Trinidad Guide

The crown jewel of Cuba’s colonial cities, Trinidad was the fourth of the seven cities founded by Diego de Velazquez in 1514.  It was just far enough out of reach of Spanish authorities in Havana to develop a bustling commerce smuggling contraband to circumvent trade restrictions imposed by the Spanish Crown.  Its position on Cuba’s underbelly was also perfect for trade with Jamaica, the epicenter of the Caribbean slave trade.  Trinidad grew prosperous importing slaves, many of whom were put to work locally, stimulating the sugar trade. A mild climate, fertile soil, and easy access to the Caribbean, favoured Trinidad’s agricultural and commercial growth. Wealthy citizens built their sumptuous homes around the main square and adjoining streets.

Today, no other colonial city in Cuba is so well preserved.  Its narrow, unmarked cobbled streets are paved with stones shipped across the Atlantic as ballast or taken from the nearby river. Trinidad is steeped in religiosity, both Santeria and Catholicism, and there is no shortage of Afro-Cuban religious practitioners and Catholic processions.

Plaza Mayor

The graceful plaza lies at the heart of the original settlement, and is surrounded by excellently preserved colonial buildings.  On the northwest corner is Palacio Brunet, a two-story mansion dating from 1741 and housing the Museo Romantico. The dozen rooms are filled with intriguing artwork and fabulous antiques. There is a great view of the square from the balcony upstairs. Fernando Hernandez between Echerri y Bolivar. Tue-Sun, 9am-5pm, $2. On the east side of the square in the house of Sanchez Iznaga, is the Museo de Arquitectura Colonial with displays and models relating to Trinidad’s architectural development.  Sat-Thurs, 9am5pm, $1.

Museo de la Lucha Contra Los Bandidos

This building used to be a convent, but now all that remain are the tower and the church.  The church was taken over by the government, and the convent was replaced by the “Museum of the Fight Against Outlaws” (Echerri y Pino Guinart), which traces the campaign against the counter-revolutionary guerrillas in the Sierra Escambray in the years following the Revolution. Among the displays is a CIA radio transmitter, and parts of a U2 spy plane shot down during the Cuban Missile Crisis. You can ascend to the top of the bell tower for a view over the city. Tue-Sun, 9am-5pm, $1. Plazuela Real del Jigüe

This charming triangular plaza (one block west of Plaza Mayor) has a calabash tree in the centre.  The tree, planted in 1929, is the youngest in a succession of trees kept alive since 1514, the year the Spanish celebrated their first Mass here.

Casa Templo de Santeria Yemayá

This temple features Santeria altars and hosts occasional religious ceremonies. Talk to the priest (santero) - Israel - if you would like a religious consultation.

Museo Historico

This museum one block south of the Plaza Mayor, was once the home of the Borrell family.  The history of the city is revealed as you move through rooms furnished with rocking chairs, alabaster amphorae, marble-topped tables, and other antiques. Other intriguing exhibits include an antique bell, stocks for holding slaves, banknotes, and a magnificent scale model of the Andrei Vishinsky, which entered Trinidad harbour in 1960 - the first Soviet ship to visit Cuba after the Revolution.  Stairs lead up to a watchtower with a fine view over the city.

 Music, Shows, Cultural Events

Trinidad has no less than 10 live music venues, most of which are open from late morning to after midnight, all within easy walking distance of each other.  They cost at the most $3 entry (most are free or $1).  Behind the church at the top of the hill overlooking the old city, there is a disco in a cave - Disco Ayala offers several rooms with flashing lights amid the stalagmites and stalactites. A cabaret is performed around midnight. Nightly 10:30pm-2am, $3 including one drink.

Shopping

All manner of arts and crafts are sold at the Handicraft Market in the streets east and south of the Plaza Mayor.  The widest option of arts and crafts under one roof is offered by Fondo de Bienes Culturales (Bolivar #418, Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm, Sun 9am-noon, one block south of Plaza Mayor).  Another good bet is the Palacio de la Artesania (Piro Guinart y Independencia). Much of the ceramic work sold locally is made at El Alfarero Casa Chichi (Andres Berro Macias #51, e/ Pepito Tey y Abel Santamaria, Mon-Sat, 7am-7pm). It is a home run ceramic workshop where the Santander family carries on a tradition of pottery making. Valle de Los Ingenios

East of Trinidad is the Valley of the Sugar Mills.  It is named for the many sugar mills, or ingenios (43 at its peak), that sprang up over the centuries to grind the cane produced by the valley’s remarkably fertile soil. The 

valley was Cuba’s most important sugar-producing region into the 19th century.  Many of the mills and estate houses remain, albeit mostly in ruin.

One exception is the Hacienda Iznaga ($1) which is found in the quaint village of Iznaga, 14km east of Trinidad. The Hacienda was built 1835-45 by Alejo Maria del Carmen e Iznaga, once one of the wealthiest sugar planters in Cuba.  It features a 43.5 meter tower that according to legend was built as a wager. Alejo was to build a tower while his brother Pedro dug a well. The winner would be whoever went highest or deepest (no well has been found). The restored hacienda is now a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the valley.  A traditional guaraperia at the rear serves fresh-squeezed cane juice.  Lacework is a local speciality sold at the base of the tower.

Topes de Collantes

The Slopes of the Sierra Escambray, are swathed in Caribbean pines and an abundance of ancient tree ferns, bamboo, and eucalyptus and are protected within this national park.  The area is tremendous for hiking; there are plenty of trails, waterfalls, and the rich bird life includes an abundance of parrots. $6.50 park fee.

Excursions

Playa Ancon The four-kilometer long beach offers sugary white sand, pavonine waters fringed with palms offering shade. A motorised faux steam train offers shuttle service to and from Trinidad ($2 each way). You can catch it on Maceo or Marti streets. A taxi between Trinidad and Ancon costs $8 one way. Cayo Blanco $45 + transport to the marina. A day trip is possible to this deserted idyllic caribbean island complete with coconut palms, iguanas, white-sand beaches, and a coral reef. The trip is make on a big catamaran. The price includes boat transport, snorkel gear, seafood lunch, and ‘all you can drink’ rum (but not transport from Trinidad to the marina which is behind Ancon beach). Leaves 9am from the marina and returns 4pm.

Steam Train Ride $10 ($21 with lunch)

When its working, the steam train (vintage 1917) takes passengers from Trinidad along the world heritage Sugar Mill Valley to as far as Iznaga mansion. Not to be missed if you are a train spotter! Departs 9am from Artex, return 1:30pm

Horseriding $15

This horseriding excursion to the Javira waterfall involves a gentle journey on horse (1 hour in each direction), and a trek through the forest (45min each way - 3.6km walking distance in total). There is free time to bathe in the waterfall and the natural pool. Includes transport, guide, and park entry. Departs from Artex at 9am, returns 2pm. 

Diving/Snorkelling $35/$10 + transport to Ancon Beach

1 hour diving and snorkelling tours can be taken from the diving centre on Ancon beach anytime before 3pm. A catamaran or speed boat will take you to the reef that is 1 mile off the beach.  There are more than 30 dive spots with the added attraction of sunken vessels. Prices include equipment.

Hiking Options Salto Javira

Price: $18 (includes $6.50 park entry + transport + guide)

Minimum number: 2 participants

Duration: Half Day

Walking Time: 2 to 3 hours

Walking distance: from 3.6 km

Grade: Medium

Swimming: Yes - in a natural pool.

Take: Water, snacks, good walking footwear, swimming costume, camera, small amount of cash.

 

 Salto Javira is a beautiful waterfall in the foot-hills of the Sierra Escambray. Its a 1hour walk from the restaurant - Ranchon El Cubano (15 drive from  Trinidad) on a fairly well marked trail over foot-bridges, some rocky terrain, and through some pretty forrest. Being a gentle downhill, the return walk is a little faster  (45min). The Ranchon El Cubano serves lunch in the shade of its open-air restaurant. Speciality is catfish $8. The red bean potaje is a tasty and economical option $3, with some crackers (galletas) and butter (mantequilla) $1. Swimming in the deep natural pool of the waterfall is a must. You can swim into a small cave behind the waterfall where some bats can be seen if you keep quiet. A natural spring in the mountain feeds the stream so the water is refreshingly chilly. 

Adding an extra 1.5hours to your hike, you can walk to El Cubano all the way from town. This walk will take you through an interesting rural area with oxen-ploughed field rotationally planted with crops such as banana.

Salto Javira is a beautiful waterfall in the foot-hills of the Sierra Escambray. Its a 1hour walk from the restaurant - Ranchon El Cubano (15 drive from  Trinidad) on a fairly well marked trail over foot-bridges, some rocky terrain, and through some pretty forrest. Being a gentle downhill, the return walk is a little faster  (45min). The Ranchon El Cubano serves lunch in the shade of its open-air restaurant. Speciality is catfish $8. The red bean potaje is a tasty and economical option $3, with some crackers (galletas) and butter (mantequilla) $1. Swimming in the deep natural pool of the waterfall is a must. You can swim into a small cave behind the waterfall where some bats can be seen if you keep quiet. A natural spring in the mountain feeds the stream so the water is refreshingly chilly. 

Adding an extra 1.5hours to your hike, you can walk to El Cubano all the way from town. This walk will take you through an interesting rural area with oxen-ploughed field rotationally planted with crops such as banana, boniato, and beans. Arranging a taxi to pick you up from El Cubano to take you back to Trinidad is advisable (instead of walking all the way back) as this section of the walk is unshaded and has a steep uphill section.

Salto Caburni

    Price: $29 (includes park entry + transport + guide + lunch)
    Minimum number: 2 participants
    Duration: Full Day (9am to 4pm )
    Walking Time: 3 to 4 hours
    Walking Distance: 5km
    Grade: High
    Swimming: Yes - in a natural pool.
    Take: Water, snacks, good walking footwear, swimming costume, camera, small amount of cash.

    The trek to this beautiful watefall starts at the top of the Escambray mountain range next to Trinidad and decends steeply into a ravine through natural forest and coffee plantations. Good chance to see Cuba’s national bird - the colourful tocororo. Free time to swim in the natural pool before a sweaty climb back to the restaurant for lunch. 

    El Nicho

    Price: $55 (includes park entry + transport +  guide )

    Minimum number: 2 participants
    Duration: Full Day (9am to 4pm )
    Walking Distance: 5 km
    Grade: Low
    Swimming: Yes - in a natural pool.
    Take: Water, snacks, good walking footwear, swimming costume, camera, small amount of cash.

    El Nicho is said to be Cuba’s most beautiful waterfall. At an hour drive from Trinidad, its the furthest trekking option on offer from Trinidad. A nice walk through the forest awaits and a spectacular waterfall with a great natural swimming pool.

    Other Activities

    Taxi  to beach    -   $8 one way

    Bike        rental     -      $3 - $5

    Moped   rental     -       $24

    Live        music     venues  -     up to $3

    Salsa     dance    lesson

      Group lesson    -       $5
      Individual -    $8 to $10

      Music  instrument    lesson    -   $10

      Massage    -       $20-$25/hr