bus!  We got to see a LOT more of the UNESCO World Heritage Site than we would have if we had just walked from the pier – and we now know exactly what to expect and what we would recommend to anyone traveling there.

HINT: There are bicycles for rent some place – we saw a group of tourists on bicycles!  Bicycles would have been PERFECT!  I bet someone at one of those resort properties knows…  All we would have to do is contact them to find out! Cuban people are very helpful and friendly and would love to help you use a bicycle for the day!  Let us know if you would like us to help you find out!

To read more about our Cuba Adventures click the Destinations tab and then select Cuba above.  If you are wondering what you should carry with you when going ashore in Cuba – see my post “The Six Most Important Things to Carry in Cuba” here!

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