The Cuban town of Trinidad was founded in 1514 by the Spanish and has been preserved as a beautiful colonial city. Since 1988, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the nearby sugar mills called Valle de los Ingenios. The town’s unique combination of architecture from the 1850s and cars from the 1950s feels as if it has been frozen in time.
As one of the first towns in Cuba to be founded by the Spanish, Trinidad’s wealth grew from sugar cane production, cattle and tobacco that made their way to the town via African slaves.
This wealth allowed the town to build large plazas, extravagant palaces and lavish colonial homes where rich plantation owners lived. Today, a large amount of this colonial architecture is still standing, making Trinidad one of the most well-preserved historic North American towns.
These details have earned Trinidad the reputation of being a popular tourist destination in Cuba. There is so much to do in this town, with a variety of places to visit, sights to see, foods to taste, live music and colonial museums.
What to Do in Trinidad?
With such an array of things to do in Trinidad, it may seem daunting to make sure you get the most out of your time in the city. You want to be sure that you experience all the sights, smells and sounds, enjoying the amazing laid-back vibe of Cuba.
1. Explore the Plaza Mayor
The heart of Trinidad is the Plaza Mayor, which is made up of beautiful cobblestone streets, raised gardens and stunning walkways. The plaza is surrounded by 18th- and 19th-century buildings in pastel colors with terracotta roofs. The plaza was built during the wealthy period of sugar production in Trinidad. Some of the same buildings that were mansions and churches have now been restored and converted into museums.
The plaza is a wonderful spot to spend an afternoon sitting on a cast-iron bench and soaking in all the Cuban culture. You can hear the sounds of salsa music while enjoying the beautiful gardens. Just watch out for locals trying to sell stuff to tourists, since it is a tourist hangout.
2. Explore the Museums
The museums are a wonderful way to explore the Cuban history of Trinidad. They give you a glimpse into what it was like in the mansions when they were built. One such example is the Museo de Arquitectura, an 18th-century mansion that was owned by Sanchez Iznaga. Here, you can also see an example of a bathroom from the 19th century.
Another former mansion, Palacio Cantero, is also worth a visit. Today, this mansion is the Municipal Museum and offers magnificent views of the surrounding city.
If you make your way to Palacio Brunet, you will find Museo Romantico, the former home of wealthy sugar baron Conde de Brunet. This museum is filled with luxury items that once belonged to the family. One interesting item is a marble bathtub weighing 1.5 tons.
3. Try Some Cuban Food
While the food in Cuba is not generally raved about since it is not as flavorful as other cuisines (such as Mexico’s), it’s still very much worth exploring You will find a lot of beans, rice, yuca and meat. Basic meals at the restaurants in Trinidad are reasonably priced and go for between $5 and $10.
Where Cuba does succeed is with their rum drinks, coffee and sugar cane juice. A must-try is the special cocktail served at La Canchánchara that consists of lemon, honey, rum and water.
4. Visit the Valle de los Ingenios
During the 18th century, Trinidad was a wealthy town thanks to Valle de los Ignenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills). Today, the valley is a World Heritage Site consisting of historic sugar cane mills. In its heyday, the valley housed 50 sugar mills and was tended to by some 30,000 slaves. Trinidad was the sugar-producing capital of the world during the 18th and 19th centuries.
If you visit the valley, be sure to take a look at the Manaca Iznaga plantation. You can see what remains of the main house on the plantation as well as the old slave quarters and a huge tower. What’s more, you can catch a steam train for a classic ride into the valley.
5. Take a Break and Visit the Beach
Just six miles outside of Trinidad, you will find the Playa Ancon beach. Catch a vintage taxi or rent a bicycle to visit this stunning white-sand beach. The Cuban beaches are not very crowded and offer beautiful, crystal-clear, turquoise waters. It’s the perfect spot to take a break and sip on an ice-cold cocktail.