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Snapshot: Trinidad

September 16, 2020

This former sugar town has some of the best preserved architecture in Latin America

With its terracotta-tiled roofs and brightly coloured buildings, Trinidad is a wonderfully well-preserved example of a wealthy Caribbean sugar town. Dating back to the 16th century, this coastal city is one of the country’s most popular destinations thanks to the cobblestone streets, beautiful churches and wonderful architecture that remains so nicely intact.

An aerial view of Trinidad skyline including the Convent of Saint Assisi.
An aerial view of Trinidad skyline including the Convent of Saint Assisi.

The architecture is UNESCO-listed to safeguard the town that was established in 1514 by conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar. It has the best examples of well-preserved colonial architecture of anywhere in the country or, arguably, of anywhere in Latin America.

Plaza Mayor, the main square in the city, is a great place to start exploring. At one end of the square sits the largest church in Cuba the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad. At the other end is the Convento de San Francisco. The building has variously acted as a convent, church and jail, is now the home of the National Museum of the Struggle Against Bandits – which tells of the capture of opponents of the 1959 Revolution. Climb to the top of the yellow and green bell tower for gorgeous views over the city.

A view of the Plaza Mayor in Trinidad, Cuba.
A view of the Plaza Mayor in Trinidad, Cuba.

The Museum of Colonial Architecture gives visitors a deeper understanding of the types of buildings and architecture styles in the city, as well as showing off a number of customised decorative features that were used in these buildings.

One great example of a colonial mansion is Palacio Brunet – formerly owned by the sugar baron Conde de Brunet in the mid 19th century, it is today a museum featuring art and furniture from the original house. Also showing off the city’s architecture at its finest is Casa de Aldeman Ortiz once the home of a slave trader and former mayor of the city it is now an art school and gallery.

Palacio Brunet, a colonial building in the village centre, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Palacio Brunet, a colonial building in the village centre, a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The sugar trade, and the slave trade that built up around it, made some families incredibly rich in Trinidad. And many of the disused sugar mills and slave dormitories can be seen at the Valley of the Sugar Mills. There are even watch towers still standing, from where runaway slaves were spotted.

Valley de los Ingenios with abandoned sugar mills and dormitories, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Valley de los Ingenios with abandoned sugar mills and dormitories, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Like most Cuban towns music plays a huge part in the city’s life and Trinidad is no except. Locals hang around the Casa de la Musica off the Plaza Mayor listening to live musicians who perform at the square and drinking in the evening sunshine.

People strolling in front of Casa de la Musica.
People strolling in front of Casa de la Musica.

Just to the north of the city is the vast National Park – a great place to explore the mountains on foot or horseback and discover the caves and waterfalls at Topes De Collantes. Twenty minutes south of the town centre is Playa Ancon – one of the best beaches on the island and a great place to snorkel or dive the reefs and corals. Ancon is also a great place to sit back with a mojito and watch the local fishermen come and go bringing in their catch, some of which is then served at the beachfront restaurants.

The beautiful Ancon Beach full of tourists.
The beautiful Ancon Beach full of tourists.

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