Camagüey, one of the 7 original Spanish settlements in Cuba, was founded in 1514 by Diego Velázquez as Santa María Puerto del Principe. In 1903, the city changed its name to Camagüey.
It seems Camagüey was a pirate magnet. It was so besieged by buccaneers, the city moved twice in the 1500s from its original locations (near Nuevitas on the north coast and along the Caonao River), until finding a permanent home at its current site. Still, navigating the oldest parts of Camagüey can be a challenge. The city’s layout was designed to torment and discourage pirates like Henry Morgan who invaded the city periodically. Getting lost in the winding streets here is like a traveler’s rite of passage and a great way to get in touch with Cuban daily life.
The symbol of Camagüey is the clay pot or tinajón, used to collect rainwater and keep it fresh. You’ll see tinajónes everywhere, some of which are still in use.
Camagüey is also known for its twelve churches housing valuable art collections and religious artifacts from the colonial period. There are some lovely museums including the Museo Provincial Ignacio Agramonte.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, large parts of Camagüey are currently being restored. Only Havana Vieja rivals this city for colonial renovation. There are also plenty of new restaurants and bars around town.