Trinidad – Where I left my heart in Cuba

I fell in love with Trinidad at the first glance, from the moment our bus tuned left at the entrance of the city and continued slowly onto the cobbled streets alongside small colored houses. It didn’t take long until we stopped and get off the bus. A group of locals were waiting for us with big smiles on their faces. Our guide called our names and each of us was assigned to one of the locals. They were our hosts for the next three days. I was assigned in the same casa as the American family: Iris, Steve and Emma, and I was happy that I will have a chance to get to know them better.


The casa was beautiful. My room was small but clean and arranged with a lot of care. On my bed there were two swans made out of towels. The owner of the casa only spoke basic English but he was very friendly and hospitable. He showed us the small interior terrace on the first floor and then he took us on the rooftop, from where we could see the whole town.


We left our luggage in the casa (well, I can’t say that took too much time for me) and then met Danny, our guide, for a short orientation tour of the city. While we were waiting, in front of one of the houses, the door opened and someone welcomed us in and onto their terrace, which they said it was the highest in the town. We later found out that they were friends with Danny. It was sunset time and the view was lovely, the warm colors of the sky were blending with the orange of the rooftops, over the city surrounded by mountains. I could stay there all evening.


The whole town of Trinidad is on the protected list of Unesco World Heritage since 1988 and if you will visit, you will see why. The colored colonial houses, the cobbled streets, the beautiful churches and piazzas. The atmosphere of the town is very different during the day to the one by night.


We walked with Danny to Plaza Mayor and then he suggested to go and have dinner a bit early, as we might find seats at a very good restaurant, San Jose. We were lucky and managed to get a table for 10. I chose the chicken in garlic sauce, that came with friend plantains, and which was delicious.


After dinner we went back to Piaza Mayor, to Casa de la Musica. And oh my, what an experience! We paid 1 CUC to enter the steps and then made our way up, very close to the stage. Everybody was sitting down on the steps, enjoying rum cocktails, while on the stage a band was singing. In front of the stage, among Cubans, a few courageous tourists were trying their salsa moves. A whole movie was rewinding in front of my eyes and it was amazing. I have never seen moves like that before, men moving their hips in such a coordinated way, dancing like the world was ending. They were sweating and smiling, dancing so natural, joyful, like they had the music in their veins. I was staring at them (yes, they are also good looking and almost all of them seem like they are hitting the gym every day, with six packs and muscles under their beautiful tanned skin).


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The next morning I woke up early again, too early, so I decided to take a stroll before breakfast. The sun was raising and the streets were mostly empty. I firstly strolled to Plaza Carillo, with its green gardens and the imposing Iberostar Hotel occupying an entire side of the square. An old man was watering the plants while a couple of women were sweeping the pavement. Besides them, a stray dog was sleeping under a bench.


On my way towards Plaza Mayor I met the first children going to school. They were all wearing the same dark red uniform, with their hair hold in a ponytail. This image reminded me of my own school years, after the Romanian revolution, where I was also obliged to wear a blue uniform every day to school. And it also reminded me of my grandmother stories, about how important the school uniform and the hair due were back in the communist regime.


I stopped halfway up the hill, seeing a bicycle shining in the warm light of the morning. It was there, left alone, in the middle of the street, not a soul nearby. “What a safe place”, I told to myself. And indeed, Cuba is one of the safest countries that I have ever visited in my life.



As I continued my walk, I observed the local morning habits.

“Ola” – a man passing by me saluted me.

“Ola” – another one, smiling.

They were friendly people, passing by, going to work probably. They were saluting me as I was one of theirs. I can’t describe the feeling of overwhelming that took over my heart. They were simple people, thought by their families to be polite. A habit that almost disappeared back in our countries. I was so impressed and I kept walking and smiling, I felt like I belonged there.


By the time I reached Plaza Mayor the sun was up. That’s when I noticed a man with a long stick in his hands. His job was to turn off the street lights.


I have also peeked inside one of the Government stores, the places where the Cubans are buying the products from their ration cards. An almost empty space, with a big stack of eggs on one side of the counter and an old fashioned scale on the other. Behind, shelves holding a few bags of flour, a few of sugar and a bottle of oil. And then it hit me… this used to be my country 26 years ago. Stores were empty and people were queuing in front of them since 5am in the morning, hoping to be able to still catch a loaf of bread or a bottle of milk. And suddenly I got a lump in my throat. This is how my grandma grew up… I was back in time, back when she was little and she was forced to break into the trains stopped in the train station from her small village, to steal molasses so that her family had what to eat.


Back to the casa, I went on the rooftop to take some more pictures, and that’s where Emma found me. Breakfast was a blast, our host even made cakes for us. When I came back from my stroll, I found him in the kitchen making fresh pineapple juice for us.


We had the day free and we unanimously decided that we want to go to the beach, as Trinidad is just a few miles away from the Caribbean coast. We booked Hector, our driver, for the day, and after getting lost a few times, we made it to Playa Ancon. Unfortunately, because of a storm during the night we were unable to go snorkeling, as there was no visibility under the water. However, the sun was shining, the temperature was high and the beach was empty. We saw a hobby cat and an idea arose in our minds. What if… so we approached it and soon enough a muscly man, very tanned, with dark eyes and long hair showed up. It was extremely cheap to rent the boat for an hour so me, Emma, Steve and Kris decided to go for it. It was my first time on a hobby cat (a sailing boat without an engine) and I had no idea how to sit on, so I just laid down. Every time the boat was going over a wave, the water would splash me, cooling my body off from the heat. It was a wonderful experience.



We returned from the beach in the afternoon and me and Emma went to explore the local market, searching for some original souvenirs. The people in the market were lovely, each of them was trying to make conversation with us and trying to sell some of their work for just a few dollars. I ended up buying two beautiful wooden statues of a Cuban couple, a man playing his guitar and a woman playing the maracas. Both of them have painted on them the Cuban flag. I have only paid 6 CUCs for both of them, and the seller gave me a beautiful bracelet as a sign of appreciation that I bought from her. Besides the market we also met with the local taxi, with one horse power.



We returned from the market and, we found ourselves meeting each other at the restaurant of the Iberostar Hotel. Some of us just wanted a coffee, some wanted to go online and some were just curious. It was funny how we met there without talking to each other about it. It was interesting to see how a state run hotel looked like, again, because I come from an ex-communist country and this trip was also a personal history lesson for me.


It was time for our salsa lesson, which, as someone that can’t move her feet, I wasn’t really looking forward. It was a lot of fun though, and I did manage to do the basic steps. And, the most important, I can still remember them. I was happy when the instruction danced with me and told me I’m doing great, no mistakes.


We had our dinner at another amazing restaurant, Las Gitaras (The Guitars). As the name suggests, the restaurant is guitar themed and even the food comes on plates with musical notes drawn in sauce on them. The atmosphere was very beautiful, a young man playing classic Cuban songs on… a guitar, of course. As for the food, I have ordered the pork in coffee sauce which was amazing, the flavours were really strong. Lakshmi wanted to try the dessert but nobody else felt like they can eat a whole cake by themselves so, a funny thing happened. She asked for “a cheesecake and 10 cucharitas por favor” (10 teaspoons, please). We are still laughing when we remember this moment and we did replicate the the moment a couple of times after that.


At the end of the meal we received a cigar as a souvenir, which I thought it was a very nice touch.

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Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.


  1. I hope I get to travel to unique places such as Trinidad when I graduate college! What a fun experience it seemed to be!

  2. What a great post! I have never been to Trinidad but judging from your amazing photos its a place I now would like to visit. This was obviously a nostalgic visit for you and an emotional journey as you reminisce about your grandmother. Take care.

  3. Your photos are great. Especially the one with the bike, the horse cart and the one of the beach. Loved them .:)

  4. This is my favorite of yours so far! You have some incredible shots in here (especially loving the late evening bicycle shot!). The swans on the bed were such a sweet gesture from the owner, I love how far the locals go to look after tourists. The beach looks like the stuff of dreams but a shame to hear that the water was too cloudy to see much! Looking forward to the next!

  5. These photos are amazing. I kinda wish that I was in your shoes. I just added this to the list of the places I want to visit when I get super gross rich. This is super inspiring.


  6. I didn’t know there are some things about Cuba that look and feel like my country Philippines. The bedroom where you stayed, the trays of eggs piled up, the beach, the horse and the architecture. Walking the streets would probably make me feel like I’m at the province somewhere.

  7. I love the way you’re writing. Amazing photos, very inspirational.
    I thought Trinidad and Cuba are different countries but I checked out and I found out that Trinidad is also a town on Cuba.

  8. You have great shots for this post! How happy your travel to Trinidad must be. Your photos are showing that happy vibe. It’s so nice that a place like this is being well taken care of the UNESCO 😀

  9. Oh my god I can’t believe you were able to try authentic salsa out, that is one of my favourite Latin dances! Also sorry to hear about the storm but it seems you made up for it with other exciting ventures like visiting the market.

  10. I love everything about this! I have been so excited to hear about your next adventure but I have to say I am so stressed out about your clothes and your luggage! I wish they would have made it for all of your adventures! I love your photography especially that bike shot – wow! I love hearing about what you do and what you eat. I can see why you fell in love with Trinidad. Your pictures and descriptions sucked me in and made me want to see this place for myself. I can’t wait to read more about your adventures! Thank you for sharing all of the details!

  11. Beautiful shots! Looks like an ultimate getaway ! yes, locals have the most amazing smile and warm welcoming nature in any parts of the world . You should visit manang , a beautiful place nestled between the himalayas in Nepal. 🙂

  12. Isn’t it just So amazing when every person we meet is all smiley and happy? I feel so good when I see someone smiling at me. Hey Ola! 🙂
    This was a great detailed post on Cuba. Never been there but your trip sounds interesting.

    Fatima |

  13. Your photos are so lovely, the pastels of the building are captivating, it looks so stuck in time and untouched by all of our McDonalds and Starbucks society. I’d so love to experience Trinidad, and the salsa dancing!

  14. Great post and now I will have to so some more research on Trinidad and maybe plan a trip soon. It looks so lovely and so real. I loved those ‘two swans’ you found on your bed. Food looks yumm too..

  15. Wow this looks so lovely ! Simple and typical, it feel like a really chilled place to visit and enjoy vacations. This is also a great experience to spend your time with the locals as guide. Even if we will probably go there without guide, my boyfriend and I are definitely adding this place to our list of places to visit ! Be careful by the way, Cuban cigares can be forbidden haha

  16. I am dying to visit Cuba! And it seems like Trinidad would be the perfect place to visit. I love those gorgeous Spanish colonial buildings. And the food even sounds good! I love fried plantains and I would like to try pork in coffee sauce. The one thing I would not be up for is public dancing!

  17. I’ve never been to Trinidad but man seems like you had a great experience! The photos are great and they really do seem to represent a nice peaceful place! The buildings kind of remind me of Italy.

  18. Joanna, your shots are beautiful! Especially the one with a bike. I’ve never been to Cuba, but I hope I can visit Trinidad someday.

  19. It’s always a dream for me to see Cuba, and I’m planning to visit my best friend who lives in Havana this year soon. I’m bookmarking your blog post for my future travel plans! It’s so beautiful, like you’re really stuck in time!

  20. Hi Joanna,

    First of all, I love how they made they made swans with the towels for you. I wish I was there to dance salsa and the next morning enjoy the locals saying “Ola”. Cuba sounds such a friendly and beautiful place. I hope one day I will be able to visit.


  21. The cobblestone streets are gorgeous! We actually have some in Georgia and I love visiting that town because of all the historic buildings around. I hope one day I as well get to visit where my grandma was from, Slovakia.

  22. Cuba has intrigued me a lot lately! It was nice of you to be able to observe local’s habits. I guess that’s one beauty of travel – to witness the different way of life of people. Hope to be in Cuba someday!

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  24. Oh, your photos are gorgeous. I have not traveled in three years and I am itching to do so. I so hope to visit Cuba someday it has been a bucket list item for awhile now. Keep these beautiful photos coming and thanks for sharing.

  25. Naaa, if I am on your shoes, I’ll surely leave my heart in Cuba too! with what you have experienced and the ambiance they have, I will definitely be coming back for more here. I am always fascinated by how other people of different nation approach foreign people. I also find the job of the man with a stick awesome! hahaha don’t get me wrong, turning off the lights is fun and a quite big responsible too. Electricity nowadays shouldn’t be taken advantage.

  26. I love how colourful all of the buildings are. How could anyone not fall in love with a city like that? The chicken in garlic sauce and fried plantains look super yummy too 🙂

  27. Trinidad looks more like a quaint little town than a city, doesn’t it? I like the place already. I could imagine the quiet and peace compared to a large urban city.

  28. Reading more and more interesting posts about Cuba makes me so curious. I have a friend that wants to visit also. The different kind of life they’re living is so terrific to see from distance. I would love to experience to see how they work there and how the daily life feels. xo sabine

  29. Beautiful architecture! It’s really my dream to go to South America. Wish someday I’ll find myself on the other side of the world.

  30. I love reading travel blogs, Places I’ve never thought of traveling to soon become my number one destination. Trinidad looks so exotic and rich with culture, can’t wait to go through my travel list

  31. Beautiful photos. I really love your description of the people and your feeling you belonged there. The guitar themed restaurant and food looks like such a unique experience!

  32. I have come to love your posts. It always seems as if am part of them. Through your posts I have traveled to many countries. Continue inspiring us. For a moment I thought I was in Trinidad

  33. Cuba is on my bucket list. I really, really want to visit. When I think of Cuba I picture old school cars,cigars and all night Salsa. Love your pictures and your story, it made me picture myself on holiday in Cuba

  34. I was never a fan of Cuban cuisine, but the couple pictures on here make it look good. I’ll have to consider trying it again. I like the “artsy” element of the last pic!

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  36. Amazing post! A real insight into Cuba, I’ve never been but I know people who have but they’ve gone to simply enjoy the beaches. It’s refreshing to read about a gorgeous town and see the beautiful buildings and I love your photos you’ve really captured everything beautifully and made it very easy to put it on my list of places to visit!

  37. Cuba is amazing and this post supports that. I loved staying in a casa and I see you did too. I’m so glad we decided to do this. Best way of being truly local. Walking the streets whilst no one else was in them would have been amazing too. I also love to do that.

  38. This looks like such an amazing place! I am yet to make it over this way, but after seeing your photos and hearing about the friendliness its definitely on my list. Great post and lovely photos.

  39. Great photos and stories. I especially liked your memories from your grandmother– how hair and uniforms were important for school kids. More information than a regular tourist like me. And, the homestay sounds really nice!

  40. I loved how the people were taught and raised to be polite. I guess this s true almost in every culture, unfortunately because of commercialization and the mad race to have more and to be ahead, this got lost.

    I would love to visit that place one day.. the beach is also good!

  41. These pictures are giving me a serious case of wanderlust for Cuba! I have only been to Havana and Varadero. Trinidad looks like it would be amazing to explore with it’s historic buildings and close proximity to the beach.

  42. Its great how you have noticed things, I especially like the cycle shot. There is lot a more to travelling than must visiting and I love what u have done here. You visit, see, relate and thats how u learn. Wonderful

  43. Cuba is one place i definitely would want to visit. I find it charming and its people warm and joyful. And yes, perhaps have a taste of my first cigar.

  44. Funny, I was just talking to a friend about Cuba. He’s from Venezuela, and he was telling me about the different places that he visited in South America. Beautiful place- I love that it has an old world feel. Even your hosts seem lovely- so cute that they even made little swan towels for you. How sweet and hospitable of them. 🙂 Cuba’s in my bucket list. I hope I get to go soon!

  45. I’m loving the street scenes in Cuba! The color palette is so unique and cultural. It’s so inviting to take a stroll. Hope to get to Latin America someday!

  46. This looks like the perfect place to go to if you want to slow down and just appreciate culture. The photos look romantic and idyllic. And isn’t it great when the locals just smile at you and greet you even if you’re a stranger to them? Love the last food shot! So cute!

  47. Wow!! Your photos are beautiful!! Some places looks familiar to some places here in the Philippines. Hope you enjoyed!!

  48. It was indeed a great place that’s worth the discovery. I fell in love with Trinidad through your pictures. I was amazed with the color of the houses and ofcourse the beach.

  49. Travelling is really fun! I wanna travel to different places too someday and Trinidad is now included in my lists of WHERE-TO-GO-PLACES! Love the photos 🙂

  50. You had a taste of local Cuban life. What a rare experience. What tour group was that that you got assigned to locals?

  51. What a lovely experience! I would like to visit Cuba sometime. My husband’s family is also from an ex-communist country. He has told me many stories about growing up there. Seeing the photos of the government run stores in Cuba helps me to imagine better what it must’ve been like for him.

  52. Thank you for sharing your experience! I’ve never been to Cuba. Your colourful photos and nice stories really picture Trinidad as a great place to check out! What a rich opportunity to be able to get a taste of the local life.

  53. Wow Trinidad looks so different and interesting. Some may hesitant to travel here but from your travel experience, it seems very nice and a great experience, thank you for sharing with us so we know what to expect and have different perspective towards the country:)

  54. This is such a lovely place! That yellow church is similar to the ones we have here in our city. Because of your photos, I’m going to include Cuba on my list of places to visit in the future. You are truly blessed to go around different places!

  55. Awesome shots! Trinidad seems a peaceful and laid back place. And based on your photos, I think it’s a tourist-friendly place. I hope I can visit it too someday. Thank you for your detailed post.

  56. The photos are really good. I love how open you are into exploring the city by living with the locals. Hardly any tourist would go out of town to immerse. 🙂

  57. Cube has always been in my travel list and just by reading this blog post I am now more motivated to actually save up money and go to Cuba too! I’d really love to visit one day. Thanks for the info! Would be good for future references.

  58. It looks like a beautiful to vsiit and you have taken some amazing photographs. I love that you stayed with locals too and not in a commercial hotel, something I’ve now added to my bucket list

  59. i love all your shots.. it feels like we are the one exploring this wonderful place… I never thought that Cuba is such a wonderful place to visit.. For me it feels like a mixture of Brazil and Italy… thank you for giving us such a nice tour .. hopefully I’ll get a chance to travel that far and explore this one of a kind travel destination

  60. Browsing thru your photos, I could see Cuba has a lot of similarilies to my beloved country the Philippines. The streets, some architectural designs of the buildings are close to identical. Irregardless of the similarity, With your story, I would still want to travel and see Cuba myself. I would also want to get to know the culture and other pertinent interesting infos about the country.

    Xoxo- jaimie felix

  61. The city looks fantastic. It’s amazing that they were able to maintain that simplicity of life such as a job of turning off the street lights despite technological improvements worldwide. I hope I can visit Trinidad the soonest. Thanks for taking me there through pictures <3

  62. Colorful and Quaint beautiful town. Each of you assigned a local to see the place is such an authentic experience. Completely in awe of the captures and Cuba is now on top of my list. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience

  63. Im dying to visit Cuba hopefully one day. Trinidad looks colorful and beautiful. Is good you stayed with the locals and not to a hotel, I think that’s the real reason of travelling to experience the life lived by locals.

  64. we are planning to see Cuba this year, now reading your post i cant wait any longer omg like I need to be there. so beautifully captured

  65. The city is quiet and beautiful. I like Trinidad because the town is like a time capsule. It’s fun to stroll through the streets and allies and soak in the historic flavor. @ knycx.journeying

  66. Wow! Seeing the bedroom made me thought this was in the Philippines. There’s a little similarity with the way they live but the beauty of the place is unique. This is the kind of place I would want to travel to. It seems like the place has more stories to tell which i want to hear and know myself.

  67. I’ve heard fantastic things about Trinidad! The tour/homestay package you did sounds really interesting- was that something you booked on your own or was it part of a bigger package? The photos are really interesting – the streets seem so empty. Was it really quiet or did you just have great timing? 🙂

  68. I didn’t know that Trinidad is such an amazing place! You’ve changed my perception through this post. And yeah, I loved all your pictures. You have captured it beautifully! I’d love to visit there and learn salsa for sure! 🙂

  69. I love how you’ve taken pictures of the non-tourist things, and taken shots of the little things, day to day things the locals neglect. I love it!

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