- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
Matanzas, which means "killings" or "slaughters," was Cuba's early livestock abattoir and exporter of meat to Spain. (An alternate story attributes the name to an ambush and murder of Spanish shipwreck victims by local natives.) Despite its rather gruesome name, the city has a charm that makes it well worth investigating. The San Juan and Yumurí rivers cut through its center and empty into the vast Bahía de Matanzas, still an important sugar port. The typical provincial faded-pastel facades of elegant houses with fluted columns are found scattered throughout the town center and along the rivers.
To reach Matanzas, take the wide and quick Vía Blanca (White Way), which runs 100 km (62 mi) east from Havana and then another 40 km (25 mi) on to Varadero. With views of the coast and the Valle de Yumurí, the Vía Blanca is one of Cuba's finest highways. The so-called Hershey train—a four-hour run from the Casablanca district across Havana harbor—is the other classic way to visit Matanzas. Including lunch at La Viña, a quick tour of central Matanzas could take two to four hours, plenty of time to get the feel of this once-opulent 19th-century town.
Matanzas at a Glance
Sports and Outdoors
Elsewhere in Western Cuba
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- $2199 -- Cuba: 5-Nt. Escorted Havana Tour w/Air, $300 Off Friendly Planet Travel