What is the first thing you think of when you are considering planning a Cuban holiday? I bet there are pastel buildings, cocktails, classic cars and may be even white sand beaches… but it is a little known fact that Cuba has absolutely stunning landscapes, spectacular waterholes, fantastic hiking spots and an overall magnificent natural beauty that is a must see. If you are looking for a place to recharge your soul, Cuba is it!
The country has 24 national parks, 25 ecological reservations and 6 UNESCO biosphere reserves that harbors 16,500 described species of fauna with a high level of endemism – including the amazing bird species that we keep on sharing with you. This means that around 10% of the island is protected.
One word of caution is that hiking in Cuba will require you to have a guide on hand, firstly because you cannot enter national parks without them and secondly because google maps is not your friend out here, so it is better to have someone with you who knows the terrain.
So where are these spectacular places, you ask?
Sierra Maestra Mountain Range
This is Cuba’s main mountain range, with several peaks over 1,000 meters height. The range is around 170km long going from West to East between the Granma and Santiago de Cuba provinces. It hides well preserved nature paradise. This range is also well-known for being the base of Fidel Castro’s guerrilla operations during the revolution.
There are plenty of spots you can choose to hike up to, like the Turquino Peak, reaching 1,972 metres, the Cuba Peak, reaching 1,872 metres or Suecia, at 1,734 metres height. Or admire the buggest rock in the world at Gran Piedra, it’s said to be 70,000 tonnes! Along the way you can visit the coffee plantations; or walk through the National Parks of Pico Turquino, Desembarco del Granma, Santo Domingo-La Sierrita and Marea del Portillo.
Pinar del Río
Got to say, it is one of our favourite regions! It is in the western part of the island, made of the Sierra del Rosario Range and the Sierra de Los Órganos Range. The highest point is Pan de Guajaibón, with 699 metres height.
As it is closest to Havana it also makes it the most visited areas. In saying that, it is also one of the most beautiful and perfect spots for hiking. It hides plenty of birds, beautiful collection of orchids at the Soroa Orchid garden, check out Salto de Soroa waterfall or hike to admire the incredible view of the Manantiales River or you can venture further to the west and take in the sights of the Viñales Valley National Park, declared World Heritage by the UNESCO in 1999 because of its caves, endemic flora and its imposing “mogotes”. And if the outside hasn’t taken your breath away, you can always check out the cave system of Palmarito, El Indio and Santo Tomás, the biggest of Las Antillas, with around 45 kilometres long.
Topes de Collantes
But wait! There’s more! Located in the Sancti Spíritus province, is the Topes de Collantes Great Natural Park. This area has inspired many painters, writers and musicians to create amazing pieces of art. No wonder, it is covered with lush green forests and stunning wildlife. Nature gave the region some big pines, monumental carob trees, cedars, mahogany trees, magnolias, eucalyptus plantations, more than 100 different variety of ornamental plants, ferns and wild orchids. You’ll see The butterflies, parrots, sparrow hawks, woodpecker, Cuban bullfinches and Cuban trogon flying about. The routes between mountains will leave you speechless and the spectacular and crystal clear waterholes will keep you cool.
Surrounds of Baracoa
Baracoa is surrounded by a unique natural wealth in which rivers, beaches and parks are all combined to create an unforgettable landscape. Cuchillas del Toa Biosphere Reserve is a hot spot for biodiversity and endemism. The name comes from the Rio Toa (To-ah River), which has the highest flow on this island, making it an attraction to visitors looking to take part in nature’s beauty. It also houses Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt , a World Heritage site and the “natural jewel” of Cuba.
There’s something for everyone here! You can choose some light hikes, spotting endemic bird species, may be even some of the endangered ones, or take an adventurous tour along the Jiguaní river to the beautiful La Fundadora beach or climb the El Yunque – anvil shaped rock or discover the fascinating caves that preserve ancient remains of the Taino communities at Parque Majayara. The options around here are truly limitless!
If you are looking for an authentic Cuban vacation, one with stunning natural beauty and vibrant culture, then look no further. You can join us on a sustainable small group tour that will reconnect you to nature while immersing you in the rich history of Cuba’s revolutionary past. Our expert guides have hiked through this country themselves so they know firsthand about its unique flora and fauna as well as how best to enjoy it all without disturbing the environment or putting yourself at risk. What are you waiting for? Join them now!