Valle de los Ingenios
As you leave Trinidad on Route 12, heading northeast toward Sancti Spíritus, the road passes through the spectacular Valle de los Ingenios or the Valley of the Sugar Mills. Like Trinidad, this lush valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When it was Cuba’s most important sugar-producing region, there were more than 50 working sugar mills in the valley. However, there was a serious downturn in the valley’s economy in the mid-19th century, and then it collapsed completely in 1880 when world sugar prices slumped.
Many of the magnificent plantation houses and mansions dating from those days are now in ruins, but some still stand, most notably the exceptionally beautiful farm belonging to the Iznaga family, which has been restored. The prime estate Manaca Iznaga was purchased in 1795 by the dastardly Pedro Iznaga, who became rich by trafficking in slaves. The royal palms, waving cane and rolling hills are timelessly beautiful.
The quaint little Tren Turístico, an old steam train, goes from Trinidad station, south of the town, to Manaca-Iznaga daily. You cannot miss the farm, as it is splendidly indicated by the Torre de Manaca-Iznaga, 15km (10 miles) by road from Trinidad, which rears proudly out of the green cane fields.
Legend has it that the tower was built after a bet between two brothers, in which one had to build a tower higher than the depth the other could dig a well. In fact, the tower was designed originally as a watchtower to keep an eye on the slaves working in the fields, and has a bell that summoned them to work.
The immaculate hacienda is an excellent place for a drink of guarapo, the freshly pressed sugar-cane juice that is milled by Cuba’s only original trapiche (sugar press) remaining in situ. There are also demonstrations of sugar-cane pressing, in which you can participate, and enjoy the fruits of your labor afterward with a dash of rum.
Trinidad – Unesco World Heritage
Located in the UNESCO declared world heritage city of Trinidad, on one of the most famous streets of this historic city and within walking distance to all renowned attractions in the city centre. Trinidad’s picture-perfect location, between mountains and the Caribbean coastline, offers an abundance of natural attractions.
Cienfuegos is known as the “Pearl of the South. Arranged around the country's most spectacular natural bay, Cienfuegos is a nautical city with an enviable waterside setting. A factor that earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site listing in 2005.
Only some 12 Km (8 miles) south of Trinidad lies a spectacular stretch of beach, accessible either by way of Casilda or the more scenic route via the small fishing village of La Boca, where Trinidad’s river disgorges its waters into the sea.
Topes de Collantes
Topes de Collantes is a mountain region of the Sierra Escambray, approximately 20 Km north of Trinidad. The road twists and turns through spectacular scenery, with every bend offering new views of tropical vegetation, interspersed with plantation forests of eucalyptus and pine. Parrots and other bird species are abound.