Not counting the Cayos (which are not really part of Cuba), Trinidad is up there at the top of the most touristy places in Cuba. Near the end of our trip we asked several people what they had liked the most in Cuba, and more often than not it was Trinidad that got the first prize.
Not so for us. Yes it is a very beautiful place. But, just as Havana Old Town, it is restored to a point where you wonder if it is real or if it is a film set. There are tons of restaurants, casas particulares, souvenir shops, bars, you name it, and the streets are flooded with tourists for most of the day.
And an awful lot they can be (probably me myself too, without realizing it). How about poking your camera into the open window of a classroom and taking pictures of the kids at school? Yes this is a zoo, we are here to look at the animals.
What I thought the most surprising, was that despite the thousands of tourists overrunning the town, the old people sitting at the side of the street or just at their open window, will still hello with a big smile to total strangers like us. You cannot beat the Cubans for friendliness!
Where to eat
There is an endless array of restaurants in Trinidad, head over to TripAdvisor or a similar place to find the ones people like most. Personally I can certainly recommend the Parranda, near the bottom of the Plaza Mayor, for food that is a bit different.
The restaurant is in fact in a walled garden, and during the day you can see a pig roasting over an open fire, with the fat dripping off it. In the evening the carve it up and serve it at a very reasonable 10€ per person. You need a bit of luck to get some of the juiciest parts, but it is fingerlicking good!
Playa Ancon is the best known beach in these parts. To get there you can try to catch the minibus from outside the Cubatur office, 5€ return per person, which goes 4-5 times per day. Much more flexible is to take a taxi (8€ for the ride, one way). There are lots of taxis waiting at Playa Ancon to take you back to town. And if you have your own wheels (cycle or car), I have heard the beaches nearer Trinidad are just as good and quieter, but I did not find out for myself.
Topes de Collantes
First of all: you can also get to Topes de Collantes from Cienfuegos. The local Cubatur office there organizes excursions to El Nicho. Judging from the pictures it looks like a very nice place, but we did not have the time to go there, so we went from Trinidad.
The Cubatur office is very efficient. When we were there, we found a lady at the counter who spoke at least 4 languages fluently (English, Spanish, French and Italian). They propose 3 different excursions to Topes de Collantes. We took the longest one, for 45€ per person.
You leave Trinidad in the back of a truck specially equipped with surprisingly comfortable chairs. Quite quickly you understand why they do not use normal buses: the roads into Topes de Collantes are very steep indeed.
The first stop is at a viewpoint where have a panoramic view on the plane below with Trinidad and the sea. Then you go to the tourist centre of Topes de Collantes, where you pick up the guide. Apart from a visitor centre there isn’t really much to see around here, except for the huge sanatorium which Batista built for his wife.
Next is a place where you can see different varieties of coffee plants and of course you can taste and buy coffee.
The truck then drops you off somewhere in the forest, from where a fairly easy walk starts for 4-5 km. You’ll see some waterfalls, a lot of vegetation and at one point you can swim in a small lake (there is even a rudimentary changing cabin provided!). At the end of the walk you arrive at a restaurant (la Gallega) in the middle of nowhere, where the truck is already waiting to take you back to Trinidad but not before a nice (but standard) meal of roast chicken.
As an exception to the general rule, the Viazul terminal is in walking distance from the town centre. And unlike other offices, they only require 30 minutes to check in, not the standard full hour.