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Citizen Femme Guide To Cuba Part 4: Trinidad

Trinidad is a colonial town nestled on the hillside of the southern coast of Cuba. Founded in 1514, in the providence of Sancti Spíritus, it is one of Cuba’s oldest cities and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988.

As a result, strolling through town is like stepping into a different era. Some two-hundred miles from the hustle and bustle of Havana, horses gallop along charming cobblestone streets, and colonial churches, impressive 18th century mansions (most of which are now museums) and brightly coloured homes all glisten under the island sun.

Encircled by The Escambray Mountains and the crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea, Trinidad boasts impressive island views. After absorbing the rich history, with visits to Museo Contra Los Bandidos and the Palacio de Los Canteros, climb the tower and take in the panoramic scene. For an even more breathtaking experience wait until sunset.

As the sun descends, Trinidad gleams with a different kind of energy. The music grows louder beckoning locals and travelLers alike into its warm embrace. The city centre transforms into an open-air venue with live performances every night starting at 7PM. Music spills out into the streets from a multitude of restaurants and clubs, like Casa de la Música, inviting even the shyest travellers to partake in the rhythms of live bongos while sipping on hand-crafted mojitos.

Beyond the city walls, Trinidad is a haven for nature lovers. Its prime location near the mountains and coast allow visitors to hike to hidden lakes, climb tall peaks or explore secluded sandy shores. Trinidad overflows with activities and wonder, leaving you thirsty for more.


Must See – Natural Wonders

Waterfalls

A day trip in search of waterfalls is a must when visiting Trinidad. Surrounded by evergreen mountains and nature preserves, there is no shortage of parks or trails to choose from. Parque El Cubano and Topes de Collantes, for example, offer visitors an incredible journey into the region’s wilderness ending with a refreshing dip into cascading emerald pools. These make for magnificent photo ops. Most parks have a small entry fee and you’ll want to hire a driver or rent bikes to get to the trails. You’ll also need a local guide to accompany you. (That’s where CUBA CANDELA comes in)…

Birdwatching

The most amazing birds in the world live here! Trinitarios keep songbirds in their homes and you’ll find them out each morning singing and bathing in the warm sunlight. It’s a lovely way to awaken. However, it’s in the surrounding mountains and forests where you’ll find the real magic lives. Cuba boasts over 350 species of birds and over 25 endemic ones. In the Caribbean, Cuba is the number one in endemicity. Trinidad is a true wild sanctuary for these beautiful creatures. The Bee Hummingbird, the world’s smallest bird, can be found here, along with the Cuban Trogon or Tocororo (the island’s national bird), the tiny Cuban Tody with its distinctly bright green plumage, and the Cuban Pygmy Owl. It is stunning to witness these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.


Must Do – Cultural Experiences

Coffee Farm

Sample some very local brews! A visit to a coffee farm in the outskirts of Trinidad highlights the region’s unique climate and allows for meaningful interactions with local communities. CUBA CANDELA arranges visits to a small family farm, where you can meander through the vibrant herb and flower garden, learn about the lives and customs of local community members, and sip some of the strongest coffee in the world; hand grown and milled right in-front of you. Over coffee in the family’s home, travellers can go deeper and learn about the area’s most recent history, daily rituals, the staple diet, and horticulture.

Cave Dancing

An unmarked dirt road leads to La Cueva, a cave turned dance club on the northern outskirts of town. The cavernous disco is a favourite hangout for locals and adventurous travellers who get wind of it through the grapevine. Approaching the club entrance, it is utterly silent. The scene only comes alive upon descending a long flight of stairs and walking through a tunnel (watch out for bats!) Here’s where the space opens up. Inside you’ll find the bar, carved out of the cave rock, and a bumping and crowded dance floor surrounded by colourfully illuminated stalactites and stalagmites. Embrace the surreal experience that is dancing to a mix of Cubaton (Cuban Reggaetón), local classics, and Top 40 dance hits in a hot, natural cave, bathed in multicoloured disco lights, with bats, Trinitarios and foreigners alike. The club opens at 10 pm each night. Admission fee is just a couple CUC (local currency), which also gets you a free drink. Make it a classic mojito (you are in Cuba after all) or try a canchánchara (a local beverage of rum, lime and honey). Cheers!


Where to eat

Manantial

Just around the bend, at the foot of a mountain along the Escambray range, is an idyllic and family run restaurant where they grow and raise their own food. The lush surroundings are serene and inviting. The property, which includes eco-lodging accommodations, feels like a dreamy secluded treehouse enveloped in think greenery.

Lunch is served by the emerald pool and fragrant gardens growing everything from endemic flowers and veggies, to fruta bomba (papaya), bananas and pineapple. The restaurant is vegetarian and vegan friendly, and serves delectable homegrown vegetables and simple, yet sumptuous classics. Try the tender and delicious farm raised fish with a bit of citrus, or the juicy fried chicken. Both are served with rice and a side salad. Have a cold beer, sit back and enjoy. The light is soft and sweet, there is a lullaby of bird sounds and countless fluttering butterflies dance among the flowers.

Guitarra Mia

In the middle of town and brimming with music, this small guitar-themed restaurant packs a punch in both atmosphere and flavour. The quaint dining room has exposed brick accents and is decorated with antique furniture, photos and clocks, local artwork and of course many guitars. A warm and friendly staff greet diners and offer very attentive service. The moving sounds of an acoustic guitar fills the air. Even the menu, carved out of wood, is guitar shaped. The wine begins to flow, and dishes appear one at a time. Each dish is presented beautiful and continue the musical theme with guitar shaped garnishes and treble clef designs painted in colourful, herb infused sauces on your plate. Given the location, we highly recommend trying the seafood. The mixed soup is aromatic and teeming with ocean flavour. The fried fish is impeccably crusted and served with a smooth malanga pure. The flan is creamy and perfectly sweet. Come hungry as the portions are quite generous.


Where to shop

Art galleries

Work from resident artists and visiting ones from around the island fill the many art galleries that line the cobblestone streets of Trinidad’s colonial centre. Pop into any one of them to learn more about the local art scene and purchase some pieces to add to your home collection. From colourful pictorial exhibits inspired by the area’s vibrant natural landscapes and wildlife, to deeply captivating portraits, expressive pieces inspired by the rhythms and history of the region, and modernist colour studies, there is something for every art lover to gush over. The Lazaro Niebla Gallery is particularly special. Here the local artist hand carves portraits out of reclaimed wood, like shutters and doors, at times incorporating industrial design elements into his pieces.

Arts & Craft market

Near the main square down a public cobblestone street is Trinidad’s open-air market. The city was declared a World Craft City in 2018, and with reason. Travellers can find artfully made hats, metal work, woodcarvings, fabulous jewelry, musical instruments, masks, clothing items and beautiful purses, all handmade.

But the most captivating of all is the region’s rich tradition of needle work. Keeping their artistic heritage alive, female needle workers here create the most intricate and delicate lace, large scale embroidery, and expertly knit, gorgeously designed clothing. To witness a master at work and support local women, we highly recommend stopping by Galería “La Escalera” and checking out some of Caridad Altuna’s impressive and impeccably technical work.

To read more about our Cuba series, click here

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