The beautiful nature reserve of Las Terrazas is often overlooked by visitors to Cuba. Nestled deep among the evergreen mountains of the Sierra del Rosario range, Las Terrazas lies between two major tourist destinations, Havana and Vinales. Despite being home to stunning scenery, a vibrant art scene and possibly the best coffee in Cuba, this small rural community remains a lesser-explored site, overshadowed by the popularity of nearby attractions. However, this is what makes Las Terrazas a truly hidden gem.
If you want to experience rural Cuba, Las Terrazas offers an immersion into the Cuban wilderness, allowing you to combine relaxation with a bit of adventure – and great food! You can stop off at Las Terrazas on your way to Vinales or Havana. Alternatively, you could spend a couple of days in Las Terrazas to unwind and enjoy the serene surroundings.
Las Terrazas may be small, but you can find plenty to do here – from meeting local artists to hiking along scenic mountain trails. To help you, we’ve rounded up the very best things to do in Las Terrazas.
1. Join a guided tour of the biosphere reserve
Las Terrazas is a reforestation project that was launched in the 1960s and formed part of Cuba’s Green Revolution. When Fidel Castro came to power, national measures were put in place to ensure sustainable development and environmental conservation across the country, particularly in agricultural areas. In Las Terrazas, around 5,000 hectares of forest was created, which involved the planting of six million trees. To prevent erosion, the trees were planted in terraced formations over the hillsides (hence the name ‘Las Terrazas’). Some of the most common trees in the area include mahogany, cedar, hibiscus and grapefruit trees. In 1984, Las Terrazas was designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
Joining a guided tour of Las Terrazas is a great way to explore this beautiful biosphere reserve and learn more about how it was created. Get to see how the local community, which is made up of around 1,000 people, has managed to remain self-sufficient and sustainable throughout the years.
2. Hike through the forests of the Sierra del Rosario Mountains
The village core of Las Terrazas sits beside the lake of San Juan, surrounded by the Sierra del Rosario mountains. Stretching across the provinces of Artemisa and Pinar del Rio in western Cuba, the Sierra del Rosario mountain range is home to lush tropical forests and over 800 species of plants. The forests are inhabited by a variety of wildlife species, including the endemic bee hummingbird, which is the smallest bird in the world.
If you enjoy hiking and bird-watching, there are several sce nic hiking trails around Las Terrazas. Starting from the village, the trails take you through the surrounding forests and past old coffee plantations. Along the way, you can stop at one of the several hidden waterfalls for a short break – and possibly a quick dip!
3. Swim in natural rock pools
While Las Terrazas is a long way from the nearest beach, you can still enjoy a nice swim whilst you’re there. If you want to freshen up after a long hike, dive into the crystal clear waters of Baños de San Juan. These natural rock pools (baños) are surrounded by naturally formed rock terraces. Fresh water from the river cascades along the terraced rocks, forming turquoise pools.
If the clean mountain air makes you peckish, you can enjoy some lunch at the picnic area by the pools. There are also a few cabins where you can spend the night.
4. Visit the home of Polo Montañez
The popular Cuban singer and songwriter Polo Montañez lived right in the heart of the Las Terrazas village. He is mostly known for his poetic lyrics and melodic tunes, which he composed himself without any musical training. In fact, Montañez was a self-taught artist who drew inspiration from the beautiful sights and sounds of the Sierra del Rosario mountains where he was born and raised. Montañez established himself as a successful folk singer, combining elements from a variety of Cuban musical genres, including son and salsa.
Montañez died tragically in a car accident in 2002. After his death, his house in Las Terrazas was turned into a museum that celebrates his contribution to the Cuban music scene. Overlooking the lake, Casa-Museo Polo Montañez houses a collection of the artist’s gold records and memorabilia.
5. Buy an art piece by a local artist
Las Terrazas is a hub of creativity. The village has a thriving artist community, with various studios and workshops displaying beautiful and innovative artworks. If you are looking for a unique souvenir, pop into the artist studios in the village. You can buy a beautiful landscape painting of Las Terrazas from Galeria de Lester Campa, or a surrealist piece by Henry Aloma. Meanwhile, local artist Ariel Gato sells a selection of quirky handmade gifts created with recycled material.
6. Eat at one of Cuba’s top vegetarian restaurants
Despite having a small community, there is no shortage of good restaurants in Las Terrazas. Most restaurants in the area serve traditional Cuban meals prepared with locally sourced ingredients. For a delicious, vegetarian meal, head to El Romero. This eco-friendly restaurant specialises in plant-based cuisine, using homegrown organic vegetables and solar energy for preparing meals. The owners even keep their own bees. Try to sit at one of the tables on the terrace to enjoy beautiful views of the mountains with your meal.
Las Terrazas is the perfect destination for those who want to get off the beaten path and experience rural Cuba.
Our tailormade itineraries are customised to suit your interests and we will put together an itinerary in Cuba that you will never forget. Get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.