If you're looking to sample a slice of rural Cuban life,
then a stint in a Trinidad hotel could be just the ticket. Located in the center of the
island, the city is labeled as a UNESCO world heritage site and is a hot sleepy town
filled with colonial architecture and idyllic cobbled streets. Here's everything you need
to know about it, if you're considering making a holiday in Trinidad, Cuba a
"must" for your next visit to the island.
The Town Itself
The main attraction of a holiday in Trinidad is undoubtedly the town itself.
Photographers will have a field day, taking advantage of the charming traditional
architecture and timeless feel of the place, while others will just enjoy wandering around
and soaking up the atmosphere. There are no cars allowed in the centre, adding to its
charm, and visitors can take in the city's 1211 buildings, which are mostly made up of
wonderfully restored colonial houses, painted in a selection of bright colours, topped
with terracotta tiles. The whole experience of walking through the town is a mixture of
fairytale beauty, Latin-American vibrancy and peaceful tranquility.
Mixed in with the pretty surroundings are a couple of notable buildings: a handful of
idyllic churches, public squares and a number of informative museums each show-casing the
architecture, archaeology and history of the old town. While nearly as attraction-packed
as Havana, a stay in a Trinidad hotel has enough to hold your attention and allows you to
enjoy your stay in a more relaxed and traditionally Caribbean manner.
In addition to the days you can happily invest in strolling around the delicious town
itself, Trinidad's coastal location lends itself nicely to hours (or days!) spent lounging
upon its undisturbed white sands. The region has two splendid beaches - Ancon and Maria
Aguilar - and both of them are local to the town and some of the best on the south coast.
As for what you do there, you are largely free to pursue your interests - you can relax in
the sun, go swimming or enjoy some water sports. Perhaps the best way to enjoy it though
is snorkelling or scuba diving, as visitors can roam amongst the wide selection of
sponges, gorgonians, sea fans, black coral and various colourful tropical fish. Those
wanting a premiere dive site can find many in Cuba, whilst Trinidad's coast is a nice plus
for those who want to dive as an extra, rather than as the main focus of their trip...
The Nature Reserve
Trinidad itself is set in an absolutely stunning setting, nestled between the Sierra de
Escambray Mountains and gorgeous coastline. If you want to feel even more at home with
nature though, the Topes de Collantes Natural Park features an impressive selection of
plants and birds, set high up in the mountains. Visitors can expect to see a selection of
wildlife include various colourful birds, ferns, and precious wood trees.
The Old Sugar Mills
The city of Trinidad isn't the only historical point of interest in the area to be
granted UNESCO heritage status. The Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills) is a
group of three valleys that were the island's centre for sugar production between the 18th
and late 19th century. The whole area is approximately 100 square miles, and includes the
sites of more than 70 former sugar mills. Many of them are now in a bad state of repair,
but the region's inherent beauty and the history contained within the area makes it well
worth a look for those staying locally in one of Trinidad's hotels.
Far from the tanned crowds of Varadero, and the (comparatively) bustling city life of
Havana, a holiday in Trinidad presents a whole new example of Cuban life that many
tourists miss completely. From the charming town, to the relaxed beach and the enchanting
local attractions, Trinidad, Cuba, is the perfect place to stay to sample rural life on
the island, and to get away from the hectic pace of life in the UK.
Emma Lelliott is the General Manager of Captivating Cuba, an independent
specialist in Trinidad
holidays and hotels. With offices in Havana and the UK, Captivating Cuba can help you
tailor-make the perfect Cuban holiday experience.
Founded in 1514, the city of Trinidad in Cuba is over 500 years old. Said to be the best preserved
colonial era town in Cuba, Trinidad definitely gives you the visual
impression of an old place when you see it. Yes there are cobblestone
streets and historic buildings but when one begins walking you at first
think, is that it, is it only just old buildings? It takes some time and
then it hits you, they have preserved the colonial era. It is not just the
buildings, it is the interior; the attraction of the place is on the inside.
The preservation of the interiors gives the soul to this Cuidad.
The buildings contain the period furniture, cutlery and pictures. This is a
living museum because the furniture is juxtaposed among everyday commercial
life. These are restaurants, souvenir stores, art galleries with furniture
reflective of earlier time periods but with the furniture placed so that you
feel as if you are eating in a house and in the next room is the bedroom
complete with made up beds. You sit and admire art as though you are in a
living room from a bygone era admiring the owner’s art. As you walk along
you can also look in the open doorways or windows of the residents homes and
see the colonial era furniture still in use.
Along your stroll you can step into a Santeria temple and see the area for
worship and the dirt backyard for sacrifice. Santería is also known as Regla
de Ocha or the Lucumí religion and practiced today by people all over the
world but is generally defined as an Afro-Cuban religion that originated in
Nigeria and Benin in West Africa. The name Santería is Spanish in origin
and arises because practitioners of the religion refer to the Orichas, or
the deities of the religion, as saints or "santos" and so the name is a
loose translation of devotion to the saints, or santos.
You can also visit the Catholic Cathedral, Church of the Holy Trinity (Iglesia
Parroquial de la Santísima Trinidad) which was completed in 1892 on a
site of a previous 17th century church that was destroyed by a
hurricane in the 19th century. The church contains an
18th-century wooden statue of Christ, "The Lord of the True Cross" ("El
Señor de la Vera Cruz") which is an object of particular reverence in
Trinidad. Originally destined for a church in Veracruz in Mexico, the ship
carrying the statue was driven back to Trinidad three times by bad weather
and was only able to make the journey after abandoning part of its cargo
which included the statue of Christ. This was taken as divine intervention
by the local population and the statue has been housed in the church ever
since. Within these hallowed halls you can admire the elaborate Stations of
The preservation of this town has also preserved the manners and speed of
life of times past. All over Cuba there is art for sale, colorful, vibrant
art depicting facets of Cuban life but in Trinidad you can go into the small
galleries and meet the artist who created these scenes and who will stop
their painting and explain about the painting plus help you select a
The town has a timeless quality and a pleasant way to spend part of the day
is sitting in a square under the shade of the trees watching the horse drawn
carriages transporting people, while little children walk home from school
to have their lunch. You can sit in the square and listen to a group of old
men playing music and then chatting. The music is so good and blends so well
with the atmosphere that tourists stop and dance or sit and sway to the
music. It seems as if their minds’ say, Yes this is a holiday; my cares and
troubles are far away.
The entire town reflects the colonial period but the historic heart is the
best. It is here that life slows to a less than modern pace, where even the
dogs doze under the shade of the benches. At nights on the steps next to the
Cathedral there are live bands performing and people come to dance to salsa
and rumba, with restaurants and bars encircling the steps and waiters ready
to fill your orders.
Whilst many visitors on their Cuba holidays are more than content to lie on the warm,
sandy beaches of Varadero and make the most of the various all-inclusive cocktail bars
offered at their luxury Cuban hotels, there is also plenty to explore in the surrounding
area for the more active tourist.
One of the main attractions of Varadero is the stunning caves that make up the region,
of which the most popular are the Bellamar Caves, featuring stalagmite formations and
carsick crystals. But whilst these natural elements may both be considered breathtaking,
what really sets the Bellamar Caves apart from any other are the painted frescoes on the
cave walls. These, along with the fossilised remains, show evidence that they were
inhabited many years ago.
The Delfinario is definitely worth visiting on your Cuba holidays, particularly if you
plan on travelling with young children. This venue is both the place to go to swim with
dolphins and to attend one of the world-famous dolphin shows. The dolphins are kept in a
natural fresh-water lagoon and approach their keeper when they want to appear in the show,
and not vice-versa. Whilst adults can enjoy a couple of hours swimming with these playful
porpoises, smaller children can be carried into the water in life-jackets for photographs.
However, the highlight of Varadero is definitely the native flora and fauna of the
area. Varadero is located in Cuba's Matanzas Province, which is best known as the region
where The Bay of Pigs Invasion took place. The Cienaga De Zapata nature reserve, located
in this area, is the only place in the world that you can spot the rare bee hummingbird.
On your Cuba holiday, joining a bird-watching tour is your best bet of spotting one of
these elusive birds. This is because the qualified guides, that lead the tours, not only
know all the signs to watch out for, but also the most popular nesting areas in the
national park. As well as bee hummingbirds, a tour of the Cienaga De Zapata National Park
will give you the opportunity to spot native birds, such as the Cuban crow and the
Neotropical Cormorant. This National Park is considered by many avid ornithologists to be
the best place in the world for bird-watching, and as such the guides who work in the area
are passionate about what they do. Many of them can even emulate the cries and catcalls of
numerous Cuban birds, which is definitely worth seeing on your holidays in Cuba.
Located a short walk away from Cienaga De Zapata is the Criadero Cocodrillo Centre; the
largest crocodile centre in Cuba. Criadero has been instrumental in the breeding of the
Cuban crocodile, a crocodile, which is currently only found in the wild at the Cienaga De
Zapata Swamps. Holding one of the centre's baby crocodiles is both a rare and thrilling
privilege, which will provide the perfect ending to your Cuba holiday.
About the Author
Rob Santry is a Cuba holiday expert for key2holidays, an online tour operator
holidays, as well as trips to Australia, the Caribbean, Europe, Egypt, the
Far East, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Dubai and the Arabian Gulf. Key2holidays has a
dedicated team of experienced travel consultants to share their knowledge and help you to
plan and book your ideal holiday.
Havana is a city with much to see. A quick way to see the sights is take a
Havana Bus Tour. On the tour you ride in an open air double decker bus for
about 2 hours while your guide points out the sights around the city. A very
nice feature of this tour is that you can hop on and hop off at any time. If
you see something interesting that you want to see in more detail you can
get a ticket from the guide and hop off the bus. Later that day when another
tour bus comes along you simply present your ticket and hop on.
While the bus tour is interesting, you only get to see a few of Havana’s
attractions, the best way to see Havana is to walk the streets. The area
around Parque Central in Havana Viejo (Old Havana) is the best for this type
of sightseeing. The hotel can provide you with a map of the streets with
attractions marked on the map or you can come armed with your map, a
comfortable pair of walking shoes, your camera and off you go.
Around Parque Central are many majestic restored buildings but all over
Havana Viejo there are lovely old buildings. In addition to the old
buildings are innumerable museums as well as restored fortifications. Almost
all the streets seem to lead to a different plaza with statues of Cuban
Heroes, fountains and benches for relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere. Of
course in walking the streets you get to see all the
that Cubans have kept running over the years.
A very good street to a walk along is Calle Obispo which is just off Parque
Central and which has shops, museums, the Ernest Hemmingway house, a craft
market and several restaurants and bars. Even at nights Havana is an
attractive place full of music, restaurants, bars and people out in the
Cuba's identity owes a great deal to the fact that it is surrounded by sea as well as
to its geographical position. It is sometimes called the "key to the gulf"
because of its strategic location between North and South America at the entrance to the
Gulf of Mexico, and the island has been a crossroads since the beginning of the Colonial
period. As a result, the island's early population consisted of European settlers, a few
native Indians who had survived struggles against invaders.
In general, Cubans are outgoing, talkative and sociable. The doors to theirs houses are
always open, a glass of rum or a cup of coffee is there for anyone who passes by to say
hello and chat.
An aerial view would show the island stretching out in the Caribbean Sea and indeed
covered with vegetation and patterned with rivers. Small coral reefs lie just offshore in
the sparkling blue sea. In the interior, the landscape is very varied, from plains of red
earth to mogotes outcrops of Viñales, from desert cactus to tropical forest. Protected
reserves make up 22 percent of the national territory. There are numerous species found
only in Cuba, but no poisonous creatures.
Havana is a lively, colorful capital city, full of bustle and entertainment, with some
splendid architectural gems from the Colonial period and beyond, and numerous other
sights. The city alone is worth the trip to Cuba. Many attractions are concentrated in
three quarters: Habana vieja (Old Havana), Centro Habana and Vedado. In Old Havana you are
going to find some of the most wonderful architectural pieces of the 19Th century. The
historic Heart of Havana, which was declared part of the "cultural heritage of
humanity" by UNESCO in 1982, is the largest Colonial center in Latin America. After
two centuries of neglect, restoration work is reviving the former splendour of the
district. Havana Vieja is characterized by Hispanic-Andalusian architecture, vitalized by
the tropical sun and lush vegetation.
Time seems to stand still there but nonetheless the zone does not give the impression
of being a museum.
Things to see in Old Havana:
Plaza de la cathedral
Plaza de armas
Palacio de los capitanes Generales
Plaza de San Francisco
Colonial art museum
Jose Marti museum
Hotel Dos Mundos (Ernest Hemingway First's residence)
Centro Havana and Prado:
Centro Habana has the air of impoverished aristocrat - a noble creature whose
threadbare clothes belie a splendid past full of treasures. this varied quarter developed
beyond the city walls (which ran parallel to present-day Avenida Belgica and Avenida de
las Misiones) during 1800s and was initially built to provide houses and greenery for the
citizens. Most construction took place after 1863, when the walls began to be demolished
to make more land available. the work was finally completed in the 1920s and 30s when
French architect Forestier landscaped the area of the Paseo del Prado, the Parque Central,
the Capitol gardens and Parque de la Fraternidad.
Things to see in Centro Havana:
Paseo del Prado
The National fine arts museum
National music museum
Vedado and Plaza:
The unusual grid plan of Vedado was the design of the engineer Luis Yboleón Bosque in
1859. it calles for pavements 2 m (6ft) wide, houses with a garden, and broad straight
avenues. The name Vedado ("prohibited") arose because in the 1500s, in order to
have full view of any pirates approaching, it was forbidden to built houses and street
there. In the late 19Th and early 20Th century the quarter was enlarged, becoming a
prestigious residential area for many of the city's leading family. Vedado has two
different roles. It is Havana's modern political and cultural center, with the city's main
hotels, restaurants, shops, theaters, cinemas, offices and ministries; and it is also an
historic quarter with a wealth of gardens and old house with grand colonial entrances.
plaza de la revolución, the venue for major celebrations, is the political center of
Havana and the whole of Cuba as well as a highly symbolic place.
Things to see in Vedado:
Jose Marti Memorial
Necropolis Colon Cemetery
Casa de las Americas
Plaza de la revolucion
El malecon (starts at Vedado and ends at Old Havana)
The Hotel Nacional
Some other places to see are the Morro fortress, San Carlos
de la Cabaña Fortress and plenty more.
If you want to know more about the author please visit his
website. http://www.flyawaytrip.com/ For
more info about Cuba and other destinations
For scenes of downtown Havana you can look at the video
Throughout Havana there are craft markets selling souvenir items and it
seems that every street has a downstairs apartment that has been converted
into a store selling craft items. The Ferro Artesonal Nave San Jose however
is unique as it is a huge covered warehouse that sells every imaginable
souvenir and is certainly the largest souvenir market that I have ever seen.
The market is so large that it is organized by streets. Within its confines
you can find paintings, clothing, jewellery, leather goods, sculptures and
anything else that you can think of as a gift item. It also has a cambio,
snack bars and bathrooms.
One thing that is noticeable about the paintings is that they are vibrant
and full of color depicting scenes of Cuban life. One recurring theme in
many of the paintings is the classic American car. It is a central feature
of Cuban life and they are glorified in the art. Another dominant theme is
music. Everywhere in Cuba is filled with Cuban music and the enjoyment of
music plus the players who produce that music are brought to life in the
paintings. Cuba has a well deserved reputation for producing fine cigars and
this theme is also depicted in many of the paintings on display.
Walking through a large market can get hot but this is one market that is very
cool because it is located on the waterfront and the cool ocean breezes blow
through the market.
Located on the waterfront in Havana next to the
Ferro Artesonal Nave San Jose Craft
Market, this converted warehouse is a great location to relax at after a
busy time of shopping. Specializing in the production of craft beer, you
can sit inside the warehouse or outside along the sea front and enjoy a beer
made on the premises. If you are a real beer lover, among the distinctive
features of the establishment are its tall glass jugs, tarros, which
can hold up to six pitchers of beer. As this is a mini-brewery, while
relaxing you can observe the vats in which the beer is made and at times see
the staff working on the production of the beer.
Apart from the house beers they also sell other beers and alcoholic drinks
plus other non-alcoholic drinks. If the walking around has made you hungry
they have a delightful array of dishes to satisfy your craving for food. The
restaurant specializes in light fare, including grilled seafood, charcoaled
meats and brochettes.
Adding to the atmosphere of the location is that they have retained some of
the original warehouse racking while on the outside are preserved railway
locomotives. The English translation of the name means Old Wood and Tobacco
Warehouse Brewery and the décor certainly gives you that warehouse feel
while at the same time providing a comfortable and spacious area. The
railroad engines outside are reminders of the early 1900's when the Havana
Central Railroad Company commissioned the construction of the adjacent
Castillo de La Real Fuerza (Castle of the Royal Force) is located just off
the Plaza de Armas in Havana at O’Relly and Avenida del Puerto. Construction
of this fort started in 1558 and was completed in 1577. It was built to
protect the port of Havana from English Privateers such as Francis Drake and
the navies of other nations, plus protect the Spanish galleons that gathered
in Havana to form the armada before setting off for Spain laden with the
treasures from South America. The fort is considered to be the oldest stone
fort in the Americas, and was listed in 1982 as part of the UNESCO World
Heritage site of "Old Havana and its Fortifications".
Restored with the original brick, this is a real fort complete with a moat.
While it is interesting to see the design of the fort and how it was
constructed for defense, the more interesting aspect of visiting this fort
are the artifacts contained within it. Many of these artifacts have been
recovered from the sea as they were contained in Spanish Galleons sunk over
the centuries. These artifacts include gold and silver bars, jewels,
jewellry and coins. Also included are artifacts recovered through
Another interesting feature of the fort are the models of Spanish and
English galleons, clippers, ships of the line and other vessels. It is
amazing to see the level of detail contained in the reproductions of these
vessels. In the 18th century the Royal Shipyard of Havana was one of the
largest in the world, and built nearly 200 ships for the Spanish Crown. One
of the ships that was constructed in Havana was the Santisima Trinidad,
built in 1769 and at the time was the largest ship in the world with 140
cannons on four gun decks. The Santisima Trinidad fought in the Battle of
Trafalgar in 1805 and within the fort is a four metre model of this vessel.
The second level of the museum hosts many other historic and contemporary
models of ships with links to Cuba and is also a good location for viewing
the harbour and city skyline.
At the top of fort is a watchtower that was added in 1634 and has a
weathervane sculpted in the form of a woman. Popular legend has it that the
weather vane is to honor Inés de Bobadilla, Havana's only female governor,
who assumed control from her husband Hernando de Soto when he undertook an
expedition to Florida. It is said that she spent years scanning the horizon
looking for her husband's return, not knowing that he had died on the banks
of the Mississippi River.
To learn more about Cuba, visit our other Cuba Pages