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Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes

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Central Cuba : Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes
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The El Nicho waterfalls.

Gran Parque Natural Topes de Collantes is in Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, and Sancti Spiritus provinces of Cuba.

Understand

History

Che's rebels hid in the Escambray mountains during the revolution. After the revolution (1961-1969) CIA-sponsored counter-revolutionaries (bandidos) hid in the same mountains. The Museo de la Lucha Contra Los Bandidos, a museum in Trinidad, documents the latter fight.

Landscape

The national park has jungle-covered limestone mountains (mogotes) with waterfalls and caves.

The highest mountain is Pico de San Juan, at 1150 meters (3773 feet). You can't hike to the summit, as the mountain is in a military zone.

Flora and fauna

Climate

Get in

Fees/Permits

Get around

File:Topesmap.jpg
Map of Topos de Collantes national park.

The main road starts at a junction four kilometers west of Trinidad. The road to Topos de Collantes is about fifteen kilometers and is amazingly steep. It is paved well (by Cuban standards).

The road from Cienfuegos through La Sierrita to San Blas is good, and quite scenic. Near San Blas is a cliff with stalactites. Somewhere between San Blas and Buenos Aires, near the village of Matagua, the pavement ends. Locals say the road is impassable after this, unless you have a Jeep. This road goes to Topos de Collantes, and has a turnoff that goes to El Nicho. This road goes through the highest mountains and might be a good mountain bike ride. Be aware that much of the area is military zone, so don't go hiking off the road, or take too many pictures.

See

The national park has several tourist areas.

Parque Altiplano

The Salto de Caburní waterfalls.

This is the most developed tourist site. The only hotels are here (including the huge Kurhotel Escambray). There's the Museo de Arte Cubano Contemparano ("Museum of Contemporary Cuban Art"); the Casa de Café, featuring locally grown coffees; and the "Mi Retiro" restaurant.

The 7-kilometer (roundtrip) hike to the 75-meter Salto de Caburní ("Caburní Falls") is well worth the effort (6.50 CUC fee at the gate). You can swim in the large pool below the falls. The trail starts east of the Kurhotel.

The cave along the Sendero La Batata trail.

Another good hike is the Sendero La Batata, which is about six kilometers (roundtrip) to a cave with an underground creek. You can swim in the cave. Bring sandals for climbing around in the cave, unless the soles of your feet are tough! The trail starts at the Casa de Café. The fee is 3.50 CUC.

A Mariposa Lily, Cuba's national flower, along the Sendero La Batata trail.

Other features include the Jardin de Gigantes ("Giants Garden") and a short hike to Salto Vega Grande ("Vega Grande Falls').

Parque Codina

This is near the Parque Altiplano. A restaurant serves tour groups. There are hiking trails to waterfalls, caves, and viewpoints. Birdwatching and camping are also listed on the map.

Parque Guanayara

According to the map, this site includes "canyoning cascades," as well as the Cascada El Rocío waterfall, swimming, hiking trails, camping, and a restaurant.

Parque El Nicho

El Nicho is a beautiful series of waterfalls and clear blue pools. The drive from Cienfuegos is one to two hours each way. The road is good to Crucecitas, and after that it's OK if you drive slowly. There's a bus from Cienfuegos. El Nicho can be popular, especially in the summer. Don't expect solitude. The entrance fee is 5 CUC. You can hike along the creek above the waterfalls. Horseback riding is also offered. A restaurant serves meals.

Parque El Cubano

This site is the closest to Trinidad. According to the map, this site has a waterfall, swimming, camping, birdwatching, horseback riding, and a restaurant. A trail goes to the Mirador de Caribe, which is on the road to Topos de Collantes.

Embalse Hanabanilla

The Hotel Hanabanilla.

This reservoir is on the north side of the national park. At El Salto de Hanabanilla ("Hanabanilla Falls") there is a hotel with hiking, horseback riding, boating, and fishing. The nearest town is Manicaragua.

The trailhead to hike to Atahalaya Hill.

Villa Guajimico

The Villa Guajimico resort.

Though not in the national park, this resort for Cubans is close by. The resort is on the coast, at the mouth of the Río La Jutía. 51 nice cabins are available, a good restaurant, and a salt-water swimming pool. There's a hiking trail to a nearby cave, and the trail continues through a forest with crabs under every rock. Villa Guajimico is about halfway between Cienfuegos and Trinidad.

Closer to Trinidad, Playa Ingles ("English Beach") is a simple campismo for Cubans, with a decent beach but no food or showers. Even closer to Trinidad is Río Yaguuanabo, a more developed resort for Cubans with a large beach below an impressive bridge.

Do

Cave Exploring

The Cueva Martin Infierno is one of Cuba's most important caves. It is closed to the public but speleologists can contact the Sociedad Espeleológica de Cuba in Havana to request a visit. The cave is on the western (Cienfuegos) side of the national park, west of Parque Codina. A second cave, Cueva El Maiz, is nearby.

Hiking

The hike from Topos de Collantes to El Nicho looks appealing, and is probably about 15 kilometers. A multi-day hike might be possible starting at Parque El Cubano, climbing to Topos de Collantes, staying two nights with local hiking the second day, then hiking to El Nicho the third day.

Fishing and Boating

Fishing and boating might be possible on the Embalse Hanabanilla reservoir.

Buy

The Museo de Arte Cubano Contemparano ("Museum of Contemporary Cuban Art") is near the Kurhotel Escambray.

Eat

  • Mi Retiro, (on the main road, three kilometers south of the Kurhotel). is a restaurant.


Drink

The Casa de Café, south of the Kurhotel Escambray, serves a variety of locally grown coffees.

Sleep

Lodging

The huge Kurhotel was built from 1937 to 1954 by the dictator Fulgencio Batista and has 210 rooms and 16 suites. A spa, it also has a restaurant, five gyms, a cabaret, and a thermal swimming pool with massage and therapeutic services available.

The two other hotels are the Villa Caburní and the Hotel Los Helechos.

All three hotels are tourist-only (no Cubans allowed). There are no casas particulares and nowhere for Cubans to stay.

Camping

Campismos are indicated on the map, at Parque Guanayara, Parque Altiplano, Parque Codina, Parque El Cubano, and Parque El Nicho.

Backcountry

Stay safe

Get out


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