Other than the horseback riding tour in Vinales, this day trip to the Valle de los Ingenios was the only “tour” that I booked. While I feel like my tour in Vinales was a little bit of a better value, this day trip to the Valle was a really close second. My tour was just a guy that my casa particular owner recommended who drove me around from 9-6. Unlike my fabulous tour with Jordan in Vinales, Nestor was unable to answer many of my questions, so I really paid 45CUC for a private taxi driver… which is still a great deal! It is the perfect day trip from Trinidad!
Here is a little rundown of my private tour of the Valle de los Ingenios:
Our first stop was the Mirador de la Loma del Puerto. It was free, but I wasn’t very interested in spending much time there. I suppose if you hadn’t already had breakfast and pumped yourself full of coffee like I did, that it would be a gorgeous place to enjoy a drink as you gaze around the valley. I was more interested in the other places that we had planned on visiting and only took one picture. Vinales is prettier (greener).
From there we drove to Manaca Iznaga where I had to pay 1CUC to climb the 44-meter high tower. This tower was used to watch for escaping slaves. Once upon a time, it had a large bell that they would ring if they saw a slave escaping. There is also a sugar mill (press?) behind the hacienda, which is now a restaurant, where slaves used to grind up the sugarcane.
After that, we went to the Hacienda Guachinangro which was under construction. I saw that there were still horses available to ride, but I after the hours I spent on horseback in Vinales I knew that I didn’t need to ride a horse for at least another year or more. I’m told that normally you can eat and listen to music at this Casa. We walked for a bit and visited a peaceful river. My guide told me that I was welcome to go swimming in the river if I wanted. It was too cold for me!
Next, we drove over to the Hacienda Guaimara. After paying only 1CUC I got a private tour (in Spanish) from a worker on site. This was my favorite spot that we visited in the valley. The hacienda has been turned into a mini museum where you can see gorgeous antique furniture, see artifacts, and view other pictures about the life of the richest sugar merchant in the valley, Don Mariano Berell. There is also a little chapel on site, but my favorite part were all of the lovely frescoes on the walls.
Out last stop in the valley was to see San Isidro de los Destiladeros. I had to pay another 1CUC to enter the site, but this place had absolutely nothing in the way of signage or people to explain what we were seeing. I saw some walls, houses, and what appeared to be storage facilities all in crumbling ruin. There is also a tower at this site, but it is only about a third of the height of the one at Iznaga and you are prohibited from climbing it. This would be a fantastic historical site if only they put in a few signs. I recommend bringing a knowledgeable guide of your own if you visit.
Finally, after a quick lunch stop in town, my taxi driving took me to Playa Ancon. Sadly, the snorkeling gear was unavailable to rent at the time I went (at least from the beach vendors around the area Nestor brought me to. However, a thatched roof palapa (hut) opened up just as I arrived so I got a free chair thanks to the family who had already paid for the day. It had a perfect view of the water. Nobody tried to sell me trinkets, food, or drinks. It was a perfect place to spend a couple of hours relaxing on the beach with a good book and a nice view while waiting for the sun to set.