Picture cobblestone roads, pastel hue coloured low rise houses, donkeys dragging carts along the bumpy roads, vintage cars everywhere, old men playing chess in the street, and waking up in a traditional colonial home. This my friends, is Trinidad.
I ABSOLUTELY loved Trinidad, and if you are visiting Cuba then you’d be a fool to miss out on this small, but perfect town. In fact, the cover image of my Pintsize Explorer blog was actually taken along one of the back roads in Trinidad 🙂
This wonderfully retained Spanish Colonial town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, and it’s easy to see why. Imagine being stuck in a time warp, think 1850’s, Trinidad is a world away from the 21st century that you and I are used too.
You’ll be pleased to know that despite tourism increasing year on year, you really wouldn’t notice it. Perhaps we have the controversial US ban to thank for this, but for me, this couldn’t have been better!
We spent four nights in Trinidad which worked out about right I’d say. We split our time between quietly wandering the back streets getting lost in the local life, visiting a handful of historical museums and churches, and topping up our tan on the beach. Heading out for dinner was a different story though, as once the sun had set, the town lit up with live-music as the rum was flowing.
There is plenty here to do, but in this sleepy town you want to be taking your time and enjoying yourself.
Cuba’s best beach in the south, Playa Ancon sits just 12 km south of Trinidad, so you’ll be able to tie in some sunbathing during your visit. We visited twice, and took the local bus both times which was easy to locate from the town centre. If you are visiting in peak season, then just be aware that those public buses depart roughly every hour, and do get extremely busy.
The heart and soul of Trinidad! This large square is home to a small park, the church of the Holy Trinity, Casa Padron, Casa de las Sánchez Iznaga, and the Galería de Arte Universal Benito Ortiz. Lined with beautiful buildings, Plaza Mayor is easily the most photographed spot in Trinidad – and where I took my favourite photo of the three guys in one of the images above!
During the day you’d probably just walk on by, past these steps without giving them a second thought – but make sure you stop by here at night for a spot of salsa action! Cuban’s have a serious flare for dance when it comes to salsa, and you’ll be able to watch some authentic hip shaking here. Live music was played later in the evenings, where locals got up to shake their thing and have a good old dance too. Every last table was filled with rum and beer guzzling spectators, but you’ll find the steps leading down to Plaza Mayor were filled with visitors too. Order a drink (the barmen will bring your drinks to you on the stairs) and get involved!
Escape the town and head up to The Escambray Mountains where you can hike, explore the waterfalls, discover the limestone cliffs, and cool down in the natural ponds. This protected ecological reserve spans 200 sq km, is 800m above sea level, and is roughly 22 km north-west of Trinidad.
Join a day tour as the National Park is otherwise quite difficult to reach. There are a number of different hikes, ranging in different levels of difficulty. Something for everyone I say!
If you are going to learn how to Salsa, then you might as well do it properly! Here in Trinidad, you’ll find several different places offering classes for roughly $5 per hour. Check out Salsa Express, one of the popular dance schools.
Getting lost is the best way to discover a place, but if you’d prefer not to wander too far off the radar, then follow this handy walking tour that can be found in the Cuban Lonely Planet. This photographic self-guided tour covers 2km and should take you roughly 1.5 hours. You’ll find yourselves amongst the back streets deep in the heart of the local life. Plus, there will be endless opportunities to capture one of those timeless vintage car shots like my image below.
The most common form of accommodation in Cuba is a Casa Particular – a local homestay that is much like a bed & breakfast. These days you’ll find a heap of residential houses that have been converted into a Casa’s, but check for reviews before you book. You’ll have no problem finding somewhere upon arrival, but do expect to be approached by the jintero (hustlers) who are working on behalf of the Casa’s and will herd you towards their Casa’s to earn their share in commission.
We stayed in a wonderful Casa that was recommended by friends – Casa Yahima & Janio. They were building an additional two rooms at the time of our visit, and have since rebranded as Las Margaritas. Four private en-suite rooms are available from $27 per night. Bit of an increase from the $20 pn that we paid!
International visitors to Cuba will no doubt find themselves flying into Havana’s main airport, however there is another airport (Alberto Delgado) roughly 1km south of Trinidad. Although, only chartered flights arrive there!
You’ll want a few days to explore Havana anyway, so I suggest you fly into Havana and then take a bus or private transfer directly to Trinidad. Public buses take between 6 – 7 hours, depart twice a day, and cost $25 each way. It’s worth checking in with a handful of tour providers though, as you might be able to join a tour just for the transfer. That’s basically what we did!
Here’s a few other travel distances should you be travelling from elsewhere within the country.
Cienfuegos – CUC $6 – 1.5 hours – four times per day
Havana – CUC $25 – 6.5 hours – twice per day
Santa Clara – CUC $25 – 3hours – once per day
Santiago de Cuba – – CUC $33 – 12 hours – once per day
Varadero – CUC $20 – 6 hours – twice per day
Trains do exist, but Trinidad has been cut off from the main rail network for some 30 years since a hurricane effected the line.
Do you have any hot tips for Trinidad to share as well? Post a comment if so!