The first sound in the mornings is the clip-clop of horse’s hooves on the cobbled streets followed by the cries of old men selling bread from bicycles (El pan! El pan!). Open your eyes, gaze up at the high wooden louvers of your 200-year-old colonial room, and try to convince yourself you’re still living in the 21st century.
Trinidad is one-of-a-kind, a perfectly preserved Spanish colonial settlement where the clocks stopped ticking in 1850 and – apart from the tourists – have yet to restart. Built on huge sugar fortunes amassed in the adjacent Valle de los Ingenios during the early 19th century, the riches of the town's pre–War of Independence heyday are still very much in evidence in illustrious colonial-style mansions bedecked with Italian frescoes, Wedgwood china and French chandeliers.
Declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1988, Trinidad's secrets quickly became public property, and it wasn't long before busloads of visitors started arriving to sample the beauty of Cuba's oldest and most enchanting 'outdoor museum'. Yet tourism has done little to deaden Trinidad's gentle southern sheen. The town retains a quiet, almost soporific air in its rambling cobbled streets replete with leather-faced guajiros (country folk), snorting donkeys and melodic, guitar-wielding troubadours.
Ringed by sparkling natural attractions, Trinidad is more than just a potential PhD thesis for history buffs. Twelve kilometers to the south lies platinum-blond Playa Ancón, the south coast's best beach, while looming 18km to the north the purple-hued shadows of the Sierra del Escambray (Escambray Mountains) offer a lush adventure playground.
With its Unesco price tag and a steady stream of overseas visitors, Trinidad, not surprisingly, has an above-average quota of prowling jineteros, though mostly they're more annoying than aggressive.
Best places to stay in Trinidad
Cuba's architectural highlights: 'music turned to stone'
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Trinidad destination guides
Explore a side of Cuba that few rarely get to experience on this 9-day adventure. Cruise Havana’s history-infused streets in a classic car and stroll along Trinidad’s cobblestone avenues to the rhythms of music floating from open windows. Tour a tobacco plantation for a taste of iconic Cuban culture and luxuriate in the view of the island’s rolling western hills.
Central Cuba Adventure
Enjoy the sights and sounds of central Cuba on this week-long adventure to some of the famous sites that have drawn outsiders to this magical island over the last several decades. Journey through history-infused Havana and the cobblestoned streets of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then head to Cienfuegos for some relaxing at the beach and a tour of its impressive bay.