48 Hours in… Trinidad
Cuba’s best preserved colonial town received UNESCO status in 1988, and is beautiful with brightly coloured buildings and cobblestone streets.
Upon arrival in Trinidad it immediately becomes clear that nothing has changed much since the mid 1800’s. Colourful buildings grace the cobbled alleys, kids play football in the streets and horses trod by. Vintage American cars are parked here and there, and residents making use of the public WIFI spots are the only indication that we’re in 2018.
Plaza Mayor is the heart of Trinidad and the best place to start your visit. Most streets around the plaza are pedestrian-only, so it’s very easy to get around. The plaza itself boasts white-fenced gardens, the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Brunet Palace and the Church and Monastery of Saint Francis, which houses the Museum of the Fight against the Bandits. The museum provides an insight into the history of the people against counterrevolution, particularly highlighting the period between 1959 and 1965 in the mountains surrounding the city.
The sugar and slave trade brought great prosperity to the area. The buildings around the central square date from the 18th and 19th centuries and used to belong to the wealthy landowners of the city. To learn more about the colonial mansions and the people who lived there, the Romantic Museum is an excellent choice. The museum, set in the Brunet Palace, is packed with 18th-century antiques and gives a glimpse into the lives of the wealthy slave-owners from that time.
Culture buffs will also appreciate the Municipal Museum or Cantero Palace, one minute from Plaza Mayor. Not only does it cover the full history of Trinidad, it also boasts excellent city views from the top of its tower. Even more stunning vistas of the city as well as its surroundings can be enjoyed from the top of the Cerro de la Vigía Hill in the suburbs.
At night, you might want to test your dancing skills in arguably the best music venue in Trinidad. Casa de la Música hosts daily live music and salsa shows, and often sees a good mix of locals and visitors. It’s a great way to get familiar with the local culture while having an excellent night out.
On day two in Trinidad there are options aplenty. On the town’s doorstep you can find an unspoilt stretch of beach which features perfectly white sands and turquoise waters. A day on the beach can feel like a nice retreat from the hustle and bustle that goes on in the town.
Alternatively, venturing slightly further out will reward you with gorgeous landscapes, waterfalls and endless vistas. Just outside Trinidad lies a massive nature preserve, Topes de Collantes. Our two favourite walks here are to the Calburní waterfall and to the trickling cascades and jade pools of Centineals del Río Melodisoso. The former walks leads through coffee plantations and traditional farmsteads to reach a 62m waterfall crashing down into a series of ponds. The latter hike takes in wilder terrain to reach a wonderland of blue-green natural pools where you can swim surrounded by rock walls drapes in verdant foliage.
Further down from Trinidad is the Valle de Los Ingenios, or Valley of the Sugar Mills. This is a series of three interconnected valleys which used to be a centre for sugar production until the late 19th century. Due to its importance in the Cuban history, it was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of the mills were destroyed during the War of Independence and the Spanish-Cuban-American War. However, the area can be seen as a living museum and still includes the sites of 75 former cane sugar mills, plantation houses, barracks, slave quarters and other facilities reminding us of a vanished era.
Where to eat/drink
Restaurante San Jose
Great food can be enjoyed at the popular restaurant San Jose in the heart of Trinidad. It specialises in Creole cuisine, as well as seafood.
Taberna la Canchánchara
This bar and restaurant is famous for its eponymous cocktail made from rum, honey, lemon and water. Live music is also a major draw of this venue.
For something completely different, try La Fortuna. The venue stands out from the crowds with its Singer sewing machine tables, a bath tub instead of seats, old TV sets to rest your drinks on and hundreds of bank notes hanging down from the ceiling.