Havana is a big city. Even on a long vacation, you will feel like there is never enough time to visit all the landmarks. There are plenty of things you can do in the city centre. But, what about the outskirts of the city and the lands beyond the limits of the capital?
Those who like hiking may find attractive some of the landscapes near Havana, especially in the provinces of Pinar del Río and Artemisa. Only one or two days are enough to visit any of these less renowned hiking places, comparable with the famous Viñales Valley, Soroa or Varadero, to mention only a few. Experimented or novice hikers, tired of the hustle and bustle of the downtown, usually choose one of these five hikes around Havana to camp for a weekend and unwind far from the stress of their work.
Canyon of the River Santa Cruz
This canyon stretches for six kilometers along the River Santa Cruz, within the Sierra del Rosario. This mountain range is located in Artemisa, the nearest province to the east of Havana. For those staying at Havana, a tour to the Canyon is easy to do in a weekend because it is close to Cuba’s capital. The most direct way to reach the Canyon starts in the crossroad of Chirigotas, point accessible from the Havana-Pinar del Río motorway. Other common entrance is in the crossroad of San Cristóbal, accessible from the motorway as well.
You will see amazing huge crags up to 200 meters high surrounding the river and several small caves. In the rainy season, the river covers the canyon’s bottom superficially. The surface current can be seen only at both entrances of the canyon, and then it disappears underneath. Because of this, you can walk along the rocky bed without getting wet. Nevertheless, the trek is hard at times, and you need to watch where you step to avoid any mishap. Many natural ponds allow you to go for a dip. Camping is also possible in the farm of a hospitable peasant on the north side of the river.
Sea-facing landscape only 70 km from Cuba’s capital, located in the corridor of Havana-Matanzas, specifically in Santa Cruz del Norte, province of Mayabeque. Any transport going along the Vía Blanca road can be taken in order to reach the crossroad of Canasí, from where you have to walk about two kilometers until you arrive in the homonymous little village. Soon you will see the beautiful inlet carved by the river in its exit to the sea. A spot of grass in the plain is a nice place to camp and cool-off for a weekend.
Nature is very gentle here, featuring a shallow river with many tributaries going up into mangrove swamps, trekking paths, estuary that connects with a deep coastal zone surrounded by cliffs, and a coral reef, ideal for scuba diving. All of this has been noticed by Cuban authorities as a tourist attraction. In the future, the country plans to develop a natural adventure park with a collection of sea and land attractions.
Loma del Taburete
An easy trek that mixes nature and history. From the crossroad of Las Terrazas, you have to walk 2 km until reach the house of a farmer. Nearby, there are some ruins of former French coffee plantations. You can decide whether to camp for a night or climb the hill the same day. The most incredible feature of Loma del Taburete (Hill of the Stool) is the amazing view from the top. You can glimpse both the northern and the southern coasts of Cuba, because from there the main narrowness of the island, between the zones of Mariel and Majana can be seen. There is a great monument in honor of Che Guevara and his comrades, which trained here before their participation in the Bolivian war in the ’60s of the past century.
On the downwards trek, the vegetation is exuberant, and the birds crowd the lowest branches of the trees. The journey ends with the entrance to the Campismo El Taburete, where it is worth to go swimming in the river San Juan. Then, you can visit the town of Las Terrazas, the house of the famous musician Polo Montañez and do plenty of other things in this beautiful tourist place.
Seboruco is a hill 678 meters high. It is the new main elevation of the province of Pinar el Río, after the last administrative division, when the former biggest cumber Pan de Guajaibón went to the province of Artemisa. The most popular way of accessing it is through the farm of La Vigía. The path to the hill and the hamlet of Seboruco is considerably long and full of slopes upwards and downwards. The track crosses the river Los Palacios on several occasions.
Monuments, former military camps, and warfare locations are some things you will find along this tour. The small village in the heights, amidst a circle of mountains, is an excellent spot to put the tents and gather next to an improvised bonfire. One day to reach the destination and the next one to return, is enough to get to know the hospitability of the local people and see a beautiful landscape full of rivers and native flora.
Salto de San Claudio
The Salto de San Claudio (San Claudio Falls) is an enigmatic waterfall near the zone of Las Terrazas, in the Sierra del Rosario. To reach the falls, the hikers use an embankment with high vegetation on both sides. The path can be tricky, the foliage can be dense; but all the beauty after this deserves such an endeavour. Tiny cascades dropping into a blue-green pool precede the main waterfall. The San Claudio falls for more than twenty meters into a bigger natural pond. The bijou waterfalls are not the only attractions. The flora from everywhere around the waters radiates with the charm of the tropics. The fanciful lianas and the endemics and very tall palmas de sierra (mountain palms) are present in this landscape. After a bath in the cold waters, whether in the small or the big pool, you could improvise a camp near the riverside, and pitch the tents beneath the starry sky.