Nudging the emerald Escambray mountains, Trinidad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Cuba’s most charming towns. So perfectly preserved are the quaint colonial buildings, the entire town feels as though it’s trapped in a time warp from the 18th century. Stroll the winding cobbled streets here to discover a trove of architectural treasures, from colorful colonial mansions to historic churches and pastel-painted bell towers with panoramic views. Most of the buildings span the 17th to 19th centuries when the town prospered from the sugar and slave trades.

Trinidad is also a great base for day trips to the mountains and the sea. From here, sightseers can hike to waterfalls in the Sierra del Escambray; bike to the pretty Playa Ancon, a palapa-studded beach; or venture into the Valle de Los Ingenios, yet another World Heritage-listed gem.

1. Plaza Mayor

The picturesque Plaza Mayor lies in the historical center of Trinidad and is an ideal place to start a sightseeing tour of the city. Many of Trinidad’s top tourist attractions lie on or near the Plaza Mayor, including the fascinating Museo Historico Municipal, the famous Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad, and other museums and architectural gems. After exploring the pretty colonial mansions and museums that preside over this palm-studded square, visitors can relax at one of the nearby restaurants or alfresco cafés. It’s an evocative spot to pull up a seat, order a cool drink, and imagine what life must have been like here when wealthy sugar barons sauntered along the cobbled streets.

2 Palacio Cantero (Museo Historico Municipal)

The Museo Historico Municipal in Trinidad is housed in the beautiful neoclassical Palacio Cantero. Built in the early 1800s, the mansion has an air of grandeur throughout with Italian marble floors and large open rooms. The museum explores the history of Trinidad and the surrounding areas. On display are documents and maps, as well as exhibits on the World Heritage-listed Valle de los Ingenios, the industry of slave trading, and the wars of independence. After browsing the exhibits, visitors should ascend the steep spiral stairs of the tower for a panoramic view of the city and Caribbean Sea. It’s particularly beautiful at sunset.

3 Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad

On the upper end of the Plaza Mayor, the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad wears a simple sun-bleached Neoclassical façade, which belies its interior treasures. This is the largest church in Cuba and houses a much-worshipped statue known as Christ of the True Cross or Senor de la Vera Cruz. This 18th-century wooden statue was bound for a church in Vera Cruz, Mexico from its place of origin in Spain. But strong winds thwarted the ship’s arrival at its destination and the ship landed in Casilda instead, just a short distance from Trinidad. The captain decided to leave the statue behind when he set sail, and the Senor de la Vera Cruz was brought here where it still graces the church today. Interior highlights of the church are the vaulted ceilings and a series of impressive altars carved from cedar and mahogany. Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad is also renowned for its fine acoustics.

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