Colourful Trinidad of markets, fresh food vendors and bubbly locals in the morning, sleepy town during midday, tropical and musical in the evenings. This town has so many sides, as diverse as its colourful architecture and buildings. Definitely one of my highlights on this journey, I felt for the town’s atmosphere and I paid a second visit while in Cuba. Trinidad is one of those places where it doesn’t take you long to become part of the local community, even from just your first evening out. Give it a few more days and you see friendly faces everywhere.
It’s a challenge to provide a blog entry for a ‘structured’ visit to Trinidad. Trinidad can mess up the organizational habits of the most skilled individuals (writer in question). This is not the town to make plans. It is simply not in its DNA and may I just say this is the best part. Just soak the town’s vibe and make plans on the day, on the spot, on the moment. The more last minute the better!
Trinidad is Cuba’s best preserved colonial town and it is an interesting religious mix of Catholicism and Santeria practices. Various ceremonies of both religions take place every day.
Some transport logistics tips: You can get to Trinidad from Havana’s Viazul bus station (located at Vedado) twice daily. Believe me you don’t want to miss those two chances as it can be really frustrating waiting another 24 hours for your next bus out. Also worth popping in at the station to reserve your seats in advance. From there it is a 6 hours journey. Another option is to make an arrangement with a taxi driver. This will cut the journey down to 3.5-4 hours, which is a ‘detail’ worth considering. But choose the private car option at your own peril. I have done both but was warned that bus is usually the most reliable transport to get to your destination while private cars often break down along the way.
Casas particulares. Home stays are the only way to experience Cuban life.
Walk around Trinidad’s old colonial centre. Trinidad’s colonial jewels are concentrated around Plaza Mayor. There you can visit Museo Romantico and The Museum of the War Against the Bandits as well as the beautiful Cathedral.
Music and nightlife
Talented musicians are abundant in Cuba. But I think it is Trinidad’s ‘special setting’ that makes everything magical. Casa de la Musica at the main square is the key ‘people watching’ space; its steps offer an ‘amphitheatric’ view to all things happening. Live salsa bands and shows are organized every night and lasts until late hours. There is no entrance fee, you are in a middle of a square after all, the atmosphere is great and the open space really gives you the opportunity to enjoy the warm nights. A lot would say that it is a touristy place. It is not. It may be the most obvious place for a tourist to head to but in such small town with only a handful of nightlife choices locals and tourists blend in healthy proportions so wherever you find yourself you won’t get any ‘commercial’ vibe that you would possibly get in a more mainstream evening spot in Havana. This personal favourite is the perfect place to kick off the evening as crowds gather much earlier than all other bars.
Tip: mojitos are not good here, stick to beer or rum and coke
Palenque de los Congos Reales is a great place to see Afro Cuban dance shows. On the same street, my second favourite place, Casa de la Trova is located in a tiny courtyard and gets lively after midnight, offering live salsa music (of course); very popular with locals. Make this your second stop after Casa de la Musica or Palenque.
There are not many places that can make you feel you are in the middle of a reggaeton music video. Disco Ayala (or as locals call it La Cueve) in Trinidad can. And it is not just the atmosphere that is unique at La Cueve. This club is actually set inside a natural stalactites and stalagmites cave. There is no cue that you are walking into a club as the cave itself offers the most efficient sound proofing system. Nor is easy to find. Best to take a taxi up to a certain point, then the driver will advise on the direction you need to take to get to the entrance. Believe me it is worth the trek, either you are a reggaeton lover or not this is an experience you don’t want to miss.
Tip: the entrance fee for tourists does include a drink, they will conveniently omit to tell you at the entrance but make sure you get your drink while inside.
Vista Gourmet has good food and amazing views over the rooftops of Trinidad. I really enjoyed food and atmosphere at Taberna La Botija a charming tapas place. Live music bands are really good. Café don Pepe is the perfect place to beat the mid afternoon heat in a beautiful, shaded courtyard. We paid a visit to La Canchanchara just to enjoy the music and try the infamous regional drink (under the same name). The cocktail is made from lemon juice, honey and Santero Cuban rum served in glazed ceramic pots. This was the drink of the Mambises – Cuban Liberating Army. You will be asked how strong you want it; it is strong either way, it wouldn’t be the drink of the Revolutionaries after all. I would just advise not to have this in the middle of a hot afternoon whilst dehydrated. But I imagine you wouldn’t anyway.
I am not sure if it was hunger or the enthusiasm of the moment or just too many days on eggs and beans but the street pizza on Francisco Cadahia street was just perfect. This was a recommendation from my local guide. If you are in Trinidad you need to embrace the experience.
Lastly, unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to visit Paladar Sol y Son but other travellers raved about the food and atmosphere so if you get a chance go.
Playa d’Ancon is an easy 12 kilometres ride from Trinidad. I have seen much better than this beach but been stranded in Trinidad in 40 degrees heat midday is not a great alternative either.
From Trinidad, the closest waterfall is Salto Javira. It is a 15 mins drive. But then, it is an hour long hike through the forrest until you actually reach the waterfall (and 45 mins back). Pros (always subjective of course): the waterfall is beautiful and the swim in its natural pool refreshing, our guide from Cubatur was the highlight of my hike as his knowledge on the forrest’s flora and fauna was spectacular. Cons: it was not exactly my idea of fun, hiking rocky terrain for 2 hrs, with a backpack on and in 38 degrees heat. El Nicho waterfalls are more majestic and although a longer distance (1.5 hrs drive) the trip only involves a short walk to reach the waterfalls.
Local crafts and paintings
Like any other town in Cuba, local shops with colourful exotic jewellery are abundant but it is the work of local painters displayed at various galleries that it is impossible to resist buying. Yudit Vidal Faife is a talented artist from Santa Clara whose beautiful work is displayed at a gallery in Trinidad’s centre. I would highly recommend stopping by. I bought art from her gallery and it brings me happiness every time I see it.
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