Travel

Three nights in Trinidad, Cuba | Travel Diary

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After nearly two weeks in Cuba and by this point feeling more well-versed in the idiosyncrasies of the country, we arrived at our final stop; colourful, vibrant Trinidad. Supposedly a Spanish colonial settlement but potentially in fact a rainbow masquerading as a town, this little gem of a place is full of life and rhythms, and proved an unforgettable part of the trip.

It’s postcard perfect, with its old buildings still intact for an excellent up close and personal at the colonial architecture Cuba is famous for; and you will get close, since the city is small and endlessly walkable, with narrow pavements that place you right in the midst of life on the streets of the town. There’s live music in abundance too, at the popular Casa de la Musica but also at plenty of restaurants and bars, and it’s virtually impossible to be in Trinidad for more than an evening – or an hour – without hearing any.

We spent 3 nights in rainbow central and things we happened upon in the streets include urine, salsa dancing humans, and a pair of trotters that looked to have been very recently unceremoniously detached from an unfortunate pig. Let’s get into what we did when we weren’t discovering those things!

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Where we stayed

Our Casa Particular for Trinidad was a little out of the centre of town on a residential road. It was easily walkable and close enough to the middle of Trinidad not to bother with taxis to or from the Viazul station, but also felt separate from the main tourist circuit, and we found that a guide for one of our days out actually lived on the same street. We could even walk for 5 minutes without being offered a taxi, something that if you’ve been to Trinidad, you’ll know is a rarity.

My favourite aspect of this particular accommodation choice was the outdoor area; two rockers (naturally) sitting on a platform, a long breakfast table with benches, and our very own hammock. There was also a dog, who missed out on being my favourite part of the accommodation due to the fact that he was loud and not one of my preferred breeds. Still – a dog!

Our host was a very lovely lady – she spoke only a smattering of English, but by this time we spoke a smattering of Spanglish, so we muddled through just fine. She provided us with a giant breakfast for 5CUC each morning and about a gallon of coffee at 6am on our departure day.

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What we did

With two full days in Trinidad and several hours on the day we arrived, we chose two ‘full day’ type activities and then used the time around those to explore Trinidad itself.

Parque Guanayara: We knew we wanted to visit Topes de Collante, a huge nature reserve park which spans several Cuban provinces, and since we were short on time doing it one our own didn’t seem a viable option. After visiting several agencies, we opted for a day tour of Parque Guanayara, one of several parks in Topes de Collante, with one of the small agencies (their office is opposite Cubatur). It turned out to be a great shout; our group was comprised of just the two of us and a German couple we had met in Vinales a week earlier, accompanied by a driver and a guide. The day was full and fascinating, taking in some of Cuba’s second largest mountain range and it’s great network of hiking trails with stops including a coffee plantation, El Rocio waterfall, caves, a panoramic mirador, and swimming in Poza del Venado, a beautiful natural pool.

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Playa Ancon: A short drive away from the centre of town is the closest beach – a long and beautifully golden strip of a thing. There are a couple of hotels here so plenty of tourists about, but the beach is large so its not the least bit crowded. We pitched up in a shady spot under a tree, read, ate, and had the occasional dip in the pleasantly warm sea, although I was joined a great deal of plant life in the water. After an expensive day on the tour, it was satisfying to go somewhere without any kind of fee for the activity itself; it’s just transport to pay for. We split a taxi with two French girls which was 8CUC one way (a return on the bus is 5CUC so the cheapest option depends on how many there are in your group).

Town centre: We spent the rest of our time in Trinidad exploring the town, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Centro Historico being a pretty, colourful attraction in itself. I could happily have spent more time wandering the streets, rainbows at every turn, photographing each bright building and observing the goings-on.

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Plaza Mayor: Obviously Plaza Mayor is in the town centre, but it deserves a separate mention for being such a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by. Inglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad (Church of the Holy Trinity) stands at the top, and tall palms sit amongst landscaped gardens in this central square that’s the most photographed spot in Trinidad. It may be busy and yes, you’ll be amongst tourists, but it’s truly lovely at sunset (the Casa de la Musica steps are great for perching on for this).

Photographic Trinidad City Walk: We’d brought the Lonely Planet guidebook for Cuba and decided to do a photographic city walk that was in it. While there’s a possibility we were too tired and carrying too much stuff to enjoy this to it’s full potential, it took us along streets we probably wouldn’t have gone down and did make for some great camera fodder. We did it in the early evening when the sun was casting long shadows on the ground and stopped along the way for a Canchanchara (a rum cocktail that’s one of Trinidad’s specialities).

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Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra Bandidos: We entered this museum – the most recognisable building in Trinidad – pretty late in the day so didn’t have a whole lot of time to thoroughly peruse; it’s fairly run down and tired anyway, but climbing the bell tower is a real highlight and well worth both your time and the entry fee (which is a whole 1CUC). Sunset is a lovely time to go for picture-perfect views over Trinidad – just don’t get there *too* late or it will close (we saw people turned away when we’d been inside about 5 minutes).

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Eating recommendations

We ate a huge breakfast at our Casa every morning, and this mostly saw us through until the evening, with the exception of a few snacks we bought at Galeria Comercial Universo – a mini shopping centre containing a supermarket that by home standards would be mildly outrageous but becomes the most magical shop in the world when you haven’t bought chocolate or crisps in weeks. In the evenings we ate out in Trinidad’s centre, dinnertime stretching out over several luxurious but laid back hours accompanied by rum and music galore; here are the three places we chose.

La Redaccion: We stumbled across this brilliantly turquoise hued building while wandering around at random and were pleased to find inside a popular Cuban restaurant with European twists (the owners’ children have all lived in Europe). The newspaper ‘El Liberal’ was founded in the building and there are many references to it throughout in the design, with some really quirky touches that are novelty without being tacky. A really diverse menu with great veggie options (and I’ve read that just a few weeks after we were there they started a whole vegan menu!) and some of the best cocktails we had in Cuba made this one of our favourite accidental discoveries. We didn’t reserve a table and the staff were lovely about it, but it might be wise to book ahead.

San Jose: There’s nearly always a big queue here – it’s a really popular place and in the Lonely Planet guide – but they give out buzzers which go off when there’s a table for you. I proclaimed that I was ‘starving’ the evening we went here and proceeded to order pizza (on the recommendation of Lonely Planet and several strangers on the internet) and sweet potato fries as well as a huge, rich Pina Colada. Needless to say, I was defeated – and despite mixed reviews on Tripadvisor, what we had was really delicious – but they boxed up the leftover pizza and I ate it on the beach the next day.

Vista Gourmet: We were enticed into this place by the promise of pretty rooftop views and Starter and Dessert buffets. In all honesty some of the offerings at these were mediocre, but hey, I do like a buffet, and the vegan meatballs I had as a main course were great. It’s the view from this place that’s the real pull – it’s truly beautiful and honestly worth going to for that alone.

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Useful information

This is the section to skip if you’re here for the diary aspect rather than the travel tips (I won’t be offended); for my Cuba travel diaries I’m including a few details that might not make it into the main body of the post but would probably be handy to know if you’re visiting:

Viazul: The office is close to the centre of town and just a couple of streets down from Plaza Mayor; walkable from pretty much anywhere in Trinidad itself. As per all Viazul stations it can get chaotic and doesn’t necessarily always play by its own rules; the opening hours are 8:30am-4pm, but don’t be surprised if this turns out not to be the case.

Wifi: Wifi is great (I mean, it works – by this time I was really operating on Cuban wifi standards) in Plaza Mayor, in particular on the Casa de la Musica steps (this will be obvious when you see how many people are sitting on them) and also in Plaza Carillo.

Facilities: Of everywhere we went in Cuba, Trinidad is the city where the general presence of helpful facilities felt the easiest; it’s the only place, for example, where a post office presented itself to us without much pain and searching (near Plaza Carillo and with a Cadeca in close proximity too), and there are several tourist offices that are clearly marked.

Accomodation: You’d have no problems arriving here with nowhere to stay booked; lots of homes in the town centre are Casas Particulares and plenty on the outskirts are too (if you arrive by Viazul, you’ll be bombarded with offers as soon as you set foot off the bus), and there are several hostels and hotels.

If there are any specifics I haven’t mentioned, you can find more information on visiting Cuba here. I also wrote travel diaries for Havana, Vinales and Cienfuegos. This is my final post from our Cuba trip; thanks so much for reading. Cuba, I’d visit again in a heartbeat. Adios!

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