Trinidad was our last stop of our Cuban adventure. Let’s just say that getting to Trinidad was an adventure in itself! We decided to get a collectivo as it is about a 6 hour journey compared to 10 hours it would take on the bus. After our journey we realized there is definitely a reason the journey in a taxi is 4 hours shorter...they drive like maniacs! We were squashed in an old 1950s Lada with another travel couple with no seatbelts in the back. We drove at about 140kms dodging potholes and swerving in an out of our lane as our driver over took other cars at some pretty risky places! There were a few times I swear the oncoming truck missed us by about a meter! In hindsight, the 4 hours we spent clutching our seats and holding each other in fear, we would have rather spent the extra few hours in a bus. Anyway...we got there in one piece...probably a few more grey hairs but one piece at least!
Trinidad is a small colonial town which became wealthy during the sugar plantation days. The cobblestone roads are lined with beautiful colorful buildings. We stayed in a Casa Particular that was booked for us by our host in Havana. Again, I couldn’t get over the welcome and grand hospitality of our hosts; anything you asked for they arranged.
We spent our first afternoon strolling the picturesque streets of Trinidad and climbing the bell tower for an instagram worthy photo overlooking the town. Trinidad even feels a lot wealthier than Havana. The buildings, while still slightly run down, are more well kept and in tact. It really is such a pretty little place.
We had dinner at a rooftop terrace restaurant called Monte Y Mar. The setting was quite nice but again, very Cuban food. After dinner we checked out the famous Casa de la Musica for some mojitos and live music. This place is an institution in Trinidad. Located right in the town square (Plaza Mayor), it’s concrete steps surrounded with little ‘hole in the wall’ bars, has become a meeting spot for both tourists and locals. It is also one of the few places that gets WiFi in the town, so you see many people perched on a step getting their daily internet fix. It is an alfresco venue that hosts a lively salsa music and dance concert at 10pm most nights. The upbeat music and talented dancers mixed with Cuban rum creates a pretty magical atmosphere.
After a few mojitos it was was time for us to check out Disco Ayala - a nightclub located in some caves at the back end of the town. On the walk up the the caves, local people have turned their front porches into little bars serving mojitos for $1. Very innovative of them I thought! They all claimed to serve the best mojitos in Trinidad so we just had to stop and try a few. It would be rude not to!
If heading to the caves, definitely wear comfortable shoes! The scramble up the loose rocky hill at the end would be disastrous in anything higher than a flat shoe! After paying our $6 entrance fee which included a drink (the cheapest club I’ve gone to in a long time!), we began our decent into the caves through a tunnel of many stairs. The atmosphere of being in a cave turned nightclub was pretty amazing! The more responsible side of me quickly noted the lack of emergency exits, however I downed a few mojitos and enjoyed dancing to the DJs music. It seems that this place is a great meeting spot for both locals and tourists - definitely we’ll worth a visit.
As our our alarms went off early the next morning, we were instantly regretting committing to a horse riding tour. The ‘few’ mojitos the night before had turned into a few too many! We found Cuba had a habit of doing this to us! Anyway, after an impressive breakfast spread put on by our host on their terrace, we got picked up and taken about 2 minutes out of town to an area full of stables.
After the let down of booking a horse riding tour in Viñales only to discover our guide didn’t like horses and it was actually a 5 hour walking tour, we thought we would make up for it in Trinidad. I had read that a horse tour of the Valley de Ingenio was a must-do. Unfortunately, it wasn’t!
Both Dyl and I love animals, and he was brought up around horses, so to arrive at the stables to see some very malnourished and unhappy looking horses was quite a disappointment. By the look on the other travelers faces, we were not the only ones that felt this way! To make it worse, for some reason they put Dyl (who was the biggest guy there) on the skinniest looking horse! I spent the whole 5 hour excursion talking to my horse, telling him he was beautiful and thanking him for taking me on this ride (not that the poor thing had a choice!).
We rode through the valley which comprised of lots of green hills and farmland. The most impressive part of the day was where we stopped for some creole coffee. We sat around on tree stump stools while we watched one man hand roast the coffee beans, whilst the other one ground them by hand in a giant wooden morstle and pestle. These were given out by the government during the revolution to encourage farmers to grow their own coffee. He then made us coffee by mixing his hand ground beans with some water that was boiling over a fire. We got to enjoy a cup of this coffee which was particularly strong but one of the best coffees I have had! And of course, we got given a complimentary cigar to accompany our fresh brew. You know how it goes...when in Rome!
After a quick dip in a waterfall, we began our trip back on our horses, stopping for lunch on the way. I managed to save most of mine, which I brought out and fed to the horses. At least that made me feel a bit better about committing to this venture in the first place.
Salsa dancing is definitely one of those must-do things in Cuba. As I am a dancer, it was a no brainer to organize a salsa lesson for us. Dylan on the other hand was less enthused. Our host organized for a teacher to come and have a lesson with us on our terrace. A private lesson for an hour and a half cost us around $15! Bargain! We managed to learn a few moves which of course meant we had to return to Casa de la Musica to practice our new skill!
After cramming quite a lot in to our couple of days in Trinidad, we decided we needed a day to chill. Playa Ancon is known as one of Cuba’s best beaches so we had to check it out for ourselves. It was stunning, and thankfully the water was free of jellyfish unlike our visit to one of Havana’s beaches. There were a few guys selling cold drinks and beers, which made for a perfect day of relaxing, soaking up the sun and not doing much at all really! Cuba can be quite full on to travel at times, so to be able to balance it out with some beach days is by far the way to go!
We ended our relaxing day by chilling in the towns main square of Plaza Major and watching the sunset with a necessary mojito. We discovered restaurant Giroud near the square which served pretty tasty vegetarian food and awesome cocktails.
With the cobblestone streets and grand buildings, being in Trinidad transports you back to Europe. It certainly has a unique vibe to the rest of Cuba.
With just one more day in Havana, our Cuba trip was over. It was a completely unique experience, and I am glad I went now before tourism completely takes over. Through all its tough times, Cuba has retained its charm. There is one thing for sure though - the people is what make Cuba so desirable. Their welcome, curiosity and absolute love for their culture is what would draw you back.
I will be back to visit one day. Although one things for sure, I won’t be hopping in any collectivos when I do!