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Peninsula: Peninsula de Zapata, Matanzas. Cuba

The Zapata National Park was declared a world biosphere preserve in 2000 and a Ramsar site in 2001. Located on the peninsula of the same name, the park covers an area of over 1930 square miles (5000 square kilometers) and is the largest, best-preserved wetlands in the Caribbean islands. It is a national, regional and world natural preserve, with fragile ecosystems and important natural resources. The land is flat and contains the basins of the Hatiguanico and Hanábana Rivers. The Hanábana empties into Laguna del Tesoro, one of the largest lakes in the country, which features a restored Taino Indian village (with life-size statues of the Indians engaging in their everyday activities) on a series of islets. The Tainos were one of the three groups of Indians who lived in Cuba prior to the Spanish Conquest. The coast contains flooded caves and cenotes of extraordinary beauty. The area is outstanding for the great diversity of its ecosystems, in which more than 1000 species of plants—130 of which are endemic to Cuba and 5 of which are locally endemic—have been identified. Trees that grow in swampy and grassy areas and mangrove thickets predominate. The fauna includes 37 species of reptiles and 13 kinds of amphibians. The endemic ones include Cuban Crocodiles (Crocodylus rhombifer), which have the most restricted habitat in the world. An internationally-recognized scientific breeding center here promotes their protection and development. There are many marine and freshwater fish in the area, including Manjuaríes (Atractosteus tristoechus), which are considered to be living fossils because of the primitive nature of their bodies. However, because of the diversity of ecosystems, birds are the most prolific species in the area. Sixty-five percent (170 species) of the 354 species of birds reported in Cuba can be found here. As a result, bird-watching is extremely popular among tourists.Such species as Parrots (Amazona leucocephala); Cuban Parakeets (Aratinga euops); Zapata Sparrows (Torreornis inexpectata); and Bee Hummingbirds (Mellisuga helenae), which are an endangered species, build their nests here, as do two locally endemic species: Zapata Rails (Cyanolimnas cerverai) and Zapata Wrens (Ferminia cerverai). You can also see groups of Roseate Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber). Moreover, the Zapata Peninsula is a favorite stopping place for many migratory birds, both land and sea.Many pre-Columbian archaeological remains have been found on the Zapata Peninsula, and the region’s history also includes the narrow channels that early inhabitants dug to facilitate river travel and the Bay of Pigs Museum at Girón Beach, whose exhibits are related to the 1961 mercenary invasion.

Mapa de Peninsula de Zapata


Peninsula de Zapata it is located in the province of Matanzas.

Matanzas is the second largest province in Cuba after that of Havana and one of the most important due to it contribution towards the economic development of the island. It is located in western Cuba, and apart from the highlands in the northwest and center of the province, the entire surface of Matanzas is flat. Due to its tropical weather throughout most of the year, it attracts lots of tourists looking for some sun and the beach, so it’s a good thing Matanzas boasts one of the most precious jewels of Cuba, the beach town Varadero. Nevertheless, Matanzas is full of hidden treasures, so it’s not only the beach that are worth finding. It is an area of great contrast, so experienced travellers will love its beauty and diversity. Under the wonderful light of the Caribbean sun you can contemplate its variety of greens, the range of colors of its more than 920 types of flowers and the many fish in its hot waters. If spring existed in the Tropic, this would be the perfect example.

For some time, Matanzas stood out in most sectors, benefitting Cuba by developing in developing in many areas: energy, industry, livestock, farming, etc. Matanzas was especially important in the port sector and sugarcane cultivation. When the establishment of the latter began, they brought the largest amount of slaves ever recorded to the area.

This mix of black and white people produced as a result the current heritage of Matanzas; not only physically, but also the heat of Africa. Thus, from the sound of drums, the rumba was born in Matanzas, the first national dance of Cuba. Nowadays it is still a very popular dance there. The Rumbero Festival takes place annually in the Sauto Theater, in the capital city of the province, and is one of the most important shows in Matanzas.

The jewel of Matanzas is the sparkling city of Varadero, with its endless beaches, grandiose resorts and luxurious lifestyle. Apart from these, Matanzas also has a lot of other nice places worth visiting.

If you prefer something more authentic, that better reflects the society, and experience something with more of an original Cuban flavour, Matanzas is a great choice. It has decadent but charming Neoclassical-style Colonial buildings. Catholic churches, a theater and several museums are some examples of these types of constructions.

The Ciénaga de Zapata Swamp is the perfect place for adventurers, as it is an almost unexplored wetland covered by lush vegetation, and an array of birds and other interesting animals.

From a cultural point of view, Matanzas is one of the richest areas of Cuba. It houses many museums that will teach you all about various topics, so you shouldn’t miss out on your chance to visit them. An example of this is the Pharmaceutical Museum Pharmaceutical Museum, unique on its type in all America, the Provincial Historic Museum, and the heart-rending Slave Route Museum.

Historically, Matanzas was a main point in the defense of the island during the Cuban Revolution, as in Playa Girón Beach, in the south coast of the province, took place the first of many defeats suffered by North American army at the hands of the Cuban people. The region had been attacked several times before, so it was well equipped to face what was coming, and very quickly organized its counter-attack. If you visit the province of Matanzas, take advantage of your chance to visit one of the museums related to war and the Revolution.

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