Trinidad – Cuba’s best-preserved colonial town
Trinidad is the second-largest city and best-preserved colonial town in Cuba, but still has the vibe of the laid-back countryside. The Unesco listed historical centre is lined with pebbled streets and beautiful colonial-style houses, perfect for exploring on foot. The best beach on Cuba’s southern coast ‘Playa Ancon’ ’is only a 10min drive away. The lush valley nearby was once home to numerous sugar farms that pulled in all the wealth in the region. Now they are Unesco-sites sitting quietly in the vast greenness. The top things you should not miss in Trinidad are:
Walk around the Trinidad historical town centre
Trinidad’s historical centre is full of gorgeous colonial-era houses and monuments, and well preserved. We enjoyed it so much by just walking around the town and getting lost. The night scene here is more vibrant than Viñales, especially near Plaza Mayor. When the night falls, music and crowd fill the plaza. It is perfect for people watching after your day trips to the beach or nearby valleys.
The most interesting place we found in the town is Casa Templo de Santeria Yemaya (you can find the location on maps.me), a small temple worshipping the Black Madonna. The temple is hidden on a side street and tricky to find. It is such a fascinating place exhibiting how Christianity and the local religion are merged, nothing like any temple we’ve seen before.
Visit Valle de los Ingenios
Various sugar farm ruins are dotted in the green valley. For comfortable solutions, Infotur(Cuba’s official tour agency) runs daily tours to the valley which includes bus, lunch and possibly a steam train ride. There are also other similar tours run by smaller tour companies ranging from 25-35/pp if you ask the locals. We did it on a low budget by renting a bike for the day for 5 CUC/pp, though the ride was pretty sweaty under the hot sun.
The top sights in Valle de los Ingenios are:
Mirador de la Loma del Puerto
Just 6 km outside Trinidad, a viewpoint with panorama view of the valley. A good place to stop for the fresh breeze and a cold drink.
Ingenio San Isidro de los Destiladeros
Impressive ruins of the former sugar farm with original clock tower and remains of slave quarters and tools. It is a good place to learn the history and daily life of the farm when it was in operation. We also spend an hour there in the lush garden just to enjoy the scenery.
Manaca Iznaga Tower
This impressive tower is the tallest in the area. Climbing up the tower you find a wonderful panorama view of the surrounding valley. The nicely restored Hacienda is now a restaurant, and we also heard it is possible to stay overnight. The restored steam train passes near the tower if you are lucky. We heard the train breaks down all the time so do check with Infotur if you are keen to see it. Underneath the tower, local women sell attractive handmade table cloth and linen clothing, another good souvnier idea.
Spend a day at Playa Ancon
I was not a beach person, though I have to admit seeing crystal clear blue water and pure white sandy beach that stretches over a few kilometres is truly amazing. Compared to the beaches we went to in Mexico just a week ago, Playa Ancon is much quieter and cleaner. The water is still warm enough to swim even in November.
There are plenty of sunbeds for rent and a few beach bars to make your beach day comfortable. If you are bored with swimming, you can jump on one of the snorkelling tours operating every hour for 10 CUC/pp.
Playa Ancon is just 12km outside Trinidad. There is a regular shuttle bus departing from Trinidad town centre daily. When we were waiting for the bus, some tourists approached us to share a taxi. Then We used the same trick on the return. The taxi to Playa Ancon was 10 CUC/car. The distance should also be a flat bike ride, with the benefit to stopover at the much quieter village La Boca for seafood.
Our 3-day itinerary in Trinidad
D1 Take the Viazul bus from Havana to Trinidad. Walk around the town centre in the afternoon.
D2 Taxi to Playa Acone and spend the day on the beach. Take a snorkelling tour to see the fishes 10min away from the shore.
D3 Rent two bikes and visit Valle de los Ingenios
D4 Taking the Viazul bus back to Havana in the morning
Where to stay in Trinidad
Trinidad has many gorgeous colonial homes that are now converted to Casa Particulars and many owners still wait for the tourists at the bus stop. We stayed at Hostal ‘Los Arcos’ with Hilda for three nights. Hilda found us at the bus stop. We liked the picture of her place and followed her home. It is a lovely colonial-style building, where the guest’s rooms are arranged around a courtyard with a roof terrace(perfect for laundries!). She cooked fish for us one evening which was the best meal we had in Cuba. The room price was 15 CUC/night with breakfast.
How to get to Trinidad
Viazul runs regular service from Havana to Trinidad. The journey is about 6-7 hours and cost 25 CUC one-way. It is also possible to take the Viazul bus from Vinales to Trinidad(note not the other way around), though it will take 8-9 hours. Alternatively, you can you Vinales-Cienfuegos-Trinidad to make the ride easier.
If the Viazul bus ticket is sold out, a shared taxi will cost slightly more (around 30CUC) to get you there around the same time.