The first rays of sun shoot out over the silhouetted ridges of the valley, slowly beginning to reveal the bright colors stained across the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trinidad, Cuba. My eyes still adjusting from the sun, I sit on the terrace at my hostel and take in the slight cool breeze which will disappear in a few moments.
I stare out from the mountains to the sea, still unsure of how one place could be so picturesque. As my eyes survey the now awakened streets, I know that I had not yet seen the town in its full glory and felt the need to go higher up, farther out, and seek out the most beautiful places within the city limits. Here is a guide to few of the many best scenic vistas, or “buenas vistas” of Trinidad, a color-soaked colonial town in the heart of a pristinely kept tropical landscape that yearns to be photographed.
Best view of el Valle de los Ingenios: La Barranca
Trinidad’s colonial setting is a beauty on its own, but what adds to the architecturally-pleasing town is the valley of lush green rolling mountains surrounding the city known as el Valle de los Ingenios. Located on the outskirts of the city, La Barranca offers an unhindered view of the valley. Getting here takes some knowledge of the city and a watchful eye as no tourists usually visit the neighborhood. La Barranca is the name of the district on the far northwestern side of Trinidad, by taking the street, Juan Manuel Felijó, all the way to the end of the road where to the right you will see a large opening overlooking the valley. From this vantage point you can enjoy the bright greenery of the 43-mile-long mountain range that stretches between the city of Cienfuegos and Trinidad.
At the foothills of the valley and old sugar plantation can be spotted, adding a touch of history into the vista as well. At the end of the winding dirt road in the forefront of the view, two large stone columns mark the entrance in which Trinidad’s colonial heritage can be remembered. If you’re looking for a place to see the wilder side of Trinidad without the aching legs from a two-hour hike, La Barranca, just a five-minute walk from Plaza Mayor, offers an equally incredible view of the valley, a secret well kept by locals.
Best view of the town: Museo de la Lucha Contra Bandidos
The palm trees protruding above the sun-faded red-orange roofs, and the small glimpse of the brightly painted walls down the cobblestone streets is a view only truly captured here, the bell tower of the Museo de la Lucha Contra Bandidos (Museum of the Anti-Bandit Struggle).
Arguably one of the most iconic and photographed buildings of Trinidad, the museum stands out among the low-set neighboring buildings, but what might not be known is that inside the museum is also a great place to photograph the city. The museum’s bell tower is open to visitors to walk the five floors to the top. There are six different levels to look out on the city, one of my favorites being halfway up the fourth floor on the right. This view, a circular “peep-hole” out to the valley and the terracotta roofs of the western side of Trinidad, offers a place to sit while resting your legs for the two more flights of stairs and a nice place to take a quick picture.
When reaching the 6th floor, four large domed openings, one one each side, offer equally beautiful vistas of the town. Looking out to the east, spot the Plaza Mayor, the main square of the town, and in the background a small sliver of turquoise water of the Caribbean Sea.
It is important to note that the museum is open every day, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., so no sunset or sunrise views are possible. Similarly, depending on the time of day of your visit, the tower can get quite busy and taking photographs can get difficult as it is a popular tourist destination.
Best restaurant with a view: Restaurante Marín Villafuerte
While walking up towers to get the perfect shot is great for the family of sightseers, those who enjoy the relaxation of a nice glass of wine and some tapas with an equally beautiful view should head to the rooftop terrace of Restaurante Marín Villafuerte. While listening to the harmonious strums of the house band, look over the rooftops and see a 360-degree view of Trinidad with no obstructions. Sit down and watch the tourists trek up the stairs of the Museo de la Lucha Contra Bandidos and the sun begin to sink into the sea, creating the orange and pink watercolor-painted sky illuminating the buildings before the vast abundancy of stars begin to reveal themselves.
My legs quiver from countless flights of stairs and unbalanced streets in an effort to seek out the best overlooks of the town. I lay tired on the bed feeling content with my efforts and think over the photographs I was able to capture. Through dedication and a little help from some locals I managed to find what I believe to be some of the best ways to not only see but also understand Trinidad at the level it deserves to be appreciated.