Valle de los Ingenios, Trinidad
When you are in Trinidad, you must pay a visit to the Valley des Ingenios and climb in the tower, you have a breath taking view over the landscape.
This tower just to be used by supervisors to watch out for runaway slaves. The Indians just to work in the fields as slaves and this tower was one of the means to keep them in control.
For more information see my travelogue: The Valley des Ingenios
Steam train from Trinidad through the countryside past the sugar cane fields to Valle de los Ingenios. The return trip is a great full-day excursion as the train stops for lunch at the Casa Guachinango before returning to Trinidad. Also the train stops at the Manaca Iznaga, an old sugar plantation with a tall tower next to the old hacieda that was used to watch the slaves working in the fields all around. Great views for scenic pictures make the climb to the top of the tower worthwhile. There was a small market at the Manaca Iznaga where we bought a beautiful tablecloth for our kitchen table.
This region used to be the sugarcane plantation region. There are remnants of sugar mills, 19th-century manor houses, slaves quarters, milling machinery, etc... found around here.
To visit this area, there is a very kitsch activity. A replica steam-train that costs US$10 (two-way) leaves at 9.30am every morning. Many organised tours cater to this trip, making you feel like you are riding a Disneyland toy-train.
Still, the scenery, sugarcane plantations with the distant undulating mountains is rather picturesque.
Stop at Manaca Iznaga. There is a 44m-tall tower where you can climb up and be able to see what the slave masters could see in begone years as they observed the slaves at work. Naturally, this being Cuba, you have to pay US$1 for this.
Just wander around the tiny village and talk to the friendly locals. I met a great wonderful 85-year-old man here and chatted with him for about an hour.
I loved the tower: even though it's frequently used as a symbol of Trinidad, it was a surprise to me, a site much more impressive than I had expected. It's such a powerful reminder of the existence of slavery and that of wealthy plantation masters.
The view of the valley from the top is of course stunning.
The village of Iznaga was the site of the large Manaca Iznaga sugar plantation. The warehouse and factory buildings are long gone, but the owner’s house and watchtower are still there. The house is not elaborate, but it is large and attractive. It was only used during the few weeks of harvest, as the owners had a mansion in Havana. The 147-foot watchtower allowed the overseers to watch the 1,000 slaves working on the plantation. When the Soviet Union fell, Cuba lost its main market for sugar cane and they quit growing it. Some is now being planted again, but it won't be the major industry it was.
The path from the train station to the house is lined with vendors hoping you will buy their handicrafts. It is primarily embroidery, crocheted vests, and necklaces made from seedpods—and they do very nice work. They approach visitors, but they will accept a "No." (Although I said "Yes" quite a bit!)
From the tower in Manaca Iznaga there is an amazing view of the valley. It's definitely worth the climb.