La Gran Piedra

A trip to Gran Piedra is a must for trekkers, outdoors enthusiasts, nature lovers and photographers. The 450 steps are worth the climb for the stunning views, the indigenous plants, animals and birds and the novelty value of a the Caribbean's biggest volcanic rock perched on the highest point of the mountains.

The Gran Piedra Mountain Range, a pre-cursor to the larger, more easterly Sierra Maestra Range, is home to the Siboney-Justici Ecological Preserve and Gran Piedra, quite literally "The Big Rock."
In Eastern Cuba, which is already home to Cuba's highest mountains, it's hard to imagine that a big rock would have the draw that Santiago Province's Gran Piedra has.
The Big Rock
At around 14km (9 miles) from the city, it is the geological peculiarity of the Gran Piedra and the beauty of the local nature which attract so many local and international visitors. It has become one of the natural star attractions of the Sierra Maestra Grand National Park. The rock sits at 1,225 meters (4,019 feet) above sea level. Gran Piedra is of volcanic origin and measures 51 meters (167 feet) in length, is 25 meters (82 feet) high and 30 meters (98 feet) wide. It is estimated to weigh over 63,000 tons. It is the biggest rock of its kind in the Caribbean region.
There are several theories about the rock's origin. A less likely story suggests it was the result of a meteorite which struck Earth millions of years ago. A more likely assumption is that Gran Piedra was formed by the explosion of an underwater volcano.
Spectacular scenery and nature
Access to the top of the Gran Piedra is via 452 steps. As well as the ascent itself, it is the surrounding countryside and the spectacular views which take one's breath away. During the climb, visitors will see lush green vegetation of ferns, orchids and other species of flora and fauna. If you are lucky, you'll glimpse the tocororo (Cuban trogon - Priotelus temnurus), the Cuban national bird.
Botanists and biologists estimate the area features 222 kinds of ferns, and 22% percent of Cuba's endemic plants as well as 926 animal species, making the area a magnet for nature lovers and photographers as well as climbers and trekkers.
Looking down towards the coast, you will see the unspoilt beaches around Siboney and the Baconao Biosphere Reserve where the grey volcanic sand meets crystal blue Caribbean waters.
Nearby attractions
The fertile slopes of the area were once home to French coffee farmers who fled the revolution in Haiti. A working museum dedicated to the history of this community is located at the UNESCO-listed site, Cafetal La Isabelica, a 2km trek from Gran Piedra.
Gran Piedra can also be combined with a visit to the attractions at Siboney, namely Granjita Siboney, which was the staging point for the opening gambit of the revolution, and Playa Siboney, a low-key beach resort nearby.

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