The true showstopper in Cuba for me wasn’t Havana, but Trinidad, a city founded by the Spanish that dates back to 1514 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I wasn’t sure if it’d be worth the long drive to get there – the city is located pretty much in the middle of the island, halfway between Havana in the north and Santiago in the far south; around 6 hours on a bus from Havana. But I am so glad that we decided to add it to our itinerary, despite the distance from Havana and Viñales, our first two stops.
Trinidad looked like it hadn’t changed much since the Spanish founded it in the 16th century – colonial houses line cobblestone streets, there are several Spanish-colonial churches and neatly arranged plazas, and horse carts outnumber cars. When people say that a trip to Havana feels like a trip back to the 1950s (because of all the American vintage cars from that time), it’s safe to say that a trip to Trinidad feels like a trip back to the 16th century.
In Trinidad, we got to really soak up Cuban life. With four nights here, we had plenty of time to experience Cuban culture, watch people dance salsa in the town square and in the bars every night, watch locals meet for a chat or a glass of rum in one of the benches that lined all the plazas, and artists draw paintings in the many galleries.
Every time we wandered around town we found a new street that was oozing with character, another crumbling church, another shop that looked more like a museum than a store, with items written on a chalk board and old-fashioned scales on the counter. The rolling hills surrounding the town and the nearby ocean (the popular beach Playa Ancon is only eight miles from Trinidad) only add to the attraction of this picturesque little town. Trust me: Trinidad is not to be missed on a trip to Cuba!