Cuba is a hiker’s playground. While many people visit Cuba to experience its stunning beaches and colourful cities, there’s a lesser-explored (albeit equally beautiful) side to this Caribbean nation. Beyond the bustling streets of big cities like Havana and Santiago de Cuba lies a tropical oasis. Tropical forests stretch across spectacular mountain ranges, which are home to an array of endemic creatures and species. On the fringe of Cuba’s lush green forests and mountains you’ll find untouched swathes of wetlands and beautiful lagoons inhabited by large flocks of flamingos and other exotic birds.
You don’t have to be a seasoned hiker or an adrenaline-junkie to enjoy Cuba’s wilderness. There are many national parks in Cuba that offer amazing hiking trails for different levels. So if you’re planning to go hiking in Cuba, here are some of the best places to visit.
Sierra del Escambray Mountains (7 treks)
Located just outside the beautiful town of Trinidad, the Sierra del Escambray mountain range is by far one of the most beautiful places in Cuba. Its highest point, Pico San Juan, sits at 1140m above sea level. During the Cuban Revolution, the Escambray mountains served as refuge for Che Guevara and the revolutionaries. The camp is now a national monument, which you can access through some of the mountain trails. In fact, there are a number of different hiking trails cutting through the Escambray range, from short pleasant walks to more challenging ones.
If you are a hiker as well as an avid bird-watcher, taking a trip to Laguna Guanaroca is a must. Fringed by beautiful mangroves, this saline lake in the province of Cienfuegos is a great place for wildlife-spotting. The hiking trails in this protected nature site lead to observation platforms, where you can see flocks of flamingos and other bird species, including the tocororo, Cuba’s national bird.
Cienaga de Zapata
This UNESCO biosphere reserve is not only a great place for hiking, it also offers an amazing diving experience thanks to its coral reef barriers. Cienaga de Zapata boasts unspoilt mangrove forests and a swamp that is home to the Cuban crocodile. This national park is another popular place for bird-watching, with several bird species like the Cuban pygmy owl, the Cuban parrot and the Cuban bee hummingbird calling this place home.
Vinales & Pinar del Rio
Pinar del Rio is known for its tobacco fields and cigar-making tours, but this province also has some of the most picturesque hiking trails in Cuba. Vinales Valley, also referred to as Parque Nacional Viñales, offers scenic walks across tobacco fields and the Cuban countryside. The valley is known for its range of craggy steep hills (mogotes) which dominate the landscape. Hiking in Vinales is also a great way to learn more about rural life in Cuba, meet locals and get to try genuine Cuban cigars.
If you’re looking for more amazing things to do in Vinales, check out this post.
Las Terrazas is a hidden paradise. This rural community in the mountains of Sierra del Rosario is fringed by tropical forests which are home to over 800 plant species. Located just a short drive from Vinales, Las Terrazas forms part of a reforestation project which started in 1960s and involved the planting of six million trees in the area. The hiking trails start from the small village of Las Terrazas and weave through the mountainside and the surrounding forests. You can also visit old coffee plantations and stop off at one of the waterfalls along the way for a pleasant swim in pristine waters (Baños de San Juan are a must-see!).
Located in the Sierra del Rosario mountain range, Soroa is a biosphere reserve known for its thick vegetation (thanks to frequent heavy rainfall in the region) and natural pools with crystal clear waters. Soroa is also famous for its botanical garden, which houses over 350 species of orchids. While Soroa has become a popular tourist resort in recent years, its beautiful surroundings have remained unspoilt. The hiking trails in Soroa take you through dense forests with towering trees. You can also visit the ruins of old coffee plantations, which were owned by a Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Soroa. The area was developed as a retreat by one of his descendants, Ignacio Soroa, in the 1920s.
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