Discovering Trinidad & Cienfuegos
After staying first five days in Havana, we decided to visit Trinidad and Cienfuegos. Instead of going directly to Trinidad, we wanted to visit la Finca Vigia, where Ernest Hemingway used to live, and the city of Santa Clara. In this case the best option was to hire the driver, as the bus does not make this complicated route. Our driver, Jorge, was the loveliest man. He made us the tour for very reasonable price of 180 CUC (finally we paid him 190, as he was very nice to us). First we visited La Finca Vigia (just 20 minutes away from Havana) but unfortunately it was closed for some renovations works. After we drove to Santa Clara and made a stop at Che Guevara Museum (It’s a quick stop, no need of more than half an hour to see everything). Afterwards we went to have a lunch at the famous restaurant La Casona Guevara (one of the best in Santa Clara), and then we took 3 hours to walk around the center of the city. We were quite surprised as it is very different from Havana. It’s full of young people (apparently because there are many universities). The architecture was similar, but buildings are lower. We also visited the beautiful theatre La Caridad, which is a national monument of Cuba. It was built in 19th century and it is one of the few remaining colonial theatres in Cuba. The visit costs only 1CUC and it’s totally worth it.
Even if we stayed only 3-4 hours in Santa Clara, I was very happy to have had discovered a new place. After we went to Trinidad, the small lovely town, which later would become my favourite place in Cuba.
What to do in Trinidad
Trinidad, a small city built in the 16th century and now a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site, not only futures colourful houses, cobble streets but also has a lot of other beautiful sights to offer:
- Stroll through the historic centre of Trinidad
Trinidad is a place where you should walk around and enjoy their small colourful houses. Classic cars in combination with the architecture make a perfect setting to take pictures and save them for your travel album. Also, there are a lot of art galleries in the historic center of Trinidad. Some of them are full of typical paintings of vintage cars, but in other ones you can find some local artists’s work and they are quite good. I fell in love with one painting and I did not have enough cash with me, so I decided to go back the day after before leaving. Unfortunately, the day after it was raining and some of the galleries were closed, so I never found my painting and I was really sad.
- Casa de la Musica
Every day starting from 10pm the locals organise salsa shows/classes at the staircase in front of the Casa de la Musica. It’s a fun way to experience and participate their favourite dance.
- Playa Ancon
A 10min drive (between 6-10 CUC by Taxi) just outside of the city you’ll find a beautiful and long stretched beach. At the beach you’ll find the Hotel Ancon, where the beach tends to be a bit more busy, but it’s a better spot for drinks and food. If you are looking for a calmer spot you can walk a bit to the right where you’ll find wooden umbrellas and small bars. The southern coast of Cuba is more calm and at there are practically no waves at Playa Ancon, which makes it a perfect swim and snorkel spot. You can also take a bicycle from Trinidad to Playa Ancon. The road is mostly flat and you can drive along the beautiful coastline.
- Topes de Collantes
Topes de Collantes is kind of a natural park in the Escambray Mountain range north of Trinidad. You can get there by Taxi our use a guided Tour, which you can book in Trinidad. The most popular hike is to the Caburni Falls, a fresh water pool with a waterfall. The hike is about 3km and will take you about 30-40min.
Where to stay
We spent 3 nights at Roberto & Nena’s home in the historic part of Trinidad. They live in a beautiful old colonial house. The interior is quite colourful with old tile floors and a charming patio. They have 3 different rooms with air-conditioning and a bathroom for rent. Our stay with Roberto & Nena was probably one of our most favourite of the trip, just because Roberto and his family were such lovely hosts. Roberto prepared one of the best breakfasts (5CUC per person) we had on our trip and he would always be open for a nice chat and share his experience with us. We watched the news with him at night and he would explain us things and give us a bit more background info. He showed us everything about his passion for baseball (one of the most popular sports in Cuba)
A few other recommendations. Trinidad has a vibrant restaurant scene with many new privately owned restaurants (paladar) and there’s definitely enough options to choose from. Some of our favourites are El Dorado, Taberna La Botija, Trinidad Colonial, La Redaccion and La Cecilla (little juice shop with great juices!)
Cienfuegos is another city with a totally different vibe compared to Havana and Trinidad. The city feels more like a beach town where people come to spend their weekends and to relax. It’s probably one of the cleanest cities we have visited in Cuba. We stayed for 2 days in Cienfuegos. First we thought that would be enough, but once Olga, our host, showed us and told us about all the things we could do around Cienfuegos, we would have wished to stay a bit longer. So here is the list of things you can do in this beautiful city.
What to do in Cienfuegos
- Discovering the architecture in Cienfuegos
First of all, you have to stroll around the city and discover it’s beautiful architecture. Completely different from Trinidad, looks a bit like Havana, but has its own charm. There are some must visit addresses, like Ferrer Palace situated at the end of Bulevar, at Plaza José Marti. After visiting this beautiful building you can continue walking down the Paseo del Prado until La Punta Gorda, where you’ll discover one of the most beautiful palaces of Cienfuegos, called Palacio del Valle. It’s a quite long walk, you could also take a bici-taxi or just a cab, but we wanted to discover the neighbourhood and walked the whole peninsula. Valle Palace is known for it’s beautiful sunset views and it’s interesting architecture.
- Playa Rancho de Luna
Rancho Luna is the closest beach around Cienfuegos. It reminded me a little bit Playa Ancon from Trinidad, as the sea is very quite. You should definitely go and stay at least half a day to chill and enjoy some sun. I found some of the most beautiful shells for my collection on this beach.
- Guanaroca Lagoon
Unfortunately we did not have time to visit the lagoon, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s famous for pink flamingos. You should visit the place in the morning, between 07:00 and 09:00am. You can take a quiet and relaxing boat trip around the lagoon and enjoy the beauty if these magnificent birds.
- El Nicho
We did not visit El Nicho neither (I regret it very much). Hidden in the Mountains of Cienfuegos it’s is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Cuba. El Nicho is a collection of dozen of waterfalls and natural pools surrounded by remarkable landscapes.
Where to stay in Cienfuegos
During our stay in Cienfuegos we spent two nights at Olga & Pepe’s home, which is perfectly situated between the Bulevar and the Viazul Bus station. I would recommend their Casa Particular, since our stay was very comfortable. We enjoyed a lot Pepe’s home cooked food and Olga was always available to help us. We even did very much needed laundry at their place for a very reasonable price of 3 CUC.
Where to eat:
After Trinidad and Cienfuegos, we went back to Havana to spend our last 4 days there. I have to say, even if we had 2 weeks to explore Cuba, it was not enough! There were a lot of things left that we did not see around Trinidad and Cienfuegos, and I’d love to go back soon.
I hope this post is gonna be helpful for your next trip to Cuba. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or DM me on Instagram.
In case you have missed it, you can find our first guide to Havana here.
Lot’s of love.