Trinidad is perhaps the most popular tourist destination in Cuba, and it’s easy to see why it has been called “the museum city of Cuba.” This meticulously preserved town which used to be the commercial heart of Cuba was where huge wealth was accumulated. It offers a window into the past, from its sprawling colonial palaces and plazas to its remnants of sugar mills and slave barracks from another era. Soak up the rich Spanish colonial architecture by taking a stroll through the picturesque cobblestone streets of this very walkable city. No cars can get into the city centre, just donkeys and horse carriages.
Trinidad was founded in 1514, and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Many of its most striking buildings are situated around Trinidad’s central public square, Plaza Mayor. Be sure to make time for a trip to the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills) to see the ruins of dozens of 19th century sugar mills located just outside the city.
The Holy Trinity Church, (Iglesias de la Santisima Trinidad)
Situated just off of the famed Plaza Mayor is The Holy Trinity Church in the heart of Trinidad, Cuba. The Church of the Holy Trinity was constructed between 1817 and 1892 on the site of a previous church that dated all the way back to the 17th century. The church is one of the most significant landmarks of the city. Its interior is in the Victorian and Gothic styles with a large, imposing altar that is beautifully decorated.
Museum of Colonial Architecture
For visitors who would like to learn more about the intricacies of Trinidad’s colonial architecture, the Museo de Arquitectura Colonial delves into the details. The Sanchez Iznaga mansion houses the museum and consists of two blue 18th-century buildings that were combined in the early 19th century. Within its interior are displays of architectural trimming such as doors, handles, locks, windows, and grills, as well as a recreated 19th-century bathroom. The Museo de Arquitectura Colonial also offers guided walking tours through the historic streets of Trinidad, helping to give visitors a richer appreciation of the town’s magnificent buildings.
The yellow-hued Palacio Brunet houses the Museo Romantico, which offers a window into the world of wealthy sugar baron, Conde de Brunet. Built in the early 19th century, this attractive colonial mansion was owned by Brunet from 1830 to 1860, an era referred to as the Romantic period. The museum’s collection comprises items from several wealthy Trinidad families, but is primarily the Brunet’s possessions. Among the displays are exquisite glass and porcelain pieces, artwork, and antique furniture from the period.
Palacio Cantero (Museo Historico Municipal)
The Museo Historico Municipal in Trinidad is housed in the beautiful neoclassical Palacio Cantero. Built in the early 1800s, the mansion has an air of grandeur throughout with Italian marble floors and large open rooms. The museum explores the history of Trinidad and the surrounding areas. On display are documents and maps, as well as exhibits on the World Heritage-listed Valle de los Ingenios, the industry of slave trading, and the wars of independence. After browsing the exhibits, visitors should ascend the steep spiral stairs of the tower for a panoramic view of the city and Caribbean Sea. It’s particularly beautiful at sunset.
The picturesque Plaza Mayor lies at the historical center of Trinidad and is an ideal place to start a sightseeing tour of the city. Many of Trinidad’s top tourist attractions lie on or near the Plaza Mayor, including the fascinating Museo Historico Municipal, the famous Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad, and other museums and architectural gems. After exploring the pretty colonial mansions and museums that preside over this palm-studded square, visitors can relax at one of the nearby restaurants or alfresco cafés. It’s an evocative spot to pull up a seat, order a cool drink, and imagine what life must have been like here when wealthy sugar barons sauntered along the cobbled streets.
Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco (Museo Nacional de Lucha Contra Bandidos)
A distinctive landmark in Trinidad with its pretty yellow and green bell tower, the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco claims an eventful history. Built in 1813 by the Franciscans, this former convent was taken over and turned into a parish church in the mid 1800s, and later became a jail before much of the structure was torn down in the 1920s. Only some of the outer buildings and the bell tower still stand.
Today, this picturesque building accommodates the Museo Nacional de Lucha Contra Bandidos (National Museum of the Struggle against Bandits). Fans of Cuba’s revolutionary history should devote some time to exploring the intriguing exhibits here. On display are photographs, documents, and equipment associated with the counter revolutionary forces or ‘bandits’ of 1959, and the problems and battles that ensued. After browsing the museum, sightseers can lighten the mood atop the bell tower, which affords beautiful views over the city.
About 7 miles (12 km) south of Trinidad, Playa Ancon, on the Peninsula Ancon, is one of the prettiest beaches on the south coast of Cuba. A coral reef bristles just offshore, and the 4-kilometer stretch of white sand fringes crystal clear seas in dreamy shades of blue. For a fun day out, many sightseers rent bikes in Trinidad and cycle to Playa Ancon; the trip takes about 40 minutes.
A short boat ride from Playa Ancon, Cayo Blanco is popular for day trips. In addition to basking on the island’s white sand beaches, visitors can dive and snorkel in the largest black coral reef in Cuba.
Valle de Los Ingenious (Valley of the Sugar Mills)
East of Trinidad, on the road to Sancti Spiritus, lies the lush Valle de los Ingenios with gorgeous scenery of green sugar cane fields, palms trees, and mountains. The Valley de los Ingenios was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it stretches more than 25 miles between Trinidad and Sancti Spiritus, offering great views to the quaint countryside with castles, old haciendas and slave houses.
Tours of the valley should include a number of key sights. The Mirador de La Loma del Puertos, an elevated lookout, offers the best views of the entire Valle de los Ingenios. The 44-meter high Manaca Iznaga tower is also not to be missed. Visitors can climb the tower for more views, and dine at the restaurant in the house next door. Another historic house turned restaurant is the Casa Guachinango, owned in the 18th century by Don Mariano Borrell, a well-known name in the history of the region. Here, visitors will find another stunning view of the landscape, which also takes in the river, Rio Ay.
Trinidad’s picture-perfect location, between mountains and the Caribbean coastline, offers an abundance of natural attractions.