Exploring Trinidad and the 'Valle de Los Ingenios'

Trinidad Travel Blog

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The next day, an early rise to first exchange money and then, an entire day of exploring Trinidad and the nearby ‘Valle de los Ingenios” (Valley of the Sugar Mills). Since we’d had to pay for our casa in cash, we had to change money twice and had already gotten to know the security guard at the bank, a friendly fellow who was clearly curious about those clearly-not-European-but-not-really-Latin-looking tourists talking a language sounding liking Spanish. ;-) Like most Cubans, he hadn’t really heard about Aruba but the ‘Antillas Neerlandesas’ were familiar and of course, the fact that we are located so close to Venezuela (and ‘nuestro amigo Chavez’) is always reason for some enthusiasm.

The bank was an interesting affair, like being transported back into time to when I visited the bank as a little girl with my mother.

No computers of course, an old fashioned calculator, and our friend the security guard telling everybody (there was quite a line!) where to stand, sit and whose turn it was.

We spent a pleasant enough morning wandering around in the small town, exploring the sights, mostly along the Plaza Mayor, where the majority of tourist sites are located. There were very few people around, maybe because of the midday heat.

The pretty cobblestoned Plaza is dominated by the church, the Iglesia de la Santisima Trinidad, which was unfortunately closed so we couldn’t take a peek. We observed a couple of characters posed photogenically in front of the church (an old man with his donkey, another one in an old-fashioned suit with a hu-uge cigar) for tourists to take a pic (for a small fee) of a ‘typical’ Cuban (hmmm….

). Unfortunately for them, there weren’t many people around.

There are a couple of small museums around the Plaza, too, but by now, the heat had gotten to us and we decided to head for the interesting looking bell tower dominating the town a block away to see if we could catch a little breeze by climbing it.

The tower, of course, is part of the oddly named ‘Museo Nacional de la Lucha contra los Bandidos’ (National Museum of the Struggle against the Bandits). First question of course: who were ‘the Bandits’? Well, I guess this museum is mainly interesting if you have a good knowledge of Cuban history, since this would help a lot in understanding the displays, mostly pictures of, and personal objects (like uniforms etc.

Viewing tower, Manaca Iznaga
) used, in battles against counterrevolutionaries (ah! so those are ‘the Bandits’) in the Sierra del Escambray in the years 1959 to 1965, of which the most interesting (for outsiders anyway...) are a boat reportedly used by CIA-infiltrators and a Soviet-era truck, both in the courtyard. The signage makes interesting reading, too (all only in Spanish), if only because of the lack of any objectivity!

It is worth making the effort to climb the steep stairs of the bell tower for great views over the town. You could take 100’s of pictures in all directions from this vantage point, very nice! This is the only remaining part of the former convent of San Francisco de Asis, that used to be located here.


After our short walking tour, we decided to get the car and tour the ‘Valle de los Ingenios’, or Valley of the Sugar Mills.

Another view: Valle de Los Ingenios
In the 19th century, the fertile lands around Trinidad were home to dozens of sugar mills and produced a big part of Cuba’s total sugar crop. This made Trinidad quite a wealthy little town and some of the houses of the rich sugar barons can still be seen around town. There still is some sugar cultivation around here, although almost all the ‘ingenios’ were destroyed. The best known, and only one that is still standing of the old ‘ingenios’, is the ‘Manaca Iznaga’, where you can see a restored hacienda house and lookout tower, used for keeping an eye on the slaves working the fields. There’s a small fee to go up the tower, where you have excellent views of the surrounding fields. Watch out for the many wasp nests in the tower, they were fierce! Next to the tower, women offer crafts, mostly pretty embroidered tablecloths, napkins and children’s clothing.

Also, don’t miss old the sugar press in the back garden.

There is a fee for parking, too, and the usual touts, who were, franky, even more annoying than those in Trinidad itself. Not knowing that we understand Spanish, they were quite insulting when I wasn’t interested in buying some small animals made from palm fronds that they were offering.

Another option for visiting the valley is by a tourist train, which you can book at local hotels. We missed it entirely, however.

After touring the valley, we’d had quite enough of history and set off to search for a beach. On the coastal road from Trinidad to Playa Ancon (which is basically closed to the public open only for guests of the hotel there) are a couple of small beaches and we settled down at a palapa-covered restaurant for some cold drinks and to relax.

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Viewing tower, Manaca Iznaga
Viewing tower, Manaca Iznaga
Another view: Valle de Los Ingenios
Another view: Valle de Los Ingenios
Valle de Los Ingenios
Valle de Los Ingenios
I think this is whats called a b…
I think this is what's called a '…
Old sugar press, Manaca Iznaga
Old sugar press, Manaca Iznaga
photo by: lizzy1987