The Embalse Hanabanilla reservoir is a 36 km2 (14 square miles) expanse of water, sitting like a fjord on the northern edges of the Sierra del Escambray mountains. At any viewpoint, you are unlikely to get full sight of it all, as it twists and turns between hills and promontories. This location offers a great countryside getaway from either Trinidad (to which it is closer) or Santa Clara (from which it is more easily accessible, at around 50km/30 miles away).
Along with several zones accessible to tourists, the reservoir forms part of the larger Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes (Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve). The area played a key role in Cuban history during the Revolution, as the hiding place for both revolutionary rebels and their CIA-sponsored enemies.
Fishing, trekking and boating: two activities not to be missed
There are plenty of activities on the water, including fishing and boating. The lake is renowned for its stock of record-breaking bass. Some examples weigh in at over 7kg, making this one of Cuba's prime freshwater fishing locations. The main fishing season runs over the winter from November until the end of March.
In the green hills around the lake, there are several paths between the farms and fields, forests and palm trees, offering a great way to get up close to the local nature. Examples of local fauna include tocororos (the Cuban trogon, the island's national bird), parrots, woodpeckers and ducks, as well as many other endemic species.
Trekking and horse-riding in this area is particularly attractive due to its cooler microclimate (21-25°C/ 70-77°F on average). The nature trail which leads into Parque El Nicho passes through the mountains near the upper reaches of the Hanabanilla River, where hikers can see many waterfalls (dependent on the season). Entrance to the Parque El Nicho - one of five tourist areas in the nature reserve - costs $5 CUC.
The area is most easily accessed by boat from the Hotel Hanabanilla on the north west shore of the reservoir, around 80km (50 miles) by road south of Santa Clara. This is also where you will find Cuba's largest hydroelectric generating station. For longer stays, accommodation is available at this hotel, which has 125 well-appointed rooms.
Get InspirationAll about where to go and what you can do
If you are interested in Cuba's incredibly diverse indigenous biodiversity, the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is worth a visit. Featuring 16 of the 28 protected national plant species and several endemic animals and birds, even those less attracted to flora and fauna will be impressed by the landscape and unspoilt beaches. It is best accessed from Baracoa.
A visit to the Almendares Park is an opportunity to relax in a lush, green setting in the heart of the city. Located by the river-side of the Playa neighbourhood, the park is an example of forward-thinking urban planning and offers some leisure activities for adults and children alike as well as the chance to see Habaneros relaxing with their families.
Playa Ancon just might be Cuba's best south beach. A 15-minute drive from Trinidad, visitors will find white sand, clear water, great diving, and sunny skies on the end of Ancon peninsula. There are three luxury resorts for those looking for an opulent holiday, as well as more modest options for the budget-conscious.
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