Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection is a chronic condition, where viral DNA integrates into the genome. Latently infected cells form a persistent, heterogeneous reservoir that at any time can reactivate the integrated HIV-1. Here we confirmed that latently infected cells from HIV-1 positive study participants exhibited active HIV-1 transcription but without production of mature spliced mRNAs. To elucidate the mechanisms behind this we employed primary HIV-1 latency models to study latency establishment and maintenance. We characterized proviral transcription and chromatin development in cultures of resting primary CD4+ T-cells for four months after ex vivo HIV-1 infection. As heterochromatin (marked with H3K9me3 or H3K27me3) gradually stabilized, the provirus became less accessible with reduced activation potential. In a subset of infected cells, active marks (e.g. H3K27ac) and elongating RNAPII remained detectable at the latent provirus, despite prolonged proviral silencing. In many aspects, latent HIV-1 resembled an active enhancer in a subset of resting cells. The enhancer chromatin actively promoted latency and the enhancer-specific CBP/P300-inhibitor GNE049 was identified as a new latency reversal agent. The division of the latent reservoir according to distinct chromatin compositions with different reactivation potential enforces the notion that even though a relatively large set of cells contains the HIV-1 provirus, only a discrete subset is readily able to reactivate the provirus and spread the infection.