A small community surrounded by the lush mountains of Sierra del Rosario (a Biosphere Reserve), in Cuba's northeastern province of Pinar del Rio, the astoundingly beautiful nature reserve of Las Terrazas is full of natural marvels to admire, as well as being home to a rustic and humble, yet charming resort that provides accommodation and a variety of excursions to enthusiastic nature lovers staying in this region.
My friend stayed here for a few days and made the most of his time in the village by exploring the surroundings on hiking trails, panoramic horseback riding excursions and zip-lining adventures from treetop to treetop (according to him the bird's eye views were truly exhilarating). The rivers and lakes around the small hotel and resort just as stunning and you could take a dip in one of the waterfalls.
Also in the north-eastern province of Pinar del Rio, the ecological reserve of Soroa is yet another striking natural region that left him mesmerised and astounded. One of the places not to miss here is the orchid sanctuary known as Jardin Botanico Orquideario Soroa with its impressive collection of orchids; you'll find almost every variety of this beautiful flower here, as many 130 endemic species and around 700 orchid species from all over the world!
Another impressive sight here is the 22 metre-high waterfalls at Salto del Arco Iris, found on Arroyo Manatiales. You can easily swim here and the falls are at their most stunning and copious between the months of May to October, during the rainy season, when the amount of water that cascades down the rocks is at its most abundant. And be sure to be camera-ready because the snapping opportunities are too good to miss.
Manacas Iznaga Valley
The Manacas Iznaga Valley, or Valle de los Ingenios, also known as the Valley of the Sugar Mills, is a historic former sugar plantation and one of the best preserved in the island. Found at around 12 kilometres northwest of the city of Trinidad, this former plantation is over 180 years old yet it retains much of its original features.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and named after the Manaca-Iznaga brothers that owned this plantation, the iconic tower that looks over the valley has an origin that's still reason for much debate. Some say that its purpose was to lock one of the brothers' adulterous wife in, while a much more rational interpretation is that it had an utilitarian purpose, to serve as a watch point to catch sight of fires, storms and runaway slaves. Whichever the case was (maybe it served all these purposes); one thing is for sure, this tower is the best lookout point from which to take in amazing views of the valley.
Salto del Caburni
Away from the town centre, the lush mountain range that surrounds the city of Trinidad, known as Sierra del Escambray, is home to some of Cuba's most beautiful and unforgettable waterfalls – Salto del Caburni. It's a steep climb and one that requires a certain fitness level, but all along the way you're encouraged by the magnificent views, with verdant vegetation, blooming flowers, lizards, numerous colourful bird species and picture-perfect cliffs.
But it's ultimately the big waterfall and refreshing pool at the end of the 3.5 kilometre hike that's the real icing on the cake. You'll love swimming and diving into the cooling water after a strenuous journey, that may be physically demanding but is also emotionally uplifting!
La Boca - Fishermen's Town
As you've seen Trinidad doesn't only have culture and history but also incredible natural richesandhellip; but that's not all it also boasts some beautiful beaches and a stunning coastline that's idyllic for fishing trips.
The quaint fishing village of La Boca near is a picturesque place to watch locals sunbathe on the beach and expert fishermen work hard for the catch of the day. You could even go for a fishing experience yourself by contacting one of the local hotels or guest houses. The nearby Playa Ancon beach is also frequented by locals and Cubans from other parts of the country who come here to holiday.
The spectacular Vinales Valley is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site found in Cuba's northern province of Pinar del Rio and an unmissable site if you're visiting this part of Cuba. Located within the small municipality of Vinales, a quaint countryside town consisting mainly of rustic wooden houses with porches, the jaw-droppingly gorgeous valley is home to unique nature creations such as the famous "mogotes" (isolated residual hills with a rounded, tower-like shape made of limestone, dolomite or marble) that complete the look of the karstic landscape.
Inside many of these mogotes, or limestone hills you can find caves that are a delight to explore. Rock-climbing is also popular in this region thanks to the many impressive rock formations. Another rare beauty you can contemplate on the valley are the prehistoric murals or Mural de la Prehistoria, brightly coloured al fresco paintings depicting scenes from the prehistoric era.