Trinidad, Cuba is a dream-like city-museum, carefully and colorfully preserved as it was at the height of the 19th century sugar boom. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, Trinidad’s main plaza and surrounding cobblestone streets features pastel-colored edifices and red terra cotta tiled roofs. Now in its 500th anniversary year, vibrant Trinidad was recently ranked as one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 destinations to travel in 2014. It is one of the best-preserved colonial cities in the entire Caribbean.
Situated near the sparkling Caribbean sea on the southern coast of Cuba, amid the Escambray mountains, Trinidad has narrow streets jumbled with mansions once inhabited by rich slave-holding landowners. The splendor seen today was built largely on fortunes amassed during a sugar boom in the nearby Valle de los Ingenios.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the town’s Spanish merchants invested their riches in opulent mansions. Their walls were decorated, beautiful wrought ironwork and woods installed, artistic balconies built, and crystal, porcelain and all sorts of valuable antiques stuffed inside their homes.
When the trade in sugar diminished and the slave trade ended, many merchants moved on to central America and little architectural work occurred until the 1950s. As a result, many of the historic buildings and streets were well preserved, and today many of them are open to the public as museums. Vintage and antique furniture, ornaments, housewares and art are on display, giving visitors a peek into a unique time of rich Cuban prosperity.
Trinidad is a traveler’s delight with horse drawn carriages, cobblestone streets and a distinct village feel. Though strongly rooted in the past, the city lives on strong and true, with local arts and craft stalls selling high quality linen and lace, and live reggaeton and salsa music spilling out on the streets after dark. Fiestas and cultural events will continue to take place throughout 2014 to mark the town’s 500th anniversary, attracting more and more tourists eager to take a journey back in time.