Soroa and Las Terrazas
Running along the eastern edge of the Guaniguanico mountain range is Sierra del Rosario - an area boasting some of Cuba’s most beautiful scenery. It was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1985 and is home to a bewildering array of flora and fauna. This abundancy of nature can perhaps be best appreciated with a visit to the eco-tourist areas of Soroa and Las Terrazas
Soroa is poetically referred to as ‘the rainbow of Cuba’ and as soon as you arrive it’s easy to see why. Situated 70 km west of Havana, the vibrant floral diversity here is picture-postcard beautiful with over 700 varieties of ferns, wild orchids, trees and shrubs. Perhaps the area’s most notable attraction is its spectacular 22-metre waterfall – the perfect spot for a cooling dip in the heat of the midday sun.
Popular activities in the area include cycling, hiking, horseback riding and mountain climbing and there are numerous areas to explore further afield in the surrounding countryside. A notable point of interest worth seeking out is the botanical garden named Orquideario. Along with its mesmerizing display of flora, visitors will have the chance to spot an incredible range of birdlife. Around 70 different species of birds have been catalogued here, many of which endemic to Cuba.
Las Terrazas was originally established in 1968 as an eco-village that was tasked with reforesting the heavily logged area. The local community established here replanted trees along the terraces of the hillside, helping to regenerate areas of deforestation. Their homes were also designed to seamlessly blend in with the environment.
The community continues to play a vital role in this project of sustainability, aided and funded by the tourists that flock to the beauty of this remote landscape. This tourist income has proven essential to the community’s gradual development, helping to fund a new library, museum and café.
While staying at Hotel Moka (the community’s only hotel), most people take the chance to head out on scenic hikes, horseback rides and cycling trips. A cooling dip in the natural pools of the San Juan River (created by the river’s natural terracing) is also an essential experience.
Tourists often combine a visit to Las Terrazas with a trip to the remains of the region’s former French-run coffee plantations, including the once thriving farms such as Hacienda Unión and Cafetal Buenavista. Art studios and pottery workshops can also be found in the nearby village.
An Easy Escape
Just a short bus ride from Havana, Soroa and Las Terrazas both offer a quick and easy escape from the buzz of the city. You can also visit as part of a stopover on a day trip to Viñales, while numerous tour operators also offer one day excursions. However long you decide to stay, anyone looking to discover the majestic landscape of Cuba, both locations offer the perfect base from which to explore what is arguably one of the finest scenery in the island’s western province.
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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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